Statement of Purpose - 27 January 2003
HE Mr Jack McConnell, MSP, HE Mr Jim Wallace, QC MSP, HE Mr John Swinney, MSP, HE Council Leader Donald Anderson
It is January 2003, and Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD 2003) is once again at our doorsteps! As with the previous two years, the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (CRAG) has been working tirelessly to make this event a success in the broad sense that subscribes to the Statement of Commitment by the Home Office Race Equality Unit of 25 September 2000. The Statement articulated the hopes of many communities when it promised, 'We vow to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocides.' As such, CRAG has been collaborating with members of the Armenian British community in the UK, with friends and supporters in Edinburgh, and much as with the official organisers of the HMD 2003 event at Usher Hall in Edinburgh on the evening of 27 January 2003.
And as with the past two years, Armenians have felt frustrated that their input at this national and pan-communitarian event does not represent their fears, hopes and wishes and does not exonerate their understanding of the Statement of Commitment. It is irrelevant how the question is framed! Whether HMD 2003 starts its historical synopsis in 1939 with the abominations of the Jewish Holocaust, or whether HM Government has not recognised the Armenian Genocide as have done so many other countries, parliaments and legislative bodies, the Armenian pain remains unmet! The wounds are livid and living, and the Armenian British community wonders why Government that abides by ethical foreign policy principles simply does not listen to the testimonies and writings of its own British historians in confirming the authenticity of this genocidal chapter during World War One! Why do the ears not heed to what the hearts express with frustration, consternation and earnestness?
Today, and with this submission, we at CRAG would simply like to highlight two stories. The first, by Mr Bedros Garabedian, is that of an older man. The second, by Ms Maral Ovanessoff, is that of a younger woman. Both talk about the same thing, and both express the same prayer - recognition of crimes perpetrated against Armenians in 1915.
The Armenian British community - by using CRAG as its vehicle - aspires for the time when the Armenian Genocide will become part of British policy as it has in so many countries and parliaments of the European Union. In the meantime, it allows those two Armenians, of different ages, genders and backgrounds, to let their pens express their stances.
After all, and as the ancient prophets of the Bible repeat in their writings, the truth will triumph one day. Surely, that inevitable day can be sooner rather than later?
Yours Sincerely, in anticipation,
Dr Rostom Stepanian, MD FRCP
Chair - CRAG
It was in 1909 that my father 14 years old at the time, was returning home on horseback.
From a distance he saw many soldiers with horses in the garden in front of their home, and as he got nearer, he saw on the threshold of the house, both his father and mother laying on the floor, with their throats open with blood all around.
From inside the house he heard his sister screaming. Instinctively he turned his horse and galloped away, at this point, the soldiers shot at him, and he was hit at the left forearm. After a while he must have fallen unconscious, because he woke up in a Danish missionary clinic or hospital, with a gangrenous wound which necessitated amputation of his left forearm.
That is how we knew our father.
While on a business trip in Ankara some 40 years back, I happened to discuss business matters with an aged director in the government service, when this gentleman asked me how come I could speak Turkish so fluently...
I told him I learned it from my father and his friends...who were all survivors of the exodus from Turkey. To his query of the place where my father came from, I told him from "Hadjin", he interrupted me and said: The name has been changed and that village is now called: "Sayin Beyli".
At this point I took the liberty to ask him for a favour, namely to refer me to a taxi or limousine service that would drive me one day to "Sayin Beyli", and back, just for me to feel the place where my father was born...
His answer, in the patronising attitude of his age:
Oghloum, (my son), I am a Turk, a Moslem, highly positioned in the administration, yet, I'd be scared to venture in such places.... People are dangerous there...
What keeps coming back in my mind is that some governments, to this day have closed their eyes to history, not wanted to investigate whether we have been victims of genocide, they have accepted the official Turkish version, just for the purpose of protecting their commercial, strategic or you-name-it interest.
Children of Armenian origin growing up in France, Italy, the Lebanon, Sweden, Greece, Russia, Cyprus and many other countries, learn from their governments that truth and justice prevail in the end.
Children of Armenian origin growing up in Britain and the United States, learn from their governments that strategic military airbase locations and economic trade agreements supersede truth and justice.
Q. Why are there so many children of Armenian origin in all these countries, making these observations?
A. Because the criminals were not brought to justice following their crime. The international community allowed them to fade into oblivion instead of bringing them to trial and demanding that they compensate the surviving victims by helping them to re-establish their lives in their ancestral homeland and by ensuring that their human rights were respected.
Hanoch Yerushalmi, psychologist at Hebrew University in Israel:
"Acknowledgement is more than regret, it's accepting responsibility. It's when you 'own your guilt' . . . The power of acknowledgement should not be underestimated. Acknowledgement establishes a new reality."
My 2003 New Year's wish is for 'acknowledgement', so that the world will witness peace and friendship between future generations of Armenian and Turkish children. The Turkish government needs forceful encouragement from the international community to reach a state of 'acknowledgement'. I hope that my Government will join the others to help make my wish come true.