Mr. Stuart Murray, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), and Dr. Hayk Demoyan, Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum Institute (AGMI) of the National Academy of Sciences, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today that will facilitate collaboration for the promotion of human rights through joint projects and education.
The CMHR and the AGMI will exchange knowledge and expertise, educational materials, and exhibitions with respect to human rights, share research and advice, cooperate to advance the academic study of human rights and reconciliation, the Armenian Genocide and its effects, and processes seeking justice and reconciliation, and work together to educate people on issues of human rights, in both national and global contexts.
"Respect and protection for human rights is hard to build, but easy to destroy. Every society that embraces human rights has to be continually vigilant to promote and protect those human rights," Mr. Stuart Murray said. "We are very pleased to be joining hands with the Armenian Genocide Museum Institute to promote education, awareness and dialogue about human rights."
The official signing of the MOU between the CMHR and AGMI has been facilitated by the assistance of the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (A Division of the Zoryan Institute of Canada) – a Canadian organization which advances scholarship and public awareness relating to issues of universal human rights, genocide, and diaspora-homeland relations. Representatives of the IIGHRS officially witnessed the signing and will serve an ongoing role as liaison and facilitators.
"The Armenian Genocide is an important human rights story," said Dr. Demoyan. "The concept of crimes against humanity was developed in response to this horrific series of violations against the Armenian people. The intent of the Ottoman Turkish government to annihilate its Armenian citizens is not only a crime against humanity, but also genocide. The denial of the genocide by the inheritors of the perpetrator state and others is itself a violation of the human rights of the survivors and their descendants. This partnership will help bring the story of the Armenian Genocide to a wider audience, to the benefit of generations to come."
During and after the First World War, the leaders of the Ottoman Empire (the forerunner of the modern-day Republic of Turkey) made a brutal attempt to destroy the empire's entire Armenian population, targeting them on ethnic and religious grounds, along with other Christian subjects—the Assyrians and Greeks. The Genocide began in 1915 with the execution of Armenian leaders. Then authorities rounded up Armenian men, women and children. The victims were massacred or forced on death marches through the desert. Many died of starvation. The perpetrators tried to hide these mass killings from the world.
The first international reaction to the Genocide resulted in a joint statement by France, Russia and Great Britain, in May 1915, where the Ottoman Empire atrocities directed against the Armenian people was defined as "new crimes against humanity and civilization." In 2004, the Canadian House of Commons passed a resolution to recognize this genocide.
"By raising awareness of the Armenian Genocide, we hope to remind people of the importance of breaking the silence on human rights violations. We look forward to working with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on this goal," said AGMI Director Demoyan.
There were an estimated two million Armenians living in their ancestral homeland in the Ottoman Empire on the eve of the First World War. Approximately one and a half million Armenians perished between 1915 and 1923. Another half million found shelter abroad.
One of the audience, Jack Garabed, a Manitoban descendant of an Armenian Genocide survivor, came to see this historic partnership and shared the story of his father, Garabedi Haroutounian. He spoke of his grandfather being taken away one night and murdered. They took his father away and placed him in an orphanage. He believes his Grandmother escaped into Egypt with some of the younger children. His father was forced to change religion. The Salvation Army arranged to have three children in the orphanage, including his father, transported to Canada. Haroutounian left the other two boys in Montreal and continued on to Manitoba. He was fascinated by the train ride, and wanted to extend it as far as he could. The train brought him to Winnipeg, and from there he was placed with farmers in the Killarney area.
About the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
The CMHR is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. It is the first national museum in Canada to be built outside the National Capital Region. The Museum will use immersive multi-media technology and other innovative approaches to create an inspiring encounter with human rights unlike anything visitors have experienced before.
About the Armenian Genocide Museum Institute
The Armenian Genocide Museum & Institute (AGMI) of the National Academy of Sciences is a non-profit organization based in Yerevan, Republic of Armenia. The mission of the Museum-Institute is the academic and scientific study, analysis of the problems as well as exhibition of the textual and visual documentation related to the first Genocide of the 20th century.
About the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (A Division of the Zoryan Institute)
The International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (A Division of the Zoryan Institute), led by President Greg Sarkissian, Chairman Prof. Roger W. Smith, and Executive Director George Shirinian, runs an annual course in comparative genocide studies in partnership with the University of Toronto and is co-publisher of Genocide Studies International in partnership with the University of Toronto Press. It is the first non-profit, international center devoted to the research and documentation of contemporary issues with a focus on Genocide, Diaspora and Homeland.
For more information, please contact:
Christelle Mekoh CMHR Manager of Communications
Cell: (204) 299‑7095