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Holocaust Memorial Day - Commemorative Programme 2003

The countdown has commenced for the commemorative events linked with HMD 2003. As you may well recall from previous CRAG messages, the national event will take place in Edinburgh on 27 January 2003. The theme chosen for this year is Children, and there are other activities nation-wide linked to this day.

The ethos of Holocaust memorial Day can best be summed up by the Statement of Commitment from the Home Office Race Equality Unity of 25 September 2000. It said, 'We vow to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocides.

Taking this Statement as a definition of the HMD events, CRAG has consistently argued that the Armenian Genocide falls well within the ambit of this definition. As such, it - alongside other Armenian organisations or supporters - has focused its efforts to lift up the Armenian chapter within this chain of events.

It has not always been easy, and success has been patchy, due to the fact that HM Government does not recognise officially the Armenian Genocide as qualifying within the definition of the Convention. Therefore, and whilst the achievements have been incremental, they have been creating the basis for enhanced future efforts toward this aim.

This year, the centrepiece of the Armenian commemorative events in Edinburgh will take place outside the official walls. Indeed, CRAG is privileged to announce that a Memorial Service will he held in memory of Lord James Bryce at Grange Cemetery on the afternoon of 27 January 2003.

This memorial service will be attended by a large number of civic dignitaries and press people from Edinburgh, as well as Armenian representatives from Scotland and England.

The event - organised by CRAG with the all-important and quintessential support and contacts of Dr Hagop Bessos in Edinburgh - will include a wreath-laying ceremony by Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian and Mrs Karine Khoudaverdian of the Armenian Embassy - representing Church and State.

It will also include a Requiem Service by Bishop Nathan, the singing of two psalms and a violin performance.

Further, Dr Rostom Stepanian, as Chair of CRAG, will address the assembly about the present realities of commemorating the Armenian Genocide in the UK. Dr Hagop Bessos will also talk on the political and eyewitness accounts that Lord James Bryce brought to the Armenian Genocide as well as his own family story as an exodus from Ottoman Turkey during WWI.

CRAG believes this event will highlight the Armenian component of the HMD events, and raise the public profile of this tragic chapter in Armenian history.

In addition to this major event, there will be an Armenian participation at the linked national event at Usher Hall. In fact, CRAG has managed to secure a record number of official invitations for this event in accordance to the requests it received from earlier messages.

There, a young Armenian violonist will be playing Groong and her piece will be introduced as 'an evocative piece of spirituality that undergirds the Armenian Genocide'.

CRAG has also lobbied hard for the inclusion of the Armenian chapter of sufferings in the narrative script of the main event on 27 January 2003.

Given the theme of the events this year, Dr Vahakn Dadrian has written for CRAG a manuscript on 'The Children of the Armenian Genocide'. This new work, resourcing many foreign references and testimonies, has been submitted for posting on the web-site of the Department of Education, and is also web-linked to the CRAG web-site.

As indicated previously, a Message from CRAG, excerpting two personal Armenian responses to the Armenian Genocide, will be submitted to the Scottish Parliament on 27 January 2003.

The Message, a Statement of Purpose for all political intents and purposes, will be handed to the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister, the Shadow First Minister and the Council Leader. It will also be copied to the Home Office in London, and become available (like most other items) on the CRAG web-site.

The 'Factfile on the Armenian Genocide' is the newly-published leaflet that will be distributed by a group of volunteers at all the main events in Edinburgh - from the national event itself to the events that take place around it.

Inserted in the leaflet also will be the excerpt of the European Parliament resolution of 1987 that defines the Armenian genocide as falling within the meaning of the convention on the prevention and the punishment of the crime of genocide adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 december 1948.

HOWEVER, and despite the fact that the centrepiece is in Edinburgh, CRAG has also been privileged to invite Dr Tessa Hofmann to lecture on the theme of the 'Affirmation of the Armenian Genocide'. Dr Hofmann is a German historian and academic from the Free University in Berlin who has researched extensively on the Armenian Genocide, and has also worked closely with the EU institutions.

Her lecture will take place at the London School of Economics in London (LSE), D-202 Clement House of the International Relations Department, on 27 January 2003 at 7:00 pm.

Dr Hofmann is warmly welcomed by CRAG and offers its appreciation for her lecture in the context of HMD 2003.

Other Features

Separate HMD-linked events are also taking place at the Hounslow and Ealing City Councils. Additional information could be obtained directly or through the Centre for Armenian Information and Advice in London (CAIA).

CRAG obtained confirmation today from the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre that the Director of the Centre will recognise the Armenian Genocide as part of its activities in connection with Holocaust Memorial Day 2003.

During his introductory speech at the commemorative concert to be held at the Holocaust Centre on 26 January, Dr Stephen Smith will refer to the Armenian Genocide.

Also, at the 'Lessons for the Future' youth conference in Edinburgh on 24 January, the Holocaust Centre will raise the Armenian Genocide as the first in the 20th century.

'The Armenian Genocide as Prototype for the Holocaust' is the theme of an exhibition of the Armenian Genocide in the Simmons Hall of the Harrow & Wembley Progressive Synagogue at 326 Preston Road, Wembley.

This exhibitioon will be from 24 to 26 January, and is being brought over from Berlin by Dr Tessa Hofmann (CRAG guest lecturer at LSE on 27 January) and Dr Gerayer Koutacharian.

On Sunday, 26 January, there will be a special event around the exhibition from 2:30 pm till 6:30 pm. It will include a 90-minute film 'Voices from the Lake' (about five eye-witnesses and narrator who tell the story of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey).

All are welcome, and confirmations should be made to Ruth Barnett on tel/fax 74310837 or RuthLBarnett@aol.com. The synagogue is nearest to Preston Road undergound.

CRAG believes this is an educational experience that also links the Jewish Holocaust to its precursor Armenian Genocide. This link, at a Progressive Synagogue and focusing on the Armenian Genocide, is important.

FINALLY, is all this enough? Not really! However, lobbying is also a slow and laborious process where the odds are by definition not always favourable. As such, those events and inroads are crucial in establishing a tradition that will in time yield to fuller participation and ultimate recognition.

However small or however ambitious, those events (as much as others that have not been shared with CRAG and therefore not included in its data-base) should serve the purpose of highlighting this Genocide. They should also pave the way for better results in future.

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