Working Together with Ancient Neighbors

The Assyrian Genocide Monument in Yerevan

BY VARANT MEGUERDITCHIAN

The Turkish Ambassador to the European Union, Egemen Bagis, recently compared the Assyrian Genocide to ’masturbation’. The comment was reportedly made during a discussion with a Swedish parliamentarian of Assyrian descent at an event organized by Assyrians earlier this year.

Whilst we can’t substantiate exactly what the Turkish Ambassador thinks about the Assyrian Genocide, we know the matter is much more serious for the Assyrians themselves.

When Assyrians think of the genocide that befell their people in the early part of the 20th century, they think about discrimination, violence, rape, murder, deprivation, deportation and injustice. This I’ve learnt while actively working with Assyrian and Greek Diasporan communities to advocate for genocide recognition.

The parliament of South Australia became the first legislative body in the world to recognize the genocide of the Assyrians and Greeks in 2009. In a motion, the South Australian Legislative Assembly stated: “this House condemns the genocide of the Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians and other Christian minorities; and all other acts of genocide as the ultimate act of racial, religious and cultural intolerance.”

This recognition was followed by the motion in Sweden in 2010, when the Reichstag called on the Swedish executive to pressure Turkey to recognize the 1915 genocide against Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians.

The return of churches resolution in the Unites States Congress in 2011 was also significant. It was a concrete acknowledgement of the Turkish appropriation of Armenian, Assyrian and Greek assets under the genocidal policies of the Ottoman state and its successor governments.

In Armenia, the Speaker of the Armenian Parliament, Hovik Abrahamyan called for universal recognition of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocides in 2010. And in 2012 a monument dedicated to the victims of the Assyrian Genocide was revealed in Yerevan. The plaque on the monument reads: “To the innocent Assyrian victims of 1915.” It makes no reference to the word ‘genocide’.

The present-day Assyrian community in Armenia numbers at 7,000. Primarily based around four centers, Arzni, Verin-Dvin, Dimitrov and Ardakers; Assyrians maintain their culture and learn their native Assyrian language in government schools. During my last visit to Armenia, I met with Arsen Mikailov, a leader of the Assyrian community. Arsen explained that Assyrians moved to the region when it was part of the Russian Empire in the early 19th century to escape Ottoman tyranny. He is proud that the community is well-integrated into Armenian society, suggesting that “much of this is due to the common history of our peoples.”
“After all, the Ottoman Turks regarded Assyrians as the same ‘millet’ as the Armenians, and in 1915, we met the same fate,” said Arsen.

The Greek community in Armenia is much smaller than it once was, with many returning to Greece after 1991. The 2001 Armenian census recorded that there were 1,176 Greeks in Armenia that year and numbers have stabilized. The village of Yaghdan in Lori province was founded and is still populated by Greeks. In Yerevan there is a Sunday Greek school where children learn language and history and immerse themselves in Greek culture. Eduardas Polatsidis, the son of Greek migrants who arrived in Armenia from the Black Sea coast in the early 20th century, has been working actively for greater acknowledgement of the suffering of the Greeks.

“The Greek community in Armenia thus far does not have a monument dedicated to the memory of the Greek Genocide,” said Eduardas when I met him in Yerevan.

As Turkey looks to build allies in the middle-east and in the broader region, it has also attempted to approach Greeks and Assyrians. The Turkish Ambassador’s meeting with Assyrians in Sweden is one such example. These are the actions of a genocide denialist government seeking to befriend the victim group and prevent any further advocacy on the matter of genocide recognition.

Beyond the moral imperative, Armenians have a political responsibility. We must look to build our own coalition of support for justice. Where better to start than with those groups who were subjected to the same violence, under the same polices, implemented by the same perpetrators – our ancient neighbors the Greeks and Assyrians.

While the political influence, organization and strength in advocacy of Assyrian and Greek diasporan groups has not been substantiated nor tested as our own, much can be achieved from further encouraging, supporting and collaborating with these groups.

In 2007, ten years after reaffirming the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) resolved that Greeks and Assyrians were subjected to “qualitatively similar” genocides to that of the Armenians.

The more than 70 legislative bodies and 20 nation states that have recognized the Armenian Genocide must follow the IAGS’ example in affirming the historical reality of the Greek and Assyrian Genocides. The Armenian diaspora can and must play its critical role in achieving this objective.

Similarly, the government of Armenia has to do better. The Armenian republic has never denied the Assyrian or Greek Genocides, and members of the Armenian parliament have often recalled the two genocides in parliamentary addresses. Despite this, there is no definitive record of condemnation of the Assyrian and Greek Genocides.

The appropriate course of action in Armenia should be the announcement of a presidential decree on May 19, affirming the historical reality of the Greek Genocide, condemning this crime and expressing sympathy for the victims. May 19, 1919 is the date Mustafa Kemal-Ataturk, the founder of modern-day Turkey, initiated the second phase of Greek ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Pontian-Greek city of Samsun on the Black Sea. It is the day designated by the parliament of Greece in 1994 for commemoration of the genocide of the Greek Pontians.

A parallel Armenian presidential decree should follow on August 7 – the day designated by Assyrians for remembering the suffering of their people: first during the Assyrian Genocide, and later as subjects to massacre in northern Iraq in 1933.

It is estimated that alongside the 1.5 million Armenians, the Ottoman-era genocides also claimed the lives of 750,000 Assyrians and at least 500,000 Greeks. Having lived side by side for millennia, the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians were once again brought together in genocide. We must now come together in the struggle for its just resolution.

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23 Comments

  1. Alex Postallian said:

    You let a swine turk bigass,make a vulgar expression,on masturbation,but wont let a legitimate Armenian retaliate, by censor.

  2. Peter Sirian said:

    They deserve all the respect and recognition for just and resolution.
    It’s time to announce the Presidential decree along with condemnation, to expose and support the friendship of our neighbors and friends both Assyrians and Greeks.

  3. Vasilis Makridis said:

    Dear mr Meguerditchian,
    Please also note, that 1916 to 1923 are the dates concerning the Genocide of the Greeks of Pontos, as stated by the Greek parliament.
    The genocide memorial date of 19th of May in Greece is a symbolical day for the Pontian Genocide reffering to the 19th of May celebration of the New Turkish State (19/5/1919) in Turkey.
    Still, the historical dates of 1916-1919 are showing that the 1915 period of the Genocide of the Armenians, continues to the 1916-1923 period for the Greeks, as the second christian nation in the row after the Armenians, as the second victim of the same plan.

    Vasilis,
    Pontian youth of Attica.

    • GB said:

      Dear vasilis, this is why when we Armenians mentioning Armenian Genocide, we should mention
      Greeks and Assyrians as well, or in general we should call “Christian Genocide of Ottoman Turkey”

  4. Hagop D said:

    I agree with this article. When legislation was passed where the Assyrian genocide should not be separate but included within the context of the Armenian Genocide, I did not agree with it, although I understood what they were trying to say, and that is that the Armenian Genocide was unique, similar to what Jews say of their genocide. Although I believe that the Armenian Genocide was truly unique among all genocides based on the amount of cultural and land losses suffered, I am convinced that it is very important that the Greeks and Assyrians also gain separate recognition and pursuit of justice as they were just as important. The existence of the other two genocides is actually hard proof against impotent Turkish claims and feeble attempt at justification of the Armenian Genocide, and that being “they joined the Russians”, “betrayed the government”, and other foolish excuses. So what about the Greeks and Assyrians then, did they also “betray their government”, “try to create their own countries”, “help the Russians”, etc to justify the cowardly act of genocide?? If these two very real genocides are used by themselves rather than within the context of the Armenian Genocide, the evidence against the Turks will be rock solid even more than it currently is. Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians must all join in this fight, and demand recognition and return of all their ancestral lands. Once these three genocides are in their faces, the genocide deniers, Turks and non-Turks alike, would have less rocks to hide under.

  5. Rifat said:

    First of all, if you guys want to normalize relations with Turkey, you have to find a viable solution which will be respectable of the territorial integrity of your 3 neighbors. Another thing, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk actually tried people who commited crimes against humanity in Ottoman Courts. So please get your facts before you see anything.

    • Ararat said:

      Rifat, you are either misinformed or very poor in math. The current territory of Armenia is only 10% of the Armenian homeland. Other than the liberated Armenian territory of Artsakh, Karabakh, and soon to be liberated Armenian territory of Nakhichevan under the occupation of the artificial state of Axerbaijan, an oil-depot or a gas station for Turkey and the West to exploit to be exact, the remaining Armenian territories, Western Armenia, are under Turkish occupation.

      When these occupied territories are also liberated and restored to their indigenous Armenians then you can come back and talk about territorial integrity. Until then, I suggest you put a sock in it.

      • Rifat said:

        I was right, this means you guys want war, revenge and hate, rather then leaving your neighbors to be in peace. Either support normalization of religions or else the international community will abandon your guys warmongering agendaa.

        • GB said:

          If International community really exist then they should ship entire Turkic
          Tribes back to Mount Altai region. Most educated (Europeans) International communities are well informed about the destruction of European civilization, brought to Europe and Middle Eastern nations since 1453, by Osmani Turks, except those brainwashed turkeys in Turkey…Armenia, Cyprus, Israel, Greece, Syria, Iraq, even Iran and Russia, know, what the new Ottoman’s intentions are in that region!!

          • Rifat said:

            I don’t believe in Khalifat or a new Ottoman Empire or Turan. Turkey is a multi-ethnic country made up of many ethnic backgrounds to form a Turkish nation. 1071 AD occured 1 millenia ago, get over it, stop whining, and move on. Besides, I don’t like AKP or MHP, I am a Kilicdaroglu supporter.

        • Ashot said:

          We dont want war…we want reperations and land just like the jews got…. If u go to war with us russia will turney turkiye into glass popsickle…so bring it

          • istanbullu said:

            Turkey-Usa ally and, alot of muslim lives in Russia more than 10 million these countries cannot afford war with Turkey for armenians.

          • GB said:

            So, you agreed with Mr. Bagis who is knocking EU Christian door, to get a permit, for a primitive masturbated race,entrees into EU civilization!!Turks are fake and brain washed Muslims and I don’t Think Middle Eastern Muslims especially Iran like your uncivilized behaviors as a puppet of US! Turkey will fall apart, by herself, they have too many “mountain Turks” Armenians don’t have to do anything!!US, Russia, Iran and Israel will do it!!

          • Rifat said:

            First of all, you should support AKP and the current Turkish govt if you want a weaker Turkey/ or a fully collapsed Turkish govt. Also, the EU is going broke because of how it is a failed high tax/Socialist/Communist project. The Soviet Union fell, Communist Cuba Will fall, Socialist Hugo Chavez died, and Empires which destroy Free Market Economics will fall.
            Free Market Economic Turkey > Communist EU

          • kevork halablian said:

            who cares us ? look european countries relations with turkey social,economic french,german investment in turkey they open their factories in turkey,what they open in armenia ? they buy something materials,items textile prodcuts mostly from turkey I dont think so they will boycott turkey for armenia do not trust EU they can do everything for their interests of eu zone market…. million european tourist going to turkey for holiday istanbul antalya izmir bursa etc why not sevan lake ?…

    • Gary_S said:

      What do you mean? Ataturk rewarded people behind the genocide. He invaded Armenia after WW1 and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

    • vlad said:

      The mighty Turkey who is first world (lol), rich, second strongest military in NATO powerful needs USA. That made my day, we all know that Turkey is puppet for USA and the Zionists.

  6. Raymond said:

    I applaud Mr. Meguerditchian for an excellent article.
    We, in the Assyrian community, look forward to a day when Seyfo (Assyrian Genocide) will be recognized by the Armenian Republic.

    Pontian youth of Attica’s recent drive to have the Greek parliament recognize Sefyo is deeply appreciated.

  7. Gary_S said:

    What is wrong with Armenia? Why won’t it recognize the Greek & Assryian genocides?

  8. Mabuballah said:

    Rifat: Are you one Rifat Bali, author of “Model Citizens of the State”, or possibly one among the Ladino community about whom he wrote? If so, that explains everything.

  9. Alex Postallian said:

    camel attaturkey was a real butcher,insensitive swine,portraying his mongol background of cowardice,the nucleus of the castoffs of mongols,going back to mongolia,the makeup,of modern turkey.Revising your history to look good wont work……A bum is still a bum and stink even in expensive clothes.

    • kevork halablian said:

      who cares us ? look european countries relations with turkey social,economic french,german investment in turkey they open their factories in turkey,what they open in armenia ? they buy something materials,items textile prodcuts mostly from turkey I dont think so they will boycott turkey for armenia do not trust EU they can do everything for their interests of eu zone market…. million european tourist going to turkey for holiday istanbul taking photo front of hagia sophia and making shopping boosting their economy sun sea beach to antalya izmir antakya etc why not sevan lake ?…lebanese-armenians stop tra velling to istanbul

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