The followings is the AGBU message delivered by Natalie Gabrelian, Associate Director of Education & executive committee member of AGBU Young Professionals of Greater New York, at the 96th Anniversary Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in New York’s Times Square on May 1, 2011.
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Denying the undeniable is a crime.
On the night of April 24, 1915, over 250 Armenian political leaders and intellectuals were placed under arrest and brutally murdered by Turkish authorities in Constantinople. The silenced pens of Siamanto, Krikor Zohrab, and Taniel Varoujan are undeniable.
Banished from their homes, convoys of tens of thousands were deported into the Syrian Desert, forced to march hundreds of miles to their deaths from exhaustion, starvation, bloodshed, and even suicide. Those that managed to survive sought refuge in new lands. The Armenian diaspora’s dispersal across six continents is undeniable.
In a dispatch to Washington, Henry Morgenthau, US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, wrote, “Deportation of and excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing. And from harrowing reports from eyewitnesses, it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress.” In 1944, Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide” based on these Armenian mass murders. The very fact that most international experts and historians, Turks included, concur the events of 1915 constitute one of the largest genocides in world history is undeniable.
This year, April 24th, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, fell on Easter Sunday. On this sacred day, for the first time since 1915, we not only joined together as Christians to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, but to mark our own rebirth as heirs of an ancient people that arose nearly a century ago from the ashes of genocide. It was truly a meaningful coincidence, as the existence of the Armenian nation and people itself is a special sign of the power of resurrection in a world of death. Our survival is a testament to our enduring spirit and the strength of our Armenian identity.
The Armenians of the Ottoman state were reported at about two million in 1915. By 1923, virtually the entire Armenian population of Anatolian Turkey had disappeared. Today, estimated at over 10 million strong, our Armenian existence is undeniable.
Our ancestral homeland of over 3,000 years was taken from us. Hundreds of thousands were forced into exile as stateless refugees. Today, with representation in the UN, Armenia’s presence on the map as a free and independent republic is undeniable.
In the words of Paruyr Sevak, “We do not put ourselves above anyone, but we know ourselves. We are called Armenians. And why should we not feel pride about that?” Today, with prominent Armenians like Richard Hovannissian, Raffi Hovannissian, Mark Geragos, and Serj Tankian, our noted success in the worlds of the arts, politics, and academia is undeniable.
The crimes perpetrated against Armenians 96 years ago remain unacknowledged by Turkey. For this great calamity to be a mere memory would be injustice. For it to go unrecognized is a crime.
I say again, denying the undeniable is a crime — a crime that has denied generations of Armenians the right to live on our historic lands, a fair trial for acknowledgment, and the right to mourn in peace. As Armenians fight for remembrance, Turkey fights to forget. There are few survivors left today. We must vow to make every effort to seek the justice that is long overdue.
“We owe it not only to the living, but also to the dead. If we forget, the dead will be killed a second time, and then they are today’s victims.” These are the words of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel.
As we gather today to pay homage to the over 1.5 million lives that perished in the first genocide of the 20th century, let us also remember that while lost, their souls are not forgotten. Indeed, they live on in each of us through our presence in the 21st century.
We will never forget. That is a crime we will never commit. The Armenian fight for truth and justice is absolutely undeniable.