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Holocaust Memorial Day 2001 and the Exclusion of the Armenian Genocide

The Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the British Armenian community totally welcomed Britain’s first Holocaust Memorial Day on the 27th of January 2001. Britain had gone too long without officially having a day of remembrance for the Holocaust and other genocides. It is totally inappropriate that a generation of youngsters, in a modern democratic country like Britain, are not given the opportunity to learn about the vitally important lessons that such atrocities must teach us.

Unfortunately, the government did not even come close to living up to its own rhetoric regarding the day. On the 25th September 2000 the Home Office Race Equality Unit, signed a ‘Statement of Commitment’, point three of which stated:

We must make sure that future generations understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences. We vow to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocides” (own stress).

Yet the British Government's official policy was to exclude any mention of the Armenian Genocide from Holocaust Memorial Day.

The reason why was given by the Home Office Minister Mike O’Brien, who was responsible for the day, in reply to a Parliamentary Question on the 30th November stating that the day "is focused on learning the lessons of the Holocaust and other more recent atrocities that raise similar issues.” Though this was understandable, it seemed incomprehensible that the government would not want the Armenian Genocide, where 1.5 million people died, mentioned at any point during the two hour commemoration.

The explaination might lie in that the British Government's decision pleased Turkey. On the 24th of April, 2000, (coincidentally, the day on which Armenians wordwide commemorate the genocide) the Istanbul Sabah ran an article which stated that the Armenian community had been applying for the Armenian Genocide to be,

"commemorated on the 'Day to Remember Victims of Genocide'"... The response of the British government rejecting this demand was stated in a letter signed by Neil Frater, an official of the Department of Racial Equality of the Home Office. The letter said: 'The Armenian genocide consists of only allegations. Consequently we cannot condem it.'"

CRAG’s policy on Britain’s commemration was that though we viewed the aims and aspirations of the day to be highly worthwhile and commendable, we regreted that this was been done in a manner to mask the reality of the Armenian Genocide, which was so relevant to the lessons of Holocaust Memorial Day.

This exclusion manifested itself in that the Armenian Genocide, was the only 20th Century genocide not included by the Home Office (race equality unit) for remmeberance during the commemoration. This decision was taken for political reasons, namely the Turkish Governments denial of the Armenian Genocide.

CRAG fully welcomed that the Cambodian, Rwandan and Balkan genocide were included along with the Holocaust for commemoration and remmeberance, as their can be no pecking order to suffering. But, it is clear to see that the Armenian Genocides exclusion was clearly part of the long-standing British policy of denial, and as such we are deeply disapointed that a day to reflect and lean about the attrociatous events of the 20th Century should at the same time be used to deny genocide, the Armenian Genocide.

We hope that at future commemorations the Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the modern era, will be given the consideration that it demands, and not be silenced to appease Turkey.

For more information about Holocaust Memorial Day please click on this address to visit the official government website: http://www.holocaustmemorialday.gov.uk/

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