By Vic Gerami
LOS ANGELES — On October 13, the Center for Truth and Justice (CFTJ) will hold its third annual gala, titled “Raise Their Voices: Break the Blockade” in Los Angeles, with guest of honor Garo Paylan.
CFTJ was established in November 2020 in response to the invasion of Artsakh (formerly Nagorno-Karabakh). They are a group of lawyers overseeing the collection of firsthand testimonial evidence from war survivors via in-depth, recorded interviews. The attorneys run two law clinics, one in Armenia and one in Artsakh, which are the first of their kind. Through their clinics, they train Armenian law students and young lawyers to interview survivors of the war and record their testimonies. They have conducted hundreds of interviews and trained nearly one-hundred current or future lawyers. By being a permanent home for the testimonials, CFTJ is a resource for academic and legal practitioners who seek to use the evidence for education and/or legal action.
The recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 was possible due to the overwhelming evidence collected by experts, including testimonies, photographs, interviews, and other sources. Given Azerbaijan’s track record of practicing revisionist history, disinformation, and propaganda, the evidence that the CFTJ collects is invaluable.
The mission of the CFTJ is to be a living memorial to crimes against humanity. By being a permanent home for testimonials, the Center makes eyewitness accounts available for study, education, and legal action to foster education, empathy, justice, and change. They preserve evidence and make it accessible for current or future proceedings in Armenia or abroad.
Garo Paylan, an Armenian born in Turkey, was among the few Armenians elected to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and served for two consecutive terms in 2015-2018 and 2018-2023, representing Istanbul and Diyarbakir. Though a politician, Paylan is also a leading democracy activist in Turkey. He is a founding member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and, since 2016, was the first Armenian in the history of the Republic of Turkey to publicly discuss the Armenian genocide of 1915 from the podium of the Turkish parliament. Paylan is recognized for his activism on human rights and minority rights in Turkey. He has received several awards, including the Grand Vermeil Medal, and has twice been nominated for the Nobel peace prize.