GLENDALE—On April 26, The United Armenian Council of Los Angeles for the Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, (aka UACLA), hosted a round table panel discussion on the topic of the Armenian Genocide at Kouyoumdjian Hall of the St. Gregory the Illuminator, Armenian Catholic Church in Glendale, California.
The UACLA is a body consisting of over 40 of the major religious, political, cultural, benevolent, athletic, compatriotic and professional organizations of the greater Los Angeles Armenian community,
Entitled “Demands…Restitution…Justice,” the event attracted more than 200 attendees and featured three prominent experts: Varujan Vosganian, Member of Parliament of Romania and expert in International diplomacy; Karnig Kerkonian, expert in legal theory and International Strategic Litigation attorney; and Frank Zerunyan, renowned professor and educator in public policy and governance at USC.
The event was moderated by Daniel Ohanian, a University of California, Los Angeles, Ph.D. candidate for Early and Modern Ottoman History.
The live-streamed event started with Ripsime Biyazian welcoming everyone on behalf of UACLA. She then invited Most Reverend Mikael Mouradian, Bishop of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy. His Excellency gave his blessings, thanked the event organizers and the panelists and finally reiterated the necessity of our demands and justice for the blood and souls of our victims.
The presentation began with Parliamentarian Vosganian, describing the importance of global efforts toward the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He then transitioned his discussion to the subject of reparations. The author of the internationally acclaimed, “The Book of Whispers,” Vosganian made a distinction between the claims of individuals and those of communal properties, such as churches, schools and cultural centers with a compelling argument that it is incumbent on the Armenian nation to form a unified, world-wide body, whose purpose would be the pursuit of claims and reparations for the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
Building on the theme set by Vosganian, the second panelist, Karnig Kerkonian, who holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago, School of Law and a Post-Doctoral degree in International Law from Cambridge University in England, emphasized the need for the Armenian nation to build a plan upon which the collective claims of the Armenian people could be brought. He provided, as an example, the path for which the Jewish nation invoked the idea of the return to the historical Jewish homeland as well as the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. He explained that the establishment of the State of Israel was not something that happened overnight, but was thoughtfully conceived through implementation of legal theories that were decades in the making. Kerkonian showed the audience a slide of the actual one-page letter from Balfour to Rothschild, which would be known as the Balfour Declaration, where the suggestion was proposed and the support sought for a method of return of the Jewish people to their homeland. Kerkonian then educated the guests on the work of attorney and legal theorist, Theodore Hertzel, who wrote a short booklet, wherein he set forth his legal theories that would provide the support necessary for Jews to return to their homeland and eventually establish the State of Israel. Kerkonian concluded by suggesting that the Armenian people must pursue a similar organized and carefully considered method of planning based on law, as Mr. Vosganian had suggested, wherein the goal would be to develop the means by which Armenians could return to their homeland.
The final panelist, Frank Zerunyan, Istanbul born USC Professor of Public Policy, provided an intriguing analysis of the present-day legal attempts at restitution and restoration of Armenian property rights, particularly as they concern the Armenian Churches. He noted that the Republic of Turkey continues to erect hurdles against Armenian control of Armenian Church rights, by means such as the delay of the election of a new Patriarch in Turkey and placing limitations on the education of new seminarians. He discussed favorably the recent case of Catholicos Aram I’s reassertion of jurisdiction of the Catholicate of Sis. He expressed his belief that if there was an independent judiciary system in Turkey, such cases would have a chance of succeeding. Professor Zerunyan cited examples of Turkish courts, having rendered some favorable decisions in recent years prior to the mass arrests of the judiciary after the failed coup d’état of President Erdogan. However, since the coup attempt, the Turkish judiciary has been tremendously weakened by the executive branch’s arrest of a great number of the country’s judiciary. He encouraged that such legal proceedings continue to be instituted and that he expects that the Armenian people would see some success in the future since such religious rights of minorities are protected even under the Treaty of Lausanne.
“We are absolutely thrilled that our community came out in great numbers and filled Kouyoumdjian Hall beyond capacity to see this panel of distinguished speakers, engage in an exchange of views of one of the highest calibers on the question of justice for the Armenian Genocide,” said Co-Chairman of the UACLA, Harout Manoukian.
The lecture was followed by a 30-minute Q&A period, where the panelists addressed and answered the inquiries raised by the audience.
Following the question and answer session, the evening’s guests were treated to beautiful renditions of such Armenian anthems and classics as Giligia, Hayastan and Kedashen among others, performed by the well-known and popular singer, Tavit Samuelian, who was accompanied by the talented keyboardist, Aram Lepedjian.
“The United Armenian Council will continue its unwavering commitment to raising awareness and educating the world about the Armenian Genocide, by providing a platform for the most cutting-edge thinkers, on the subject of restorative justice as consequences of the Armenian Genocide,” concluded Peter Haig, treasurer of the UACLA.