Raising awareness of Armenian Genocide
Last month, I travelled to Yerevan, Armenia to meet with people from the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute (AGMI). They’re working to raise greater awareness of a horrific genocide that saw the murder of 1.5 million people during the final years of the Ottoman Empire. Men, women and children – primarily Armenians, but also Greeks, Syrians and other minorities – were systematically targeted for destruction by the Ottoman government. The genocide began with the arrest, detainment, and execution of Armenian leaders and intellectuals. Then Armenian men, women, children, and the elderly were rounded up. Ottoman soldiers forced them on death marches through the desert. Many died of hunger, and others were raped or murdered by Turk forces or marauding gangs of collaborators. In 1915, the governments of Great Britain, France and Russia issued a joint statement accusing the Ottoman government of committing a “crime against humanity” – the first time the term was officially used to the describe such atrocities perpetrated by a state.
Ongoing denial of this historic atrocity, waged in the name of ethnic homogeneity, makes it a contemporary human-rights concern. In April 2004, Canada’s Parliament passed a resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and condemning it as a crime against humanity.
Civilitas, a non-profit organization, works to promote human rights in Armenia today.
When the CMHR opens next year, information about this atrocity will be included in its galleries. We are also working to establish formal ties of cooperation with the Museum in Yerevan that could help both institutions in our efforts to use awareness and dialogue as a way to promote enhanced human rights for Armenians and all of humanity.
The Museum in Armenia holds the world’s strongest collection of artefacts, images and documents as evidence and commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. Built directly into the side of a hill so as not to detract from the imposing presence of the nearby Genocide Monument, the Museum overlooks the scenic Ararat Valley and majestic Mount Ararat.
On my trip, I was accompanied and assisted by members of the Toronto-based Zoryan Institute of Canada, a group that supports scholarship and public awareness relating to issues of universal human rights, genocide, and diaspora-homeland relations.
From left to right: George Shirinian (Executive Director, Zoryan Institute), Greg Sarkissian (President, Zoryan Institute), Clint Curle (Head of Stakeholder Relations, CMHR) and Hayk Demoyan (Director, the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute).
While in Yerevan, I also met with a group called “Civilitas”, which is working to promote human rights in Armenia today. Representatives were very interested in the CMHR and invited me to participate in an online interview.
Knowledge and information can be powerful tools in the struggle for human rights, especially when secrecy, silence and denial of atrocities – whether historic or contemporary -- continue to violate the rights of people living today.