By Alin K. Gregorian
BELMONT, Mass. — Khatchig Mouradian, a doctoral student at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University, presented a talk on October 6 at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) on the links between human rights activist and lawyer Raphael Lemkin and the discourse both within and outside the Armenian community on the Armenian Genocide.
Mouradian, the editor of the Armenian Weekly, drew from various sources, including the archives of Armenian newspapers as well as Lemkin’s correspondence with the editors of those newspapers on how the Armenian experience helped the Polish-born, Jewish Yale professor to craft the word genocide to define the events that befell the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and the new Turkish Republic. In addition, he delved into the Armenians’ perception of the word genocide and how and when they started using it. In addition, he also spoke about the collaboration between Armenian-Americans and Lemkin in his tireless efforts to have the US ratify the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, more commonly known as the Genocide Convention.
Mouradian said Lemkin and his efforts, which cost him so much during his life, inspired him to turn from journalism to academia.
“Lemkin knew about the Genocide, was influenced by the Genocide and dedicated his life” to “make Genocide a crime punishable by law,” Mouradian said. The issue was especially resonant with Lemkin because he had lost so many family members during the Holocaust.
On December 11, 1946, thanks to his efforts, the United Nations General Assembly passed the Genocide Convention. After that, Lemkin was more and more in touch with the Armenian press, trying to galvanize them into action to push the US to ratify the Genocide Convention. He corresponded regularly with the editors of the Armenian papers and started interviewing survivors, including a woman in Watertown who was the only person to be spared in her family. In addition, he also wanted Turkey to ratify the Genocide Convention. Ironically, he succeeded with Turkey, but not with the US. It was not until 1988 that the US ratified it.