The Speech of the Representative of the Christian Endeavor Union at the Night Vigil of the Centennial Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide

It's the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Furthermore, it's the centennial of the shameful crime of the Ottoman government and the continuous denial by the consecutive governments of Turkey, which to this day fabricates lies and plays political games to cover up and distort the truth of the Armenian Genocide.

Exacerbating the pain of the genocide, this year Turkey has decided to commemorate the Gallipoli anniversary on April 24, the same day the Armenian intellectuals were imprisoned and sent to their death.

More than one and a half million innocent lives were put to death, by starvation, deportation, rape, brutal killing and murder. The Armenians were suddenly uprooted from their fatherland and ancestral lands, and sent to the Syrian desert to perish and die. They were left without food, without water, without shelter. Many children, whose parents died during the genocide, became orphans and were deprived of their natural upbringing and parental care. The whole experience shook the remnants of the Armenian nation. Our fathers and mothers struggled for livelihood, for survival, for bread and water, trying to recover their sanity, dignity and humanity. They survived and then started rebuilding their lives in Lebanon and Syria.

Our fathers and mothers came to live in new countries and new lands, whose languages they did not speak. They toiled and labored night and day, putting their skills and talents to the benefit of their hosting countries. They built new houses, new churches, new schools and communal organizations. Together, the Armenians looked to the future, to a better future. They educated themselves and rose to the challenges that the new circumstances brought. Today, the Armenians all around the world are educated, successful men and women. Today, the Armenians are looking at the Genocide not only with sorrow and anguish. No, the Armenian youth today look back and demand retribution and compensation from Turkey, before the whole International community.

We demand from the Turkish government compensation for the losses of the Armenian Genocide, both financially and morally. The Armenian monasteries and churches, schools and houses, cultural and economic centers, community and private lands were converted into animal places, military posts and prisons, and modern Turkey was built on the confiscated wealth and lands of the Armenians. We

demand that Turkey return the public and private lands and properties back to the legal owners, the Armenians.

The Western civilized countries, concerned only about their political gain, stood by and only watched the complete annihilation of an ancient civilization and a prosperous nation. But we weren't completely left alone, during these horrible crimes against humanity. Many did reach out to us, leaving their safe countries, to come to our aid, to live with us in our perilous conditions, to endure pain and humiliation with us, and to even die with us. Missionaries, nurses, doctors, teachers, professors, social workers, pastors helped alleviate our conditions and became our Good Samaritans. We hold these noble men and women with high regard and we praise God for their worthy deeds. They became fathers and mothers to the Armenian orphans and sisters and brothers to the Armenian people.

Last month, Mr. Robert Fisk, the well-known British journalist, asked what the Armenians would do on the 101st and 102nd anniversaries. Well Mr. Fisk, the Armenians will remember and demand, they will remember and demand, they will remember and demand.

Armenians all over the world have gathered tonight. We've always remembered what happened to us. But the centennial marks a new era, an era of transferring the Armenian Genocide from the platform of recognition to the platform of legal framework.

Next year is the 101st anniversary. We will gather again, reminding Turkey to face up to its crimes against humanity. We will stand united and we will ask the world communities, organizations, and governments to stand with us against the continuous denial of the Armenian Genocide.

We will continue to remember and we will continue to demand.

Raffi Chilingirian,
Representative of
the Christian Endeavor Union's Executive Body of the Armenian Evangelical Churches
in the Armenian Genocide Centennial Youth Body of Lebanon

Remembering Mrs. Alice Khachadoorian-Shnorhokian, Who Tells Us What She Saw of the Genocide

This is a repost, published in 2009

Memories and Witnessings

Zabel Vasslian: I saw her about four years ago. She still remembered who I was (from 5th grade Sunday school). She remembered who was in my Sunday school class - I thought hard to remember, and she was right!. She remembered my mom from their early twenties... She gave me a quick two minute education on stroke signs, and told how she felt she was having a stroke, and called the first aid, and how she recovered so quickly because she took early action.

Hratch Svajian: I Have fond memories of Rev Manasseh and Alice Yeretsgin. My first memory of the reverend was when he came to Tripoli to deliver a sermon at the church . and we gave him a ride with our car. I was a little kid at the time but was somehow inspired by him and can’t even put it into words in what way. Then when we moved to Beirut, I always enjoyed hearing him when he visited AEC for chapel service, or reading his articles in Chanaser. Later, on during the war, they lived close to us in Marmekhael and we developed a special friendship with badveli and had many informal visits. During those times I was studying in Armenia and he was working on a book about the origin of the Armenian evangelical movement in Armenia which he strongly believed had started from within the Orthodox church and much before the western missionary influence in the diaspora. He wanted me to interview people in Armenia and get him additional information about the movement so he could include in his book . I enjoyed discussing various topics with him and have been inspired by him in ways that I can remember with fondness. After my mother died in 1979 and my sister Hasmig delivered her baby two days later, the yeretsgin often came to help out with various things and was very helpful having been a nurse. It’s nice to see that at that age she is still alert and intelligent.

Efforts toward Genocide Recognition - Rev. L. Nishan Bakalian

It was only a few days before Christmas 2010, and also the dying hours of the last session of the 111th Congress, when I found myself in Washington officially representing the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, lending my support to the efforts to get the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.R. 252) approved. Organized by the Armenian National Committee, a couple dozen volunteers, mostly young men and women and a few older clergy, such as me, spent an entire day ducking in and out of offices, trying to catch those representatives who were undecided to ask how they would vote on the resolution. My task was to appeal to their conscience regarding what should be a human rights issue and to remind them that the impunity which has reigned for the past ninety-six years must not continue if crimes like this are ever going to be stopped.
I realize that not everyone agrees that congressional resolutions are worth anything, or that the crime of genocide can be effectively combated. I think that simply remaining silent on the subject is worse than making no attempt whatsoever. Many Armenians think that the effort spent on pursuing the passage of these resolutions is a waste of time. Many Americans think it is against this country’s interests to “dredge up the past” and tantamount to disloyalty to endanger a strategic alliance for the sake of a proclamation. Turkey, however, views it with the utmost seriousness, and expends considerable energy to thwart any official mention of the subject, or that unmentionable word, genocide. considers it of the utmost importance. Enter: the “dueling grandmothers”.
I was paired up with an Armenian Catholic fellow from Providence, more experienced than I in moving about the halls of our nation’s capital. In our trek through the congressional office buildings, as were searching for the next representative on our list, we encountered a large, friendly fellow who extended his hand in greeting and said with a smile, “Are you working on the Genocide Resolution?” When we said “yes”, he responded, “I am, too! But on the other side.” And so we stood there in the hallway and talked or, rather, listened to his arguments as to why the resolution was a mistake. We had heard it all before: it was a long time ago; history should be left to the historians and not to politicians; many people on both sides were killed; Armenians were siding with the Russians; etc., etc. My cohort countered with arguments that this Turkish fellow had no doubt heard before: that an indigenous population does not just “disappear”; that something cataclysmic must have happened for them to forsake their homes and villages; and so forth. Finally our “sparring partner” said this: “My grandmother told me about how the Armenians in her town attacked them with weapons, and so they sent for help from the Turkish troops. If they had not arrived, the Turkish villagers would have all been massacred!”
On the other hand, we also met some aides and congressional staffers who were clearly not enamored of the cynical attitude of the Turkish government or its agents, and clearly stated that “there’s no question that what was perpetrated was genocide.” Words such as this were quite heartening, especially when coming from people who have no vested interests in “playing to the Armenians.”
Earlier in the year, in April, again in Washington, D.C., I represented the AEUNA when the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, placed a wreath at Woodrow Wilson’s tomb. There in the National Cathedral I wondered what Wilson, Morgenthau, Davis and other diplomats and public servants of that time would have thought of our struggle today simply to gain recognition for something that had been so plainly obvious to them. They wrote about it, and pled the cause of the persecuted, and strove to establish a free and independent homeland, so that the Armenian people would have a respite from greedy and malicious forces. This is why today we continue to speak and write about the Genocide, and we pray to our sovereign God to inspire in today’s public servants courage, principled thought, and a love of the truth, in place of the expediency and arrogant self-interest that is so prevalent. Perhaps then those in authority would be better able to provide the moral leadership so much in need in this country and in our world.


Rev. Bakalian is the pastor of the Armenian Martyrs’ Congregational Church of Greater Philadelphia and formerly the Campus Minister at Haigazian University, Beirut, Lebanon

Daniel Decker "Adana"

Lyrics: Daniel Decker (USA)
Music: Ara Gevorgian

Performers: Daniel Decker (USA), Vitalie Dani (Moldova), Tsvetan Tsvetov (Bulgaria), Kai Aughagen (Germany), Inka (Finland), Gegham Grigoryan (Armenia).

Diaspora Minister in Turkey: Official from Yerevan addresses concerns of Istanbul Armenians

The first visit of Hranush Hakobyan as Armenia’s Diaspora minister to Turkey’s largest city Istanbul gave answers to a number of concerns voiced not only by Istanbul-Armenians but also migrants from Armenia; children’s education was mentioned as the most urgent among the challenges they are facing living in Turkey.

Minister Hakobyan was invited to Istanbul between May 5 and 7 to take part in the UN-held Women’s World Summit at which a total of 82 countries were represented, with three first ladies – including Turkey’s first lady Hayrunnisa Gul – and 34 ministers among the participants.

Hakobyan, however, devoted most of her time to meetings with the Armenian community in Turkey. This was her second visit to Istanbul, but the first in the capacity of the Diaspora minister.

“Armenians of Constantinople [Istanbul Armenians are commonly referred to as such] are Armenia’s love and pride; I am grateful that despite all the hardship and under these difficult circumstances they stay true to their identity,” she said during her speech at the reception held in the hall of ceremonies at the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul after the Sunday liturgy.

During the reception she gave medals to 15 prominent Armenian intellectuals of Istanbul – writers, musicians, doctors and artists, who stressed that although they had been acknowledged and appreciated in their community and by the Turkish government, however Armenia’s official acknowledgement of their achievements mattered the most to them.

Afters visiting some of the Armenian community’s educational centres and churches, the minister said that the most important thing is to strengthen the ties with Armenia, for which frequent visits to their homeland are an important factor.

“By the end of the year, within the framework of various projects, some 500 young Armenians from Istanbul will be visiting Armenia to see their motherland and establish a contact with their country. We are also planning to hold ‘Days of Constantinople Armenians in Armenia’,” said the minister.

Although Armenians living in Istanbul do not consider themselves Diaspora, because, as they say, they “were born and now live in historical Armenia” and it is their “motherland”, nevertheless, they stress the importance of establishing closer bonds with Armenia.

The main issue raised during the meeting by the Istanbul Armenians was shortage of books and manuals at schools. Tuition at around 20 educational institutions of Istanbul (schools, seminaries, kindergartens) is done in accordance with the state curricula and books (all in Turkish) approved by the Turkish ministry of education, and the Armenian language is taught with outdated books or photocopies of more up-to-date manuals – this gradually leads to lack of interest in learning the language or, worse, to loss of the language itself.

Silva Kuyumcuyan, the principal of the Getronagan High Scool in Istanbul (founded in 1886), says that the issue of books was raised yet two years ago, but to no avail.

“Since Armenia and Turkey do not have diplomatic relations, our demands cannot be viewed as official, since schools belong to the state, the only thing we can expect is optional books that are not verified by the state but can help our children to improve the learning process of the Armenian language, and make the classes more enjoyable,” Kuyumcuyan, who has lead the lyceum for three decades, told ArmeniaNow.

Minister Hakobyan promised that the issue of Western-Armenian language manuals will be solved in the nearest future.

“Every year our teachers come to Armenia for training, and the manuals are being drafted; we have designated 70 places at state educational institutions for Diaspora applicants, who are eligible for state-funded tuition at any department and then return to their countries of residence and pass the knowledge to their communities,” the minister told ArmeniaNow.

Many of the migrants from Armenia attending the liturgy expressed no desire to meet with the minister for “lack of expectations”, as they put it.

“There is only one thing we need – employment, so that we can return home. We are here for solely one reason – to work and earn our living and the minister cannot solve that issue,” Susanna from Gyumri, who has been working in Istanbul for two years, told ArmeniaNow.

The main issue for an estimated 12,000 Armenian migrants working in Turkey is their children’s education, because, the parents’ illegal status in the country does not enable them to attend public schools (Armenian schools, too, are considered to be public or state-funded).

Many had not received any education for years – up until 2003, when an underground school opened in the basement of Gedik-Pasha’s Armenian Evangelical Church (founded in 1850) for some 70 children illegally residing in Turkey; the school uses the same curricula and books as in Armenia.

Last year, when Turkish newspapers reported on this school and the issue of education of migrants’ children, Turkey’s vice premier Bulent Arenc promised Archbishop Aram Ateshyan, Armenian Co-Patriarch of Istanbul, to attend to the problem.

Minister Hakobyan says that she discussed the issue with the Co-Patriarch and was told that the issue is being solved.

“Starting from September our children will be allowed to study at [local] Armenian schools, but they will not publicise it not to alarm their [Turkey’s] emigration services in order to avoid deportation of the illegal migrants. Besides that, we, too, have designed a program to solve this issue – we are not making it public yet, but are working in that direction,” minister Hakobyan told ArmeniaNow.

Gayane Abrahamyan is reporting from Turkey with the support of the Global Political Trends Center (GPoT) and Internews Armenia

Memories of the Genocide Still Vivid After 96 Years

Published in 2010

Emerson – Her hearing and eyesight fading, Alice Khachadoorian-Shnorhokian's body may betray her age, but her mind is still sharp, her memories still vivid.

At 97, Alice is one of the last few remaining survivors of the Armenian genocide. A resident of the Emerson Armenian Home for the Aged, she sits with a blanket draped over her legs and recalls the story of her family's survival in 1915.

The 95th anniversary of the genocide falls this Saturday. It will be marked with a gathering in Times Square April 25 to remember the more than 1.5 million Armenians killed by the Young Turks of the Ottoman Empire. Armenians mark April 24, 1915 – the day hundreds of intellectuals were rounded up, arrested and later killed – as the beginning of the genocide. At the time there were more than 2 million Armenians living in the declining empire. In just six years their numbers had dwindled to fewer than 400,000.

Alice was 3 years old at the time the genocide began. Her family, wealthy evangelist Christians, lived in a "castle-like" home in Aintab, Turkey when they were given deportation orders.

Her mother tried to bribe the governor's wife, but the governor would only allow Alice's father to escape. He would not leave the family.

Along with thousands of others, Alice, her parents, and her siblings were driven over mountains and through deserts on a forced death march from village to village without food, water, or shelter.

"I was too young to walk, but everybody had to walk," Alice says. "My brother was also too young, so my father bought a donkey and put two seats on both sides of the donkey and put us in the box."

She remembers being so hungry that when she spotted a watermelon rind on the ground in one village she picked it up, trying to see if there was anything edible left on the hard shell.

From her basket atop the donkey, Alice witnessed terrible things. "We walked over the dead, young boys and girls. We travelled over people shouting and crying to die," she recalls.

They reached the last village of Meskene, Syria before travelling to the final destination – Der Zor – the Syrian desert where hundreds of thousands of Armenians were executed in killing fields and concentration camps. "The day we were going to the desert, my father put down the tent and then we prayed," she says. "We sang and asked God to help us."

Their prayers were answered. A friend in Meskene bought permits to save them. They were allowed to leave the march, and the man gave Alice's father, an operator of a caravan in Aintab, a job.

Not everyone in the family was so lucky. One of Alice's uncles was shot. After he was killed, his wife was shown his gold watch, and told, "Your husband is dead now. Now you can marry us." She refused. She was thrown into a ditch with other young women, covered with gasoline, and burned to death.

When they returned to Aintab after the 1918 armistice, the family found their vineyards and farms had been taken. Robberies and killings were commonplace. "They would come at night and kill and rob. We were not safe," she says. "There was lawlessness."

The family fled to Aleppo, Syria, which was controlled by the French government after the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire.

Because of her mother's ingenuity, the family was able to rent a house instead of sleeping in barracks, as many Armenians did in Aleppo. In Aintab, she would use the well outside the family home for drying vegetables. Before leaving for Aleppo, she put the family's savings inside a dried pepper, and put the pepper in a bag of food to take on the journey. If the driver was aware of the small fortune his passengers carried, he likely would have killed them for it, says Alice. Instead the money was used to rent a house and pay for each child's education. "Necessity is the mother of invention," she says. "You invent, there's no other way to exist."

Later, after Alice completed high school, the family moved to Beirut, Lebanon. There she got her degree in nursing from the American University and worked as a midwife, often travelling by bicycle to deliver babies in their homes. She married a pastor in 1942 and moved to the United States in 1980 where her three children completed their studies.

Armenians have pressed the U.S. Government for decades to officially recognize and condemn the mass killings of Armenians during World War I as genocide.

In 2008, Alice visited Washington D.C. with Rep. Scott Garrett to speak personally with members of Congress and push for recognition and justice. She wants people to acknowledge the atrocities of the past, she says, so they are never repeated.

"I remember it clearly," Alice says. "Everything is rotten. My hearing, my eyes, my body is failing, but God gave me a brain to remember. This is a special grace."