Armenians Should Now Pursue Legal Claims

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian


Armenians experienced unforgettable days last week during the Centennial commemorations of the Armenian Genocide. In many respects, Turkish denialists’ much-feared ‘Tsunami’ became a reality! While Armenians around the world were busy organizing commemorative events in recent years, their efforts were amplified by some unexpected developments, including Turkish President Erdogan’s irrational rhetoric and reaction.

The year began with Erdogan’s childish maneuver, switching the Gallipoli War Centennial to April 24, to derail the observances planned for the Armenian Genocide Centennial. The international media quickly exposed the Turkish President’s ploy, providing extensive publicity for the upcoming genocide anniversary.

In early April, the Kardashians’ visit to Armenia generated thousands of articles and TV reports, and millions of social media posts. A few days later, Pope Francis created his own ‘Tsunami’ by uttering his courageous words on the Armenian Genocide. Once again, Erdogan made matters worse for Turkey by insulting not only the Pope, but also one billion Catholics, and the nation of Argentina, the Pontiff’s birthplace. Shortly thereafter, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the Armenian Genocide providing further media coverage of this issue.

Being in Armenia for the first time on April 24, and on the occasion of the Centennial, was a deeply moving experience. The Armenian government did monumental work inviting 1,000 dignitaries from 60 countries, including prominent scholars, legal experts, political leaders, parliamentarians from 30 countries, and survivors of other genocides. On April 22-23, the distinguished guests participated in a Global Forum “Against the Crime of Genocide,” where I delivered brief remarks castigating Pres. Obama’s failure to keep his promise on using the term Armenian Genocide. I explained that contrary to a widely-held misperception, the United States has repeatedly recognized the Armenian Genocide.

On April 23, all six political parties represented in the Austrian Parliament issued a joint declaration recognizing the Armenian Genocide. As expected, Turkey overreacted by withdrawing its Ambassador from Vienna. This is the second Turkish Ambassador to be recalled to Ankara this month. As an increasing number of countries recognize the Armenian Genocide, Turkey may soon have fewer envoys, isolating itself from much of the world!

Also on April 23, German President Joachim Gauck delivered a powerful speech at a memorial service in Berlin, acknowledging not only the Armenian Genocide, but also Germany’s complicity in the Ottoman Turkish genocidal campaign. Despite heavy pressures from Turkish leaders, the German Bundestag is expected shortly to adopt a similarly-worded resolution which would send shock waves throughout the 1,000 rooms of Pres. Erdogan’s newly-built palace, since Germany was Turkey’s ally in 1915, and continues its close relationship until today!

In the evening of April 23, the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II and the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I jointly presided over a historic rite of canonization in Etchmiadzin, declaring the Armenian Genocide victims to be Saints. Following this moving ritual, at the exact hour of 19:15 or 7:15 pm, churches throughout the world began ringing their bells 100 times. Later that night, the System of a Down band performed a free concert at Yerevan’s Republic Square. The thousands of young people in attendance were highly energized despite the heavy downpour. The concert was aired live, disseminating the band’s Genocide message to millions of people worldwide.

On April 24, a memorable observance took place on the grounds of Tsitsernagapert, the Armenian Genocide Monument in Yerevan, with the participation of hundreds of religious leaders, Ambassadors, officials, and presidents of Russia, France, Cyprus and Serbia. While the heads of two superpowers came to Yerevan on April 24, Turkey was unable to attract to Gallipoli the same caliber of leaders, despite its considerable efforts. It was perfectly fitting to this solemn occasion that the distinguished guests at the Yerevan Memorial spent several hours huddled in blankets like refugees, in freezing temperatures, sheltered under a large canvass from the rain.

One of the most stunning developments last week was Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu’s declaration that the Armenian “deportations were a Crime Against Humanity” — which under international law is tantamount to recognizing the Armenian Genocide. No one should be surprised if Erdogan dismisses Davutoglu after the June Parliamentary elections.

Now that the Centennial is behind us, it is high time that Armenians turn the page on Armenian Genocide recognition and begin to systematically pursue their claims from Turkey through international, regional and local tribunals.

Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.


  1. Perouz said:

    Harut; Germany’s recognition was acknowledged in other important and far-reaching ways as well. Below is what one German organization in Berlin successfully promoted world-wide. Hundreds more who were not registered also read in public places. My university generously gave me two hours. It was so well received that they have suggested I repeat it every year. Not only may all of this year’s participants decide to read every year, but others may join them as well, swelling the number of countries and the number of readers every year. Yes, you are right, Harut; shock waves must be reverberating through all 1,000 rooms of Erdogan’s tasteless pseudo Versailles.

    Here is what was sent out from Berlin:

    Today, April 21, is the day the International Literature Festival of Berlin has called for worldwide reading of works by Armenian writers that Turkey attempted to silence. More than 400 participants in over 65 countries are registered to read. The Festival has written that: “Among the signatories are Nobel Prize winners Elfried Jelinek, Mario Vargas Llosa, John M. Coetzee, Herta Müller, Orhan Pamuk, as well as Elif Shafak, Alberto Manguel, Breyton Breytenbach and John Ashbury.” In Canada, Jane Urquhart and Michael Ondaatje are among those who will be reading the words of writers who will never be silenced.

  2. Dikran said:

    Where our leadership been for the past 50 years when our clever geographical neighbour destroying documentations evidences through out various governments buildings libraries the archives and correspondences so we cant claim retributions later on.
    No wonder the latest strong words of Erdogan demanding that the diaspora comes up with evidences.

    Wake up !! they already are a step ahead of us they are more clever then us, Our current government since 1992 and the diaspora leadership should have taken the necessary steps to protect and duplicate such important documentations. And only foreigners for our behalf pursuing our case such as the latest Vatican evidences surfaced and been publicised.

  3. Hagop hagopian said:

    Why are you blaming the leaders? Doesn’t matter all the 3 diaspora political parties, they were not created to cater to hundreds of thousands of refugees in the early 20th century. But all three diaspora parties did an outstanding job beyond their means to recreate an armenian identity. Ask yourself that question where were you?? Playing slots in Vegas? Or lounging in Palm Springs hitting Indian casinos??
    Why always blame the diaspora political parties, take some responsibility on yourselves.
    Dik ran! George mardig having identity issues????

  4. Progeny of Dis-emboweled Armenians said:

    So silly for some to criticize the Armenian leadership. Those who were dealt the after-effects of the Genocide, needed first to survive and regroup.Better to look ahead than to look back at failures.I have been to the Matenadaran library. Documents certifying the Armenian presence in the six Armenian provinces and the Genocide are housed there. It is ludicrous to assert that Armenians could have prevented the destruction of documents in Turkey. My grandmother was able to bribe a Kurd to send her all the real estate and financial papers of her murdered husband. Mr. Sassounian is right on target. We are not as emotionally scarred as our parents or grand-parents. It is time to pursue legal claims.