Pro-government lawmaker Andranik Kocharyan

Pashinyan Ally Advocates ‘Verification’ of Armenian Genocide Victims

711
0

By Ruzanna Stepanian and Harry Tamrazian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am) — In remarks denounced by critics as advancement of a Turkish narrative a close ally of Prime Minister Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has pronounced in favor of essentially “verifying” the number of victims of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey that is widely believed to be 1.5 million.

Andranik Kocharyan, a senior member of Pashinyan’s ruling Civil Contract party and lawmaker who heads the parliament’s defense committee, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service in a TV program aired on Sunday, April 14, that Pashinyan’s goal is to build “real foundations” related to the Genocide and “make the entire list of compatriots subjected to genocide more objective.”

He stressed that it is necessary to have the names of all Armenians subjected to genocide and verify “where, how and under what conditions” they were killed.

Kocharyan reiterated the idea during a press briefing in parliament on Monday, April 15.

“This is a simple goal for us to know the addresses and locations of each of our 1.5 million compatriots. It is very important for the building of our relations in the future as well,” Kocharyan said.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

“[The] April 24 [Genocide Commemoration Day] is approaching. Was it 1.5 million, 2 million or less? It should be strictly addressed. But if we don’t record it, the other side can always say that no such thing happened. And until today they have been saying so,” he added.

Genocide expert Suren Manukyan, who formerly served as deputy director of the Genocide Museum in Yerevan, described this latest government initiative as “very dangerous,” reminding that the idea of making lists has been advocated by Turkey since the 1960s.

About three dozen countries, including the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada and others, have recognized the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey. Switzerland has also criminalized the denial of the Armenian genocide.

US President Joe Biden has characterized the Ottoman-era killings of Armenians as genocide in his statements issued annually on Armenian Remembrance Day on April 24 since he assumed office in 2021.

Manukyan said that one of the earliest narratives advanced by Ankara in denying the Armenian Genocide was that the number of 1.5 million Armenian victims was a lie. “They have said that nothing like that happened, and if Armenians are lying about the number, then they are lying about the whole thing. And they demanded to be given a list,” he said.

Manukyan and other genocide specialists acknowledge that retrieving full records of victims would be an impossible task considering that the Ottoman Empire often kept no records related to its ethnic minorities.

“Consequently, our only source that we can cite are the memories of survivors, most of whom were children who often did not remember even their own family names let alone the names of other victims,” Manukyan said.

At the same time, the genocide expert said that Yerevan has always countered the Turkish demand for compiling a list of victims by saying that it is not important how many people were killed, “because genocide is not about the numbers, but it is about being an act intended to destroy a group of people and it doesn’t matter how many people were in that group.”

The expert cited the example of the Bosnian genocide, during which some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed in the Srebrenica events in 1995, which were recognized as genocide by an international court.

“Numbers are not important at all in terms of whether what happened was genocide or not,” Manukyan said.

The expert said that no one but Turkey has questioned the fact that 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the 1915 genocide. He said that with this latest initiative the Armenian government also does this.

Meanwhile, Eduard Sharmazanov, a Pashinyan critic representing the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia, has accused the Pashinyan government of “following orders” from Turkey “to consign the Armenian genocide to history” ahead of the commemoration day.

“How will Pashinyan justify it before the Armenian people that he does not turn April 24 into a major foreign-policy factor? He will say that it is a threat posed by historical Armenia,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

The Armenian Apostolic Church canonized 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide, collectively declaring them to be saints, when the centennial of the Armenian genocide was marked in 2015.

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: