Newropeans Magazine, France
May 20 2005

Ten Years Shy of a Century! The Armenian Genocide 1915 - 1st Part -

Written by Dr Harry Hagopian
Friday, 20 May 2005

For me, the Armenian genocide is something we remember and commemorate
every year on April 24th in our different countries. I went recently
to Dzizernagapert [Genocide Memorial Complex in Armenia] and what I
could feel was how extremely proud I was of my nation for surviving
this gruesome ordeal. But I'm more concerned about the Armenia
of today. Talking about the genocide has been getting Armenians
some sympathy but actual financial compensation could also be quite
useful, don't you think? People are starving there, or so they say,
and they seriously need help. Constantly reminding them about their
misfortunes and bad luck isn't going to do much for their morale now,
is it? So why dwell on this one horrific historical chapter to the
exclusion of other equally pressing and contemporary issues?

Individuals, nations, and cultures are the sum total of their past
experiences. However glorious or painful, it is the experiences of our
forebears that are the forming forces that weave the very fabric of
our identities. No individual / generation has the right to wipe the
slate clean and start all over again for the sake of expediency in the
short term. By the same token we all have the obligation to help each
other out, celebrate our values, and pass on our cultural identities -
having made our contribution - to future generations. At best we are
stewards of our heritage. We can address questions of the Armenian
character, purpose in, and contribution to life by examining ideas that
have shaped western thought through the lens of our heritage. We should
seek to reinvigorate our society and culture through the transformation
and renewal of its leaders. We could do well to remember what Goethe
said, 'He who cannot draw on 3,000 years is living hand-to-mouth.'

Nations have no permanent friends or allies. They only have permanent
interests. Lord Palmerston, British Foreign Minister, 1846-1851

These two expurgated quotations come from separate conversations I
had with a couple of Armenians well over two years ago. I remember
them quite clearly since I have used them on different occasions
to define Armenian perceptions of the Armenian Genocide. The first
response is congruent with the views of someone like the syndicated
columnist, broadcaster and award-winning author Eric S Margolis. The
second one comes closer to those views propounded by the likes
of the distinguished journalist Robert Fisk from the Independent
daily newspaper who has often addressed the Armenian Genocide that
remains hitherto officially unrecognised in the UK. Just like my two
acquaintances making their attentive comments, both Fisk and Margolis
acknowledge the veracity of the genocide but then diverge somewhat
when history cedes to future orientations. Theirs is a diversity of
views that forms the sum-total of those realities surrounding us,
developing, instructing and infusing us in the process with a set of
core values and beliefs.

In one sense, those twin perceptions are not only staking a claim to
the pages of Armenian history. With their own overarching themes,
they are equally lending themselves to definitions of national
existentialism that are much closer to psychological modes of knowing
than to metaphysical ones. Like the Cartesian theories of Jean-Paul
Sartre or Albert Camus, their perceptions - dissimilar in their
similarity - strive for self-discovery and place the absolute in
human freedom somewhere between the levels of existence and essence.

It is my belief that the horrendous events of 9/11 introduced a
sea change in our global perception of world events. Until that
fateful and horrific date, most countries had attempted to treat the
symptoms of conflicts by applying plasters to their more visible
manifestations. Ever since, many world democracies have begun
addressing the root causes of some of those festering conflicts. As
Professor Simon Roberts taught me at University College London some
moons ago, plasters cannot be effective tools of conflict resolution.
Indeed, the world has come to acknowledge a new paradigm whereby
injustices cannot simply be swept under the proverbial carpet in
the sanguine hope that they will fade away! Unless they are dealt
with conscientiously, those conflicts have a way of re-emerging time
and again until their underlying causes let alone inherent traumas
are dealt with methodically and equitably. It is true that major
miscalculations have tarnished global strategic thinking in the past
few years, most recently in Iraq, but the neo-con theosophy today
enjoys some acute relevance to our world as terrorism and genocide
from Indonesia to Darfur are occurring with impunity almost daily.

In a sense, it is this global shift that encouraged me to address yet
again the open chapter in the narrative of my own Armenian people.
Why should the British Government, for instance, attempt to exclude
the Armenian Genocide year-in-year out from the commemorative
service of Holocaust Memorial Day? Why should those people who are
loyal to the ethos of the Jewish Holocaust remain disloyal in equal
but opposite measure to the ethos of the Armenian Genocide? Should
Churches world-wide not be more prophetic and true to their faithful
ministries, and should they not strive to encourage reconciliation that
is anchored in justice - just like the Vatican and the Geneva-based
World Council of Churches have done already? Has it not been proven
that the collective experience of the Armenian massacres fulfils all
five criteria of genocide under article 2 of the Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide that was adopted
by Resolution 260 (III) A of the UN General Assembly on 9 December
1948? How could I therefore idly sit back and accept that so many men
and women are unable - or reluctant - to move beyond their own set of
truths, prejudices, memories, fears, interests and dissimulation? The
challenge is no longer solely to argue about the historical
verisimilitude of the Armenian Genocide since many historians
have already corroborated it. The challenge today is also to lobby
recalcitrant countries - namely Turkey, the UK, Germany and Israel -
to remove their own politico-economic blinkers and assume the moral
mantle of recognition at long last. As Dr Donald Bloxham, historian,
lecturer and author of The Great Game of Genocide - Imperialism,
Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians, has often
averred, it is high time to 'shame' governments into recognition.

As a public international lawyer, I have been following with
professional interest the lengthy trial of former Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic at The Hague War Crimes Tribunal as he faces a
total of sixty six counts on three indictments for genocide and crimes
against humanity in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. I still recall with
poignancy the opening statement from Carla Del Ponte, ICT prosecution
team, who said that in Milosevic the world 'saw an almost mediaeval
savagery and calculated cruelty that went far beyond the boundaries
of legitimate warfare, scenes that the international community was
shocked to witness. These were crimes against humanity.' It is my
contention that the legal jurisprudence by which Slobodan Milosevic
is being tried for genocide in the unforgivable and wanton deaths
of 130,000 men, women and children should apply in equal measure to
those victims who were killed - again unforgivably and wantonly -
during the Armenian massacres of the late 1890's and early 1900's
that culminated in the genocide of 1915.

Dr Harry Hagopian, Ecumenical, Legal & Political Consultant Armenian
Apostolic Church - London (United Kingdom)