YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Genocide scholars from about 20 countries are in Armenia for a two-day international conference on Genocide that kicked-off on Tuesday in Yerevan. The symposium is titled, “The Crime of Genocide: Prevention, Condemnation and Elimination of Consequences.”
[Prominent genocide scholars from about 20 countries participated in the conference: Yves Ternon (France), Leandro Despouy (Argentine), Israel Charny (Israel), Donna-Lee Frieze (Australia), William Schabas (Ireland), François Roelants du Vivier (Belgium), Taner Akcam (USA-Germany), Richard Hovhannisian, (USA) Tessa Hofmann (Germany), Ayman Abdel Aziz Salama (Egypt), Frank Chalk (Canada), Matthias Bjørnlund (Denmark), Mohammed Rifat (Egypt), Theofanis Malkidis (Greece), Ruben Safrastyan (Armenia), Enzo Maria Le Fevre (Italy/Hungary), Tetsushi Ogata (Japan), Dickran Kouymjian (USA-France), Anthonie Holslag (Netherlands) , Armen Marsoobian (USA), Peter Balakian (USA), Wa’il Nicholas Khair (Lebanon) and Seda Parsamyan (Armenia). see details]
Opening the conference, President Serzh Sargsyan called for broader international recognition of the Armenian genocide, stressing that the crime’s affirmation is essential for preventing more crimes against humanity.
Sargsyan’s remarks come amid growing pressure on the US Congress to bring the Armenian Genocide resolution (H.Res.252) to a vote in the full House of Representatives. The conference is part of what seems to be a strong push by official Yerevan to support the measure in the aftermath of its collapsed talks with Turkey to normalize relations.
One of the conference participants, prominent Armenian-American historian Richard Hovannisian, suggested that Armenia’s government has toughened its position on genocide recognition since the collapse of its normalization agreements with Turkey. “It seems to have become more determined,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Sargsyan’s policy of rapprochement with Turkey has triggered a barrage of criticism from many in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora. They say that Ankara has exploited it to keep more countries from recognizing the slaughter of some 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians as genocide.
Taner Akcam, a U.S.-based Turkish scholar also participating in the conference, said such recognition would make it much harder for the Turkish state to claim that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and not as a result of a premeditated government policy.
“I strongly recommend recognition of the Armenian genocide,” Akcam told journalists. “This is also important for the prevention [of more genocides,]” he said.
He went on to describe Turkey’s treatment of the issue as “a policy of 95 years of denial” that is preventing Turkey from developing a true democracy. “Facing history is a very honorable thing and I’m hopeful the Turkish government will change the policy soon,” Akcam added.
“I do hope that Turkey will face this dark chapter of the history. Turkey is not the Turkey that we know for 10 years. If it wants to be a member of the European Union, of the civilized world, it has to acknowledge these wrongdoings of the past,” Akcam said.
But Turkey’s policy of denial and its relations with the leading countries of Europe have diluted pressure from the EU for Turkey to come to grips with its past, according to Tessa Hofmann of the Free University in Berlin.
Hofman explained that in her own country, Germany, the government, now more than ever “stays committed to its position of categorically denying that what happened was genocide.”
Armenia should therefore submit its case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, she stressed.
The conference also explored Israel’s role in Turkey’s denial of the Genocide, with a presentation by renowned genocide historian Israel Charny, who said Jerusalem should officially recognize the crime on a political level.
“Though, Israel has long recognized the Armenian Genocide on societal and cultural level, at the state level, this has not happen,” said Charny.
Speaking about retribution and reparations, Egyptian scholar Ahman Abgel Avi Salami said the descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors have the right to demand compensation from Turkey as a successor of the Ottoman Empire.
According to Abgel Avi Salami, Turkey should recognize the Armenian Genocide, apologize, and pay compensation. “It has to promise not to commit such crimes in the future,” he said, citing the German example, where Berlin recognized the Holocaust and paid compensation to Jewish descendants. “Turkey should do the same regarding Armenians,” he added.
The scholar explained that the Republic of Armenia has the right to file a lawsuit against Turkey to protect the interests of Armenians and descendants of the Genocide survivors, who once found shelter in the territory of Armenia.
“U.S., France and Canada also can protect interests of the descendants residing in their territory. Legal responsibility for genocide has no time limits, while moral responsibility surpasses the legal one,” said Abgel Avi Salami. “This is mentioned in the UN resolution [on Genocide Prevention]. However, real politics prevents from implementation of this resolution.”
Sargsyan had similarly criticized the “political expediency and short-sighted opportunism” that often shape governments’ attitudes towards past and present genocides.
“The bitter lessons of the Armenian genocide did not go down in the history and memory of humankind as mere memories of the past. They came to be replaced by the horrors of the Holocaust and the tragedies in Rwanda, Darfur and many other places,” he said in a speech at the forum. His remarks were a clear reference to the reluctance of countries to recognize the Genocide and risk antagonizing Turkey.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian made the same point, saying that the prevention and condemnation of genocides should not be taken hostage to politics and instead must be on the international community’s agenda. “Genocide denial and impunity pave the way for new crimes against humanity. Regardless of geopolitical or other interests, the international community must be united in condemning and preventing genocide,” Nalbandian told conference participants.
Dear Participants of the Conference,
Ninety years ago on this day – November 22, 1920, the President of the United States Woodrow Wilson made an Arbitral Award regarding Armenia’s borders.
It was probably one of the most momentous events for our nation in the 20th century which was called up to reestablish historic justice and eliminate consequences of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated in the Ottoman Empire. The Arbitral Award defined and recognized internationally Armenia’s borders within which the Armenian people, who had gone through hell of Mets Eghern, were to build their statehood.
Perfidy and brutal force thwarted opportunities for calling President Wilson’s Arbitral Award to life. Nevertheless, its significance is not to be underestimated: through that decision the aspiration of the Armenian people for the lost Motherland had obtained vital and legal force.
With the collapse of empires after World War I, a number of European nations had been endowed with the opportunity to achieve self-determination through the creation of their own nation states. President Wilson wished for Armenia to be one of those nations which would employ all opportunities offered by the European civilization. He knew what the responsibility of a great state means; he didn’t not ignore sufferings of small nations.
Even today, through the power of his historic legacy, Woodrow Wilson entreats to strengthen international law, prevent genocides and undertake measures to restrain the impunity of brutal force. He is the one whom the grateful Armenian nation remembers and will remember for ever as an advocate of justice and a true friend.
Scientific studies and analysis of that historic ruling are of utmost importance, and I wish the Conference productive works.
LOS ANGELES—Scholars from across the world are set to discuss the Armenian Genocide during a conference hosted by the International Human Rights Law Association at UCLA entitled “Genocide and Then What? The Law, Ethics, and Politics of Making Amends.” The event will take place at UCLA’s Dodd Hall Auditorium on Sat., Oct. 23 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
”This is a ground-breaking conference, the first of its kind to tackle this issue as well as place it in the broader context of restitution for crimes against humanity,” noted Dr. Henry Theriault, chair of the department of philosophy at Worcester State University.
Armenian Genocide reparations report to be featured
The conference will feature a soon to be released report on the Armenian Genocide that brings together years of research from the legal, ethical, and political perspective. This independent study was made possible by a grant from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
”We look forward to discussing the report and the opportunity for critical feedback from the scholarly community at the UCLA School of Law and beyond,” said Theriault.
Theriault, whose work explores the ethics of reparations for crimes against humanity, will be joined on the first panel of the conference by Ara Papian, former ambassador of Armenia to Canada, and treaty history and law specialist, as well as Dr. Jermaine McCalpin (University of the West Indies, Jamaica), and Dr. Alfred De Zayas (Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Switzerland).
De Zayas has served as chief of petitions at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, is the retired secretary of the UN Human Rights Committee, and former senior counsel with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He recently authored The Genocide Against the Armenians 1915-1923 and the Relevance of the Genocide Convention.
McCalpin is a specialist in long-term as well as transitional justice. His research interests include truth commissions and political accountability, as well as reparations for slavery, Native American extermination, and the Armenian Genocide.
Crimes against humanity and restitution
In addition to presenting the report, the event will feature panels exploring Armenian Genocide reparations in the broader contexts of human rights violation reparations, the ethical foundations, the political implications, and real property determinations for reparations.
Key to this discussion is the participation of Michael Bazyler, professor of law and “1939” Club Law Scholar in Holocaust and human rights studies at Chapman University School of Law. Bazyler is a leading authority on the use of American and European courts to redress genocide and other historical wrongs. His book on the subject, Holocaust Justice: The Battle For Restitution In America’s Courts, was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court and reviewed in the Harvard Law Review, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times (London), and the Economist.
Ethical foundations, political landscape
Providing perspective on the ethical imperative behind justice in the case of the Armenian Genocide and the dynamic political environment in which it is developing will be Dr. Armen Marsoobian, Khatchig Mouradian, and Ayda Erbal.
Marsoobian is a professor and chair of the philosophy department at Southern Connecticut State University. His current work deals with philosophical issues arising from genocide, including an exploration of inter-generational moral responsibility in the aftermath of genocide.
Mouradian is completing his Ph.D. in Holocaust and genocide studies at Clark University, Worcester, Mass. He has lectured extensively and participated in conferences in Armenia, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, and across the United States. On April 24, 2010, he was a featured speaker at the Armenian Genocide commemoration held in Istanbul, Turkey, and on April 25, he presented as part of the “Reparations” panel at the first Armenian Genocide conference held in Ankara, Turkey.
Erbal is completing her Ph.D. dissertation at New York University in the department of politics. Her research focuses on the politics of changing historiographies in Turkey and Israel, and her work focuses on democratic theory, democratic deliberation, the politics of “post-nationalist” historiographies in transitional settings, and the politics of apology.
Genocide and real numbers
George Aghjayan, a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, will present his research on the demographics of the Armenian population of Western Armenia prior to the Armenian Genocide. He will be joined by Rev. Dr. George Leylegian, who will discuss his work outlining the seizure and destruction of church properties lost during and after the Armenian Genocide, as well as its community and religious institutional impact.
The conference is free and open to the public. For more information about the conference, individuals may contact the International Human Rights Law Association.
The conference is organized by the International Human Rights Law Association with the support of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region.
The Armenian Cause Foundation recently sponsored the publication of the book by the National Archives of Armenia. The book details an insufficiently studied episode of the Armenian Question, namely the demand by the Soviet government that Turkey return Kars to Armenia in 1945 as a pre-condition for signing a new treaty of friendship between USSR and Turkish Republic.
YEREVAN – The Armenian Cause Foundation recently sponsored the publication of the book by the National Archives of Armenia. The book details an insufficiently studied episode of the Armenian Question, namely the demand by the Soviet government that Turkey return Kars to Armenia in 1945 as a pre-condition for signing a new treaty of friendship between USSR and Turkish Republic.
The publication, entitled “Armenia and the Soviet-Turkish Relations in Diplomatic Documents, 1945-1946,” is comprised of two sections and includes an introduction by Dr. Arman Kirakossian who edited the volume.
Dr. Kirakossian’s introduction presents a comprehensive summary of the Russian-Turkish, Armenian-Turkish and Soviet-Turkish relations from the 1878 San Stefano treaty to the collapse of the Soviet Union, including the attempt to re-open the Armenian Question in 1945-1946. The introduction contains maps related to the different phases of the Armenian Question.
The first section of the volume includes a special file entitled “Occupation of the Armenian territories by Turkey” that was prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1946.
The file – White Paper No. 410 – includes the correspondence on that subject between the Soviet Foreign Ministry and Soviet Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, a detailed account of the history of the Armenian Question, reports on the repatriation, Diasporan organizations, and contains letters addressed by private individuals and organizations to the leaders of World War II allied nations, Soviet Armenian government, and to the post-WWII peace conferences.
The second section contains US, Soviet, British, and Turkish diplomatic documents in 1945-1946 and protocols of the 1945 Potsdam Conference where the US, Soviet, and British leaders discussed issues related to Turkey, Soviet-Turkish relations, and Black Sea straits.
The volume contains a biographical guide and index.
The archival background of the documents listed in the volume was prepared by Dr. Amatuni Virabyan. Dr. Arsen Avagyan, journalist Tigran Liloyan, historian Kristine Melkonyan and editing director of the Armenian Encyclopedia Hovhannes Ayvazyan provided support during the preparation of the volume.