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      People Worldwide Learn about Armenian Genocide

People Worldwide Learn about Armenian Genocide   5/05/2005

Millions of People Worldwide Learn about Armenian Genocide

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Armenians in just about every country organized conferences, marches, photo exhibits, lectures, and church services last week to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Hundreds of newspapers and magazines around the world, in dozens of languages covered these activities.

Even more extensive was the TV coverage. Television stations in various countries reported these commemorative events, making millions of people across the globe aware of the Armenian Genocide, perhaps for the first time.

Trying to preempt the onslaught of the "Armenian Tsunami," the Turks unintentionally contributed to this worldwide storm of publicity by organizing conferences, publishing articles, holding parliamentary hearings, sending diplomatic notes of protest to Russia and Poland for recognizing the Armenian Genocide, canceling meetings with a visiting Polish parliamentary delegation, announcing a ban on the films of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for declaring April 24 "Armenian Genocide Day," sending letters of protest to the legislatures of countries that have recognized the Genocide, organizing TV talk shows, sponsoring foreign lecturers on the Genocide, launching a new initiative "to study the facts" of the Armenian Genocide, and even holding a protest in front of the White House on April 24. Ironically, all of these Turkish activities, intended to silence the Armenians, helped bring the Genocide to the attention of the global media and international public opinion.

Like many other Armenians, I participated in various April 24 activities, and was interviewed by KTTV, the FOX TV station in the Los Angeles area, and by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer show.

During its evening news program on April 23, KTTV aired a seven-minute interview with me, while showing live footage of hundreds of thousands of Armenians placing flowers at the Armenian Genocide Monument in Yerevan. Here are brief excerpts from that interview:

KTTV Anchorwoman: Tell us a little bit more about why this is so controversial? There have been so many people who called for the recognition of the genocide and still nothing!

Sassounian: Well, the genocide itself is a fact of history. The whole world recognizes what happened in 1915. However, for political reasons, the leaders of the Turkish government are afraid to face their own history. For psychological reasons, for political reasons, they just don’t want to face facts. But we must go on. And just like the Holocaust is a fact, no matter how many neo-Nazis say it didn’t happen, the Armenian Genocide is a fact, no matter how many Turkish leaders say it didn’t happen. At one time the Turkish leaders did say it happened. Kemal Ataturk, the founder of Turkey, condemned those who did it. And in fact, they held a military tribunal, which is the precedent to Nuremberg, and condemned to death many of the ringleaders of the Armenian Genocide.

Anchorman: And there is no question even with the Turks that over a million people lost their lives. There was Genocide. What needs to be done here in the United States for the Armenian Americans to see what they want to see? National admission by the United States?

Sassounian: The United States, to its credit, as the Genocide was unfolding in the 1915-1923 period, many leaders -- the Congress, President Wilson did recognize the facts at the time. So what we’re seeking is a reaffirmation of what the U.S historical record was back then. Because of political reasons, the United States government is now siding with Turkey because of NATO, Iraq, etc. We want to distinguish between reality and politics….

Anchorman: The research that I was looking at actually, the Pan-Armenian.net website said, from April 2004 until now, so within the last few years, Armenian Resolutions have been passed in the parliaments of Canada, Slovakia, and Netherlands. And it says Germany and Hungary are about to consider it. What other countries are coming next?

Sassounian: I just wrote a whole book mentioning all of the countries and their resolutions. We have Canada, France, Argentina, and Uruguay back in 1965. We have Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Russia and Germany just discussed it. The most recent is Poland: 3 days ago….

Here are brief excerpts from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer show which was broadcast on CNN-US on April 29. The Armenian Genocide segment of the show was re-aired three times on CNN-International in Europe, Latin America and Asia on April 30:

Judy Woodruff [CNN Anchor replacing Wolf Blitzer]: This week, Armenians around the world mark the 90th anniversary of a nightmare. They and many others call it genocide, but some powerful governments do not. Please note, the following story contains some pictures that may be disturbing to some viewers.

CNN's Brian Todd looks at this long ago event that continues to stir deep emotion and deep controversy.

Brian Todd: We shudder at images from Darfur, Sudan. Wince at memories of Rwanda. Look at grainy pictures of the Holocaust and say, never again. Almost forgotten is a brutal campaign nearly a century ago that historians say may not have been a model for those genocides, but certainly provided a rationale.

Charles King [Author, "The Black Sea: A History"]: The fact that a state could, in fact, carry this out under the eyes of the international community and get away with it, became, in fact, a hallmark of what the 20th century, the tragic 20th century, really was all about….

Sassounian [Editor, "The Armenian Genocide"]: They embarked on an extermination plan by deporting the entire population close to 2 million Armenians in the empire into the deserts, and by killing, starvation and disease.

Todd: Between 1915 and 1923 Armenian leaders are rounded up in cities and executed. Villagers are uprooted en masse, driven south towards the deserts of what are now Syria and Iraq. Many shot or butchered outright by Turkish forces, but most die in forced marches. The numbers to this day still hotly in dispute. Armenians say 1.5 million were killed. The Turkish government says not more than 300,000 perished, and the Armenians shouldn't count themselves as the only victims.

Faruk Logoglu [Turkish Ambassador to the U.S.]: These few years, both sides suffered -- lost an incredible number of people to war, to famine, to harsh climate.

Todd: Objective historians say the Armenian death toll is likely between 600,000 and a million. The fight is not only over numbers, but words. One word in particular. Neither the Turkish Government nor any American president, except Ronald Reagan, has ever called this event genocide.

Harut Sassounian is the grandson of survivors.

Sassounian: It's described as a deep wound in the psyche of every Armenian that is not healing, is not going away. Because it's like an open wound as long as the denial is there.

Todd: The U.S. Government says between 60,000 and 146,000 people have died in Darfur, Sudan over the past two years. And former Secretary of State Colin Powell called that a genocide. Historian Charles King believes what happened to the Armenians was genocide by any definition but...

King: Labeling it a genocide among politicians has a very severe political ramification, particularly in terms of the U.S. relationship with Turkey, an important strategic partner in southeast Europe and the wider Middle East.

Todd: As Armenians mark the 90th anniversary of their darkest days, many say all they want is acknowledgement. The Turks say they're willing to set up a commission to examine the historical record. Two countries with a closed border and no formal relations inching closer. A superpower caught in the middle -- all haunted by a distant tragedy that we somehow never managed to learn from.

Woodruff: Thank you, Brian. By the way, the Turkish government says close to a million Turks died in that region during World War I. As for current relations, Turkish officials tell CNN, although the border is closed, there are daily flights between Turkey and Armenia. And tens of thousands of Armenians, they say, currently live and work inside Turkey.

Readers should e-mail their comments to KTTV: newscomments@fox11.com;

and to CNN: http://www.cnn.com/feedback/forms/form4.html?2.


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