By LUCINE KASBARIAN
April 24 symbolizes the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, which destroyed 1.5 million Armenians, as well as hundreds of thousands of Assyrians and Pontic Greeks. On that date in 1915, hundreds of Armenian leaders were rounded up by the Turkish authorities and murdered in what was the start of a planned, organized attempt to eliminate native, non-Turkish populations from the Turkish Empire.
Today, Turkey denies that it committed genocide, and even rewards authors, teachers, politicians, and governments for saying that this was not genocide but a civil war or an attempt to put down uprisings. Armenians worldwide observe April 24 as a day of tragedy, but also as a day of survival. They attend religious services, cultural programs, and political demonstrations calling for justice.
“Armenians are also working to halt the current genocide in Darfur, Sudan, in an effort to make certain that all peoples can be free from the terror of genocide,” says Tony Vartanian, Chair of the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee of N.Y.
Each year, a resolution is introduced in U.S. Congress to mark April 24 as Armenian Genocide Memorial Day. Turkey spent more than one million dollars to try to prevent this year’s Genocide resolution from passing. According to U.S. congressmen Frank Pallone and Joe Knollenberg, Turkey has even threatened to close supply pipelines that aid U.S. soldiers in Iraq if the U.S. government does not defeat this resolution.
Turkish officials believe that admitting the Genocide occurred would harm their nation’s public image, and require that Turkey return lands and properties to the victims. However, Turkey’s acknowledgment of its past crimes against humanity might be an important step in the direction of earning the respect of the world. It would also relieve much pain still felt by genocide survivors, their families and their communities.