BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
LOS ANGELES—In a rare instance, the worlds of music, politics, academia and activism came together to call for justice and recognition ahead of the Armenian Genocide Centennial.
Members of the Grammy Award winning System of a Down, Serj Tankian and John Dolmayan joined Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Turkish historian Taner Akcam and the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America Aram Hamparian spoke of the global imperative for justice for the Armenian Genocide during a telephone press conference on Wednesday.
“Genocide is a disease that continues until today,” said Tankiann told reporters on April 1. “As Armenian-Americans and as band members who have had family members perish in this horrible tragedy, it’s important for us not just to raise awareness, but to help bring justice to this cause.”
Tankian stressed that it was important for the international community to come to an agreement that when it comes to countries that commit Genocide, or in the case of Turkey continue to deny the Armenian Genocide, “everything must stop” in order for a clear message to be sent that such human rights violations will not be tolerated.
Tankian and Dolmayan along with fellow System of a Down members Daron Malakian and Shavo Odadjian will kick off the band’s “Wake Up the Souls” tour on Monday at the Forum in Los Angeles. The tour, dedicated to the Genocide centennial will travel through Europe, Russia and will culminate is the band’s first-ever performance in Armenia—a free concert at Republic Square on the evening of April 23.
“It is a big honor for us to be doing our first show there at the 100th year commemoration of the Genocide,” said Tankian.
It is inspiring,” Dolmayan said of the tour, adding that justice for the Armenian Genocide was “something that transcends the music.”
“This is a world issue. We want to prevent this happening to other people,” said Dolmayan.
Dr. Akacm, who is a history professor and the holder of the Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., said that pinning national interests against morality was wrong, thus faulting the US for failing to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide.
“By supporting a denialist regime, the United States contributes to instability not just in the region but here at home,” said Akcam, adding that by recognizing the Genocide, the US would guarantee security at home, since much of the current Middle East situation is predicated on the past.
Akcam said he first started working on the Armenian Genocide in 1990, adding that since then “Turkey has changed and is continuing to change, especially after the assassination of Hrant Dink in Istanbul. People began commemorating the Armenian Genocide in Turkey.”
“To put national interests against morality is plain wrong,” said Akçam, adding that attitudes in Turkey are slowly changing. “I first started working on the Armenian Genocide in 1990. Since then, said Akçam. He also noted that he expects hundreds of diasporan Armenians to join the ever-growing number of Turkish citizens who bravely hold demonstrations in Turkey on April 24.
“With only a handful of survivors left, we feel a moral obligation to speak the truth about the genocide and ensure it is never forgotten,” said Schiff, who also announced that on April 22nd, for an entire hour on the House Floor, he will read names of Armenian Genocide victims.
“In a single hour, I will only be able to read the names of a mere fraction of those who were killed,” said Schiff, adding that “to read all of the names of the more than 1.5 million people murdered at the time, would take many weeks and weeks.” Schiff said that he hoped that the recitation of victims’ names will help call attention to the magnitude of the crime. He also urged those who lost family and loved ones during the genocide to send their names, all of which will be entered into the Congressional Record.
Schiff also provided details about the Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution, which was introduced on March 18 by Representatives Schiff, Robert Dold (R-Ill.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), along with 40 other members of the House of Representatives. The bipartisan resolution calls upon the president to work toward equitable, constructive, and durable Armenian-Turkish relations based upon the Republic of Turkey’s full acknowledgement of the facts and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide.
“Turkey not only denies the truth of the crime, but also obstructs its justice,” said Hamparian in his introductory remarks.
“We want to see real peace between Turks and Armenians,” he said, adding that peace must be built on a foundation of truth and justice. Hamparian explained that the March to Justice is an interactive global online platform for the growth of sustained grassroots engagement in support of justice for the Armenian Genocide and durable security for the Armenian nation. Hamparian also explained how the ANCA has been pushing President Barack Obama to honor his 2008 pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and working hard with congress to end Turkey’s gag rule.