Mass. State House Holds Commemoration of Genocide

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By Aaron Dentel-Post
Special to the Mirror-Spectator

Members of the clergy assembled at the State House. Photo by Jirair Hovsepian.

BOSTON — A commemoration of the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was held on Friday, April 20, in the House Chamber in the State House. Speakers ranging from politicians to humanitarian activists remembered and paid tribute to the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
“We will never forget the million and a half Armenians killed, and we must never allow the world to forget,” said Robert DeLeo, speaker of the House of Representatives.

The large Armenian population in Massa-chusetts and especially Watertown, Mass., give the remembrance special significance in the Commonwealth. The ceremony also included resolutions to recognize the achievements of former state Senator Steven A. Tolman and the Armenian-American playwright Joyce Van Dyke, whose work, “Deported/a dream play,” is a tribute to her grandmother’s life during and after the Genocide.

Khatchig Mouradian, editor of the Armenian Weekly and program director of the Armenian Genocide Program at the Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights at Rutgers University, gave the keynote address.

Mouradian, who has lectured extensively on the Armenian Genocide, said that it was still affecting people today.

“Much of what transpired decades ago, is still very much with us now,” he said. “Not only in survivors and the descendents of survivors, but also in societies of the descendents of the perpetrators and the governments.”

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He said that two years ago, on the April 24 Genocide Remembrance Day, he had delivered a talk in Istanbul, Turkey, commemorating the Armenian Genocide.

“I made a point that day to leave one seat at the front vacant,” Mouradian said. The vacant chair was to remind the audience of the assassinated Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. He said that chair was a reminder of the responsibility of standing up as heirs to victims and survivors.

Mouradian said it was always easier to put off standing up for a cause and wait for more favorable circumstances, but that this generation owes it to survivors to remember their struggle. He said the pain of being a survivor was in part reliving their experiences over the intervening years.

Several years ago, he was at a ceremony to again commemorate April 24, said Mouradian. A survivor, who had been asked to recall her experiences during the Genocide again and again over the years, told her story.

“What distinguished her, in my experience, was that while she was telling the story, she would pause, she would start laughing,” said Mouradian. “Then she would apologize and continue the story.”

This happened over and over again while the survivor was recounting her experiences.

“At the end, she said ‘I’m really sorry for laughing, but I’ve run out of tears,’” he recalled.
Many students held up pictures of Genocide survivors from their families, as part of a program suggested by Anahis Kechejian of Arlington, titled “Stand Up for Your Survivor.”
Children from the two area Armenian schools, the Armenian Sisters’ Academy and St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School, sang.

Violinist Haig Hovsepian of Belmont, accompanied by his mother, Ani Hovsepian, performed Armenian Sketches by Yervant Sardarian, its US premiere.
A light luncheon was served in the State House after the program.

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