Dr. Michael Rubin (Harout Barsoumian-Bars Images)

Honoring an Old Pain, While Condemning a New One at Times Square Genocide Commemoration

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By Taleen Babayan

NEW YORK — As Armenians gathered in Times Square for the 39th year to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, their spirits remained in solidarity with their brethren in Armenia, who continue to persevere in the face of challenges and change.

The 109th anniversary commemoration, sponsored by the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, and co-sponsored by a number of American-Armenian organizations, created a communal space for descendants of survivors to remember their ancestors who perished in the Armenian Genocide, and to continue to fight for global awareness and recognition.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who loyally ensures his annual attendance at the Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration, acknowledged that the Armenian Genocide does not receive enough attention, even when the Armenian people “experience the repercussions of the genocide today in Armenia.”

“Your presence shows that year after year you honor the memory of your ancestors whose lives were brutally cut short by the Ottoman Empire a century ago,” he said. “I’m always inspired to see you here as a living, resilient witness to the tragedy and moral outrage of the Armenian Genocide.”

Schumer recounted stories he heard from survivors and their descendants which resonated with him on a personal level, as his ancestors also escaped massacres when Nazis invaded Ukraine during World War II.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader (D-NY) (Photo credit: Harout Barsoumian-Bars Images)

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“These atrocities are more than just a stain on the nation and those who did it, [as] the world looked away in each case with a blind eye,” he said, which prompted him to sponsor Senate resolutions that called on American presidents “to name the Medz Yeghern for what it clearly was — a Genocide.”

“It happened because of you and your hard work, and your moral clarity,” said Schumer reflecting on the overwhelming passage of US affirmation of the Armenian Genocide in Congress in 2019, and subsequent affirmation by President Biden in 2021. “But our work is not yet done, and it’s our duty to speak out against human rights abuses happening today against the Armenian people.”

Schumer said he “unequivocally condemns” the actions of Azerbaijan, including “their war of aggression in 2020, their cruel and cynical blockade of the Lachin Corridor, and assault on territory resulting in tragic deaths of hundreds of Armenians,” followed by the forced exodus of the ethnic Armenian population from Nagorno-Karabakh.

“I know I’m not alone in saying my mind was cast back to darker days that happened before,” said Schumer, stating his promise that as Senate Majority Leader he will do everything he can to support Armenia and displaced Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, including securing funding and calling out human rights abuses, as he “watches these developments like a hawk.”

“We must never turn a blind eye again,” concluded Schumer. “Armenia faces serious challenges, but if history is any guide we know that this small but mighty nation has outlasted authoritarian thugs in the past and will continue to do so because the Armenian nation has not only endured, but prevailed.”

Dr. Michael Rubin, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Director of Policy Analysis at the Middle East Forum, delivered remarks centered on both past and present history, tying in the current events in Armenia.

“I’m not here to simply commemorate an old genocide,” said Dr. Michael Rubin, who holds a PhD from Yale University in history and who has testified before Congress over 20 times. “It’s just as important to recognize that we’re here to prevent a new one.”

He highlighted that the US should follow France’s lead, which became the first NATO country to provide arms to Armenia against the growing threats of its neighboring country, and has “made clear Armenia’s sovereignty is not up for debate.”

“Appeasement does not work,” he continued. “It’s great that President Joe Biden kept his campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide, because ‘never again’ is now.”

“The time is now not only to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, but to recognize that prevention of all future genocides requires a strong and consistent partnership diplomatically, economically, and militarily, with the Republic of Armenia.”

Dr. Asya Darbinyan (Photo credit: Harout Barsoumian-Bars Images)

In her remarks, Dr. Asya Darbinyan, who is a genocide scholar, educator, and executive director of the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education (Chhange) in Lincroft, NJ, focused on the educational aspects of genocide and how it can advance the cause for recognition and mass atrocity prevention.

“With official recognition comes the opportunity to speak about genocide openly and boldly, and to promote educational programs,” said Darbinyan, who earned her doctorate in history from the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University under the mentorship of Prof. Taner Akçam. “Recognition allows the Armenian community and its descendants to move forward with our struggle for justice.”

She elaborated on the need to hold perpetrators accountable and to demand justice when basic human rights violations and dehumanization take place, as well as the importance of sharing photographs, letters, and documents of Armenians prior to the Genocide.

“Show the life of Armenians and their experiences because they were not nameless, faceless victims,” said Darbinyan. “Each of them had a name, a face, a home, and a story to be told that should be honored and not forgotten.”

Grand Matron of the Daughters of Vartan Nancy Berberian Thompson
(Photo credit: Harout Barsoumian-Bars Images)

Grand Matron of the Daughters of Vartan, Nancy Berberian Thompson, reflected on the Armenian martyrs who lost their lives and paid tribute to the survivors who found refuge in the US, without forgetting their history.

“When I was younger, we listened to the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and we keep their memories alive,” she said. “Armenians worked hard to be leaders here in the US and help aid Armenia.”

Berberian Thompson stressed that Armenia still needs, particularly in the aftermath of the Artsakh war and the displacement of 120,000 Artsakh Armenians. She noted that the Knights and Daughters have raised over $150,000 to assist them and will continue in their efforts.

Grand Commander of the Knights of Vartan Hunan Arshakyan (Photo credit: Harout Barsoumian-Bars Images)

Grand Commander of the Knights of Vartan, Hunan Arshakyan, emphasized the continuous Azerbaijani aggression against the Armenian people, which serves as a reminder that “the threat towards the Armenian people remains real and present.”

He expressed that the Knights of Vartan is involved in cultural preservation and humanitarian efforts, serving as a bridge between the diaspora and Armenia.

“To the world, we declare our unwavering attempt to keep fighting for recognition and justice,” said Arshakyan, who emphasized the importance of the younger generations to “uphold our traditions and push forward our legacy.”

“Your energy and commitment are key to securing a future where Armenians can live in dignity and peace,” said Arshakyan. “We will never forget and we will never stop fighting for our right to live as Christian Armenians.”

Singer Harout Bedrossian and his band (Photo credit: Harout Barsoumian-Bars Images)

Canada-based singer Harout Bedrossian and his band, featuring Steve Vosbikian, Jiro Tavitian and Mher Vartanian, performed Armenian patriotic songs, including Giligia, Hayer Miatzek, Karabakh, Artyok Ovker En, for the audience.

Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, delivered the invocation, and Very Rev. Simeon Odabashian, who represented Bishop Mesrop Parsamyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, delivered the benediction. Very Rev. Andon Noradounguian, pastor of the Sacred Heart Armenian Catholic Church, who represented Bishop Mikael Mouradian, Primate of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of USA and Canada, led a prayer. Other clergy in attendance included Very Rev. Sahag Yemishyan, Vicar General of the Eastern Prelacy and Pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Dance Grigorian Ballet School from Lyon, France, under the directorship of Anna Oundjian Grigorian, performed. The Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School students sang the Armenian and American anthems, and God Bless America was performed by Nina and Mila DaRocha.

The Knights and Daughters of Vartan have sponsored the Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration since 1985, along with the support of a multitude of Armenian American community organizations. This year the event was co-chaired by Haig Gulian, Ari Minnetyan, and Christopher Artun, under the guidance of Chairman Emeritus Hirant Gulian.

David Ojakian (Armenian Assembly of America), Chantelle Nasri (Armenian National Committee of America) and Nanor Hartounian (UCLA’s The Promise Armenian Institute), served as MCs, while Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America served as media spokesperson.

The winners of this year’s Knights and Daughters of Vartan Annual Essay Contest were announced: Sirahn Toufayan, 1st place; Madeline Berberian-Hutchinson, 2nd place; Mia Seferian Vickery, 3rd place; and runner-up Angela Mashuryan.

Co-sponsoring organizations included the Armenian Assembly of America, represented by Bryan Ardouny, Executive Director; Armenian General Benevolent Union, represented by Natalie Gabrelian, Director of Districts, Chapters, and Central Board Administration; Armenian National Committee of America; ADL-Ramgavar Party, represented by Norair Megeurditchian, Chairman of the Eastern District USA; Tekeyan Cultural Association, represented by Hilda Hartounian, Member of the Tekeyan Cultural Association Board of Directors of US and Canada and Chair of the Tekeyan Cultural Association Greater New York Chapter; Armenian Bar Association, represented by Gevorg Karapetyan; as well as the Armenian Missionary Association of America; and the Armenian Council of America.

Participating organizations included the Armenian Network of America, Armenian Youth Federation, Homenetmen Scouts of NY and NJ, Armenian Relief Society, Armenian Church Youth Organization of America, AGBU Young Professionals, Armenian Students Association, Hamazkayin Cultural Association of NY and NJ, and tri-state Armenian college and university clubs.

 

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