As they do every year in April, the Knights and Daughters of Vartan organized their annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration event in New York City, and AGBU is always proud to be a co-sponsor. On April 22, 2012, hundreds gathered in the Kavookjian Hall of St. Vartan Cathedral on 34th Street to remember and pay homage to the 1.5 million martyrs murdered by the Ottoman Turks. AGBU’s official liaison to the event, Natalie Gabrelian, made the below remarks:
NOTE: Though the event is normally held in Times Square to spread awareness of the Genocide to the general public, the inclement weather caused the event to be moved indoors.
AGBU Message Delivered by Natalie Gabrelian
97th Anniversary Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide
Kavookjian Hall, St. Vartan Cathedral, NYC
April 22, 2012
The year 1915 tested the strength and endurance of the Armenian people. In an attempt to silence our minds, Armenian political leaders and intellectuals were placed under arrest and brutally murdered by Turkish authorities in Constantinople. Banished from their homes, convoys of tens of thousands of Armenian men, women, and children were deported into the Syrian Desert, and forced to march hundreds of miles without food or water, ultimately leading to death through starvation, exhaustion, bloodshed, and even suicide. Over 1.5 innocent lives were lost at the hands of the savage Ottomans.
Our ancestors witnessed an April so black that its horrors can still be seen in the eyes of newborns 97 years later. For nearly a century, the tapestry of life for the children of the Armenian Genocide has been stitched with the bloody threads of this great calamity. The memory not only lives on in our hearts, but has molded our identity and is the eternal flame that lights the very core of our souls.
But we did not allow these fires to burn us. We rose from the ashes of genocide to mark a rebirth. That we survived as a people and a nation is a testament to our enduring spirit and the strength of our Armenian identity.
Once a vibrant region, Western Armenia was reduced to open graves and ghost towns nearly a century ago. Today, Armenia is a beautiful and dynamic country with a rich cultural and religious heritage, overflowing in wealth with the power of an intelligent, educated, enterprising, and creative people. Armenia’s irrepressible spirit echoes in all of us.
It is this spirit that has given life to a free, independent Armenian republic, a successful and powerful Diaspora, and generations of Armenians whose demands for justice have echoed in the streets, courts, and ears of Turkish deniers around the globe for almost a century.
The year 2011 was of deep significance. It was marked by the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s independence, a milestone for the heroic achievements of our republic and our people, our courage and sacrifices, and Armenia’s presence in the United Nations is further proof of our strength and endurance. We survived and overcame much of the devastation of the 1988 earthquake, maintained our independence, were victorious in Karabakh against all odds, built a relatively modern and democratic government, and also established a strong diplomatic presence worldwide. Such strength…such endurance…such proof of Turkey’s failure to erase the Armenian people.
Yet the crimes perpetrated against Armenians 97 years ago remain unacknowledged by Turkey – 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. Turkey’s denial continues to test our strength and endurance.
The year 2012 will test our resolve for strategic action and serious initiatives. For AGBU, it will be the year of the Armenian Diaspora, with an emphasis on issues related to our successful young generations and to restoring focus and concerted cooperation among Diasporan communities. We should all together play a forceful and coherent role in the development of Armenia and Karabakh, and toward the pursuit of our demands of recognition and restitution – not only by Turkey, but by all nations of the world. It is the year we think fixedly in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the Genocide.
For may the year 2015 bring the dawn of a new day…a day where justice prevails…a day where future generations no longer mark April 24th with a cloud of anger and a struggle for justice, but rejoice in a new century with cloudless skies, where the ray of truth shines on a day of remembrance and one of peaceful mourning for the loss of our 1.5 million martyrs.
On behalf of AGBU, we extend our support to all collaborative efforts among Diasporan organizations to make each commemoration of the Armenian Genocide an expression of our unified commitment, strength, and endurance in face of Turkey’s denial of history.