New York Area Armenia’s Gather for 92nd Commemoration of Armenian Genocide

Armenian communities of the Greater Metropolitan New York area gathered at the Surrogate’s Court House in New York City, just north of City Hall, on April 20 for the 92nd commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. Organized by the Armenian National Committee of New York, community leaders arranged a program, which dwelt on the religious, cultural and political dimensions of the Holocaust committed by the Young Turk government against the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian inhabitants. The Holy Martyr’s Armenian Day School choir began the program inside the central hall of the august, 19th century legal chamber, singing the national anthems of the United States and the Republic of Armenia. Later in the evening, the choir returned to pay tribute to the 32 victims murdered by a gunman at Virginia Polytechnic Institute earlier in the week on April 16. Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian gave the invocation, in which he also paid tribute to those who lost their lives on Virginia Tech’s campus. The Bishop spoke of the courageousness and righteousness of the Istanbul based Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who earlier in the year was murdered by the Turkish ultra-nationalist, Ogun Samast. Experts account for Dink’s assassination to an increasingly tolerated, if not encouraged, environment of vigilantism against citizens who dare to speak of the Armenian Genocide and other taboo topics of Turkish society. Speaking on behalf of Councilwoman Melinda Katz, a stalwart supporter of the local Armenian community, Michael Cohen read a proclamation from the New York City Council. Karine Birazian, Master of Ceremonies for the program, read similar proclamations from the New York City mayor’s office as well as from the governor’s office. Armenian Ambassador to the United Nations Armen Martirossian addressed the audience about international developmen’s regarding the Armenian Genocide, which remains a vital issue for many foreign policy and national security matters. "Last year, the Turkish government proposed to convene a joint commission of historians to determine what happened to the Armenia’s of the Ottoman Empire. Not only is this totally unnecessary, since the fact of the Armenian Genocide is unanimously acknowledge by historians, but completely absurd since the topic in question is so taboo in Turkey, merely discussing it can lead to prosecution on the grounds of engaging in ‘anti-Tukrishness.’" Martirossin also discussed the recent controversy at the United Nations where the Turkish delegation has placed enormous pressure on the International Secretariat to block an exhibit marking the thirteenth anniversary of the Rawandan genocide. Turkey’s sole concern is one sentence in the exhibit, which refers to the Armenian Genocide. The Ambassador discussed the struggle, which ensued to keep the exhibit with the important historical reference, resulting in a New York Times editorial condemning Turkey for its egregious behavior. Following the Ambassador’s talk was a tribute to Hrant Dink, facilitated by Dr. Hrand Markarian. Dr. Markarian’s slide presentation gave a biographical sketch of Dink as well as a review of his accomplishmen’s as an Armenian community leader and human rights activist in Turkey. Included was a film, shot months before Dink was assassinated, in which the late-journalist spoke of the increasingly dangerous circumstances he was finding himself as someone who spoke openly about the Armenian Genocide. The interview was Carla Garabedian conducted the interview while she was making the movie Screamers. ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian gave the keynote address, in which he emphasized the significance of the Armenian American community’s growing political voice in Washington. "There are over 190 members in the House of Representatives and over 30 U.S. Senators, who have co-sponsored Armenian Genocide legislation. This is the result of Armenian Americans exercising their democratic rights for the sake of gaining justice, not just an apology, over the crime committed against our ancestors," said Hachikian. Hachikian also hailed the blocking of Richard Hoagland’s nomination as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia as an enormous victory. Hoagland was slated to replace U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, who was forced into retirement over his pubic affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. Hoagland subsequently during the confirmation process expressed doubt about whether the events of 1915 qualified as genocide, causing a political maelstrom, resulting in U.S. Senator Robert Mendendez placing a hold on Hoagland’s nomination. Sossi Essajanian of the Armenian Youth Federation addressed the audience about the long-term consequences of the mass killing and total dispossession of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenia’s, resulting in "an atmosphere of intolerance, marginalization and dehumanization" as evinced by the world’s indifference to the current genocide in Sudan. "Let us turn the legacy of the Genocide on its head," said Essajanian. "’This atmosphere of intolerance is what we must struggle against.’" MC Karine Birazian shared the poignant and mournful news of the imminent passing of her grandmother, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. Birazian closed by saying that, "although I cannot be by her this evening, I can only hope that she will soon embrace for the first time her 14 siblings she never got to meet. I can only help but wonder: will the last genocide survivor live to see recognition?"

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