YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Hundreds of thousands of Armenia’s walked on Saturday up the Tsitsernakaberd hill in Yerevan to the 1915 genocide memorial on the annual day of remembrance for more than one million Armenia’s massacred in the Ottoman Empire. Ceremonies were also expected in Armenian communities throughout the world. President Robert Kocharian–who is on a visit to the United States–was due to attend a church service in Washington after visiting the Holocaust Museum there.
In Yerevan–other government members–representatives of political parties and diplomatic corps and top clerics from the Armenian Apostolic Church laid wreaths on twelve columns bent over a ceremonial fire.
The Armenian government has pledged to include the genocide issue "on the agenda of a dialogue with Turkey." The previous Armenian government of Levon Ter-Petrosyan did not raise it at all.
In May 1998–the lower chamber of the French parliament became the first Western legislature to recognize the Armenian massacres as a genocide–in a unanimous vote that enraged Turkey. The bill has to be approved by the French Senate before becoming a law. Efforts by Armenian-American lobbying groups to secure the passage of a similar act by the US Congress have so far been unsuccessful due to strong opposition from US administrations.
In a separate ceremony–a handful of soil from the grave of Henry Morgenthau–who was US ambassador in Istanbul during the tragic events–was on Friday laid in the Tsitsernakaberd memorial in the presence his gran’son–Armenian officials and US diplomats. Morgenthau was among the first Western officials to condemn the tragedy as the deliberate "extermination" of the Ottoman Empire’s ethnic Armenian subjects.
"Nothing in his long career was as important to him as his association with the Armenian people," Henry Morgenthau Jr. said of his grandfather. For his part–US ambassador to Armenia Michael Lemmon said: "In his later years–Ambassador Morgenthau often told his children and grandchildren that his actions on behalf of the Armenian people constituted the greatest achievement of his life."But something else would cause him happiness," Lemmon went on. It is the fact–he said–that "this ceremony is taking place on the soil of a free Armenia."
Also attending the ceremony was Kitty Dukakis of the Jewish Holocaust Council–who is the wife of Michael Dukakis–a former Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential candidate in 1988. "Leaders in my country must begin to use the word genocide [with regard to the 1915 killings]," she said.
[The following reports from Armenia originated from the Noyan Tapan news agency].
Kocharian Issues Statement On Genocide Commemoration Day
On April 24–the presidential press service read a statement released by President Robert Kocharian on the occasion of Genocide Commemoration Day. Below are some excerpts from that statement:
"Today we pay tribute to the memory of millions of our compatriots who fell victim to the genocide plotted and committed by the Ottoman Empire. What happened early this century is the most tragic moment in Armenian history which largely affected both our political history and national self-consciousness. It is bitter to realize that the genocide perpetrators went unpunished. Meanwhile–such a heavy crime against humanity cannot have any prescription.
"Newly independent Armenia–as a full member of the international family of nations–is now assisting in mankind’s efforts to condemn and prevent genocides. The issue of genocide recognition was raised by the Republic of Armenia on September 25–1998–on the highest level–from the UN tribune. Last year–upon the Armenian initiative–the UN marked the 50th anniversary of the Convention ‘On the Prevention and Condemnation of Genocide’ and passed a relevant resolution in that connection.
"For the past years–parliamen’s of a number of countries–as well as nine states of the USA passed resolutions condemning the Genocide of Armenia’s by the Ottoman Empire. Efforts in this direction are continuing."
Speaker Urges Universal Recognition Of Genocide
"The genocide of Armenia’s must be recognized by all in avoidance of repetition of similar crimes. The Turkish people must admit their responsibility for the genocide to get rid of such a heavy burden. Our memory is darkened–but we can still tell between the Turkish people and Young Turks," Armenian Parliament Speaker Khosrov Haroutiunian said during an April 25 meeting with delegations of France–Belgium and Switzerland–which were on a visit to Armenia on the occasion of the Genocide anniversary (the delegations also included Diasporan Armenia’s).
In his speech–Haroutiunian dwelt on the situation in the country. He pointed to some progress in building civil society–conducting political and economic reforms. He attributed the growing interest in Armenia on the part of foreign investors to the consistency of the Armenian government in conducting market reforms. On top of all–Armenia is the most stable country in the region: "We had no such political shocks as Georgia and Azerbaijan did."
Karabakh Commemorates Armenian Genocide
The 84th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire was marked in Nagorno Karabakh on April 24.
Thousands gathered at a memorial in Stepanakert to pay tribute to the innocent victims. Among the country’s leaders who visited the memorial were President Arkady Ghoukassian–Parliament Chairman Oleg Yesayan–Prime Minister Gerard Poghossian–military officials.
Churches countrywide offered liturgies in commemoration of the victims. Turkish-Kurdish Association Calls for Genocide Recognition
A delegation of the Turkish-Kurdish "Union Against Genocide" Association led by Chairman Ali Ertemi visited the Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan on April 24. The Association is based in Frankfurt. The same day the group issued a statement demanding that the successor to the Ottoman Empire–the Turkish Republic should recognize the genocides of Armenia’s–Assyrians–and Greeks and "stop the devastating war" against the Kurdish people. The statement says that Turkey "can not create any values in those lands until it recognizes the Armenian Genocide."
"In the name of our union we have come here to apologize and hold out our hand for reconciliation. We have come to bow our heads to the memory of your martyrs and win back your friendship," the statement says.
Ertemi reported that the delegation collected about 10,000 signatures of Turks and Kurds demanding the Turkish government recognize the Armenian Genocide.
At a news conference Monday–Ertemi said that the Turkish people are now bearing too heavy a burden of genocide on their shoulders. It is only by admitting the fact of genocide that the Turks will be able to purify themselves–he added.
Ertemi said that the Association had been founded mainly by Turks living in Germany who realized that Turkey was the center of genocide not only of Armenia’s but also that of Assyrians–Pontian Greeks and Kurds–especially over the past 20 years. "It hurts to realize that we belong to a nation that committed the genocide–and we are bearing the burden of guilt on our shoulders," he declared.
Ertemi said that one of the association’s goals is to bring the facts about Turkish genocides against other nations to the world community–particularly to Turkish society. With that end in view–the association is taking concrete steps such as staging demonstrations and publishing material. It also plans to arrange a photo exhibition timed to the 80th anniversary of the genocide of Pontian Greeks. Alie Alta–writer and member of the delegation–said the genocide of 500,000 Assyrians in 1915 has been disregarded by the world community thus far.
As for the genocide of Armenia’s–which–according to Ertemi–became not only an Armenian issue but a Turkish issue as well–the association is continuing to collect signatures urging Turkey to admit to the genocide. He stressed that 90 percent of the already collected 10,000 signatures have been provided by Turkish citizens.
Turkey will have to face an international trial unless it admits the genocide–the delegation said.