Pres. Sargisian at Deir ez Zor Compares Site to Auschwitz, Seeks ‘Armenian Nuremberg’


DEIR EZ ZOR, Syria — President Serge Sargisian of Armenia paid an emotional visit last week to Deir ez Zor — both the town and the desert — during his visit to Syria. He delivered a poignant speech there, which is reproduced below.

I am here today since I could not but be here. It is the greatest grief of my nation that has brought me here, the grief of the first genocide of the 20th century and the greatest disgrace of the civilized humanity. Up to this moment, in the 21st century, the stigma of that disgrace still remains on the foreheads of all those who have turned the denial of the evident facts into their policy, turned it into their bargaining chip and into their lifestyle and norm of behavior.

In the desert of Deir ez Zor, the most monstrous acts of the tragedy had taken place, and it is neither possible to articulate the particulars of that tragedy in the language of human beings, nor am I going do that since these particulars are well-known even to those who publicly deny the veracity of the Genocide. Bereft of home and property, bereft of children and parents, bereft of health and the last hope, and finally bereft of the most important — their homeland, these people were doomed to lose the last thing they had — their life in accordance with the state orchestrated and meticulously developed plan of extermination.

Quite often historians and journalists soundly compare Deir ez Zor with Auschwitz, saying that “Deir ez Zor is the Auschwitz of the Armenians.” I think that the chronology forces us to formulate the facts in a reverse way: “Auschwitz is the Deir ez Zor of the Jews.” Only a generation later, humanity witnessed the Deir ez Zor of the Jews. Today, as the president of the Republic of Armenia, the homeland of all Armenians, I am here to ask: “Where and when will be held our Nuremberg?”

I’m here to commemorate and to pray for the vast majority of my slaughtered nation that had suffered both physical and cultural extermination. I will elaborate neither on the quality, nor on the quantity of the loss. Let me recall a single fact: as a result of the Genocide the greatest share of the dialects of one of the most ancient Indo-European languages — the Armenian — had been irreversibly eradicated along with its speakers.
In spite of all that happened, we say that we are ready to establish normal diplomatic relations with modern Turkey, we are ready to have open borders and economic relations, we are ready to make efforts towards building confidence between the peoples of Armenia and Turkey, we are ready to bring closer the two societies by breaking stereotypes and myths that have nothing to do with the reality and developed in decades of dearth of any sensible contacts.

We do this sincerely since we believe that there is no alternative to the living and development between the neighbors through implementation of what is proposed and still at the table, at least to start it up. The signing of the Armenian-Turkish protocols presented us with an historic opportunity that should have a logical destine.

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We, however, do not accept the references to the Armenian-Turkish dialogue in attempts to avoid the recognition of the Genocide. I do not think it helps the process. Moreover, it is irrelevant to cite some commission of historians, since the Armenian-Turkish protocols provide for merely a governmental sub-commission on historic dimension. I assume everyone understands what it means and what the difference is. I ask all those who will have an occasion to elaborate or express themselves on the topic of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide: remember of this desert, millions of ruined human fortunes and this ancient people deprived of their motherland and with pain in their hearts, before you make up your minds.

In 1915, the greatest Armenian poets of the 20th century — 35-year-old Daniel Varujan and 37-year-old Atom Yarjanian (Siamanto) had also been slaughtered. Before being tortured to death, they were undressed, because they wore European clothes. In those times and places European clothes were quite expensive. The executioners dressed in the European clothes — stolen from the Armenian geniuses encompassing a millennia-old civilization, stolen from ordinary Armenians.

I would not interpret symbols signified in these images but I am unequivocally convinced: while preaching European apparel, manners or values no one has a right to cast these images in oblivion.

I am here to remind of the well-known words: “It is impossible to kill a nation that does not want to die.” We mean to live and to grow. It is no more possible to intimidate or blackmail us since we have seen the most horrible. We shall continue to live and create with double vigor for us and for our innocent victims. We look forward since we have a lot to say and to share with each other, a lot to say and to share with the world: the brightness and glow that Daniel Varujan and Atom Yarjanian had no chance to share.

And here, in Deir ez Zor, we firmly and loudly say over and over again that we are, shall exist and will flourish.

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