91st Anniversary of the Heroic Defense of Marash

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BELMONT, Mass. — Rev. Karekin Bedourian was the guest speaker at the commemoration of the 91st anniversary of the defense of Marash, at a program held at the hall of the Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church.

Speaking in Armenian, Bedourian said, “Marash was a prosperous and beautiful Armenian city, our city, our land and birthplace of your ancestors. The love of the homeland, the dream of the mother city is in all of us.”

Marash (or Kermanig), he noted, is located in the eastern part of Cilicia; a historic Armenian city which was home to thousands of Armenians before 1922. The city, now known as Kahraman Marash, lies on a plain at the foot of the Taurus Mountains and as of the year 2,000, has a population of 326,000.

“All of the Armenian churches and Armenian institutions of Marash are now destroyed. (By the way, I have been in Western Armenia and Cilicia twice, and once in Marash. In the year 2008, I went to Marash as an Armenian pilgrim, searching for any evidence of our people . . . I found none; ‘they’ have attempted to destroy any visible evidence of our existence in Marash. Not so in other Armenian cities like Aintab, Ourfa, Moush, Mousa Ler, Van, Kharpert, Kars and Sassoun . . . but in Marash, no evidence of Armenians ever having lived there.

“In Marash, before 1920, there were Armenian churches, Armenian Cathedrals, streets of Armenian people and Armenian schools. Of the 38,000 Armenians living there, only 5,000 were able to escape the afflictions, persecutions and death of the Genocide,” he said.

“The evidence is not only the stones — the structures — but you are the living testimony, dear Marashtsis, that 91 years later after the war and Genocide, you are gathered here in this blessed country to remember and commemorate freely, without any pressure to respect and prove your commitment toward your mother city, the city of the birthplace of your ancestors. Even today, ‘they are committing white genocide by keeping us away from our homeland in Western Armenia.”

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He continued, “We must call for justice and demand our holy lands. We cannot forget the tragedies of our people, because we owe our existence to their spirit and their martyrdom. They died in order for us to live.”

Bedourian is the grandson of survivors of the Armenian Genocide. He is the priest at St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in North Andover, Mass.

The event, sponsored by the Union of Marash Armenians, Watertown Chapter and the Youth Committee, was held on Sunday, January 30, at the Armenian Catholic Holy Cross Church. The Very Rev. Rafael Andonian held a requiem mass in memory of the martyrs, remembering the defenders of Marash in a moving talk after which the congregation gathered downstairs in the church hall for a program and luncheon.

The ceremonies began with the singing of the Marash anthem, followed by a prayer delivered by Andonian. Among the guests were members of the Koutoujian family, including the new Middlesex County sheriff.

A luncheon featuring traditional Marash food, prepared by the committee and volunteers, was served by the members of the youth committee.

After lunch, Mistress of Ceremonies Anahis Keledjian Uruk invited President Nevart Kouyoumjian to deliver her welcoming remarks. During her speech, Kouyoumjian stressed the importance of helping the Armenian schools. She said that each year our organization donates to both St. Stephen’s Armenian School in Watertown and the Armenian Sisters’ Academy in Lexington and that this year would be no different.

As part of the program that followed, Sonia Tashjian sang several Armenian songs. Then, students from the Armenian Sisters’ Academy danced, sang and recited poetry. Marinah Kavlakian accompanied the students on the piano.

Yelena Hagopian played several songs on the piano while Ardemis Minassian sang in a beautiful, rich voice.

The students of St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School then recited several poems.

Concluding the program was the viewing of a DVD commissioned by the UMA Committee and prepared by Roger Hagopian of Yeznig Productions, titled “Famous Marashtsis,” narrated by Berj Chekijian and Anahis Keledjian Uruk.

The audience showed their appreciation by donating wholeheartedly to the Union of Marash Armenians. All profits will be donated to the two Armenian schools.

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