From left, President Vahagn Khachaturyan, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan lay flowers at the Armenian Genocide monument on April 24.

Armenians Told To ‘Overcome Trauma’ Of 1915 Genocide

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YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan urged Armenians to “overcome the trauma” of their ethnic kin massacred by the Ottoman Turks and stop yearning for their “lost homeland” as they marked the 109th anniversary of the genocide on Wednesday, April 24.

In a statement issued on the occasion, Pashinyan claimed that the enduring trauma prevents many of them from objectively assessing international affairs and challenges facing Armenia.

“Maybe this is also a reason why we get new shocks, reliving the trauma of the Armenian Genocide as a legacy and as a tradition,” he said, risking more opposition allegations that he is helping Turkey deny the 1915 genocide as part of Yerevan’s ongoing rapprochement with Ankara.

People gathered at the Armenian Genocide monument in Yerevan.

The unusually worded statement came as tens of thousands of people marched to the Tsitsernakaberd memorial in Yerevan to commemorate the genocide victims.

The daylong procession followed an official wreath-laying ceremony at the hilltop memorial led by Pashinyan, parliament speaker Alen Simonyan and President Vahagn Khachaturyan. Catholicos Karekin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church increasingly at odds with Pashinyan’s government, was again excluded from the annual ceremony.

The genocide began with mass arrests on April 24, 1915 of Armenian intellectuals and activists in Constantinople. An estimated 1.5 million Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire were massacred or starved to death in the following months and years. About three dozen nations, including Russia, France, Germany and the United States, have recognized the genocide.

Members of the opposition marched in Yerevan on April 23.

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US President Joe Biden has repeatedly used the word “genocide” to describe the mass killings and deportations. By contrast, his predecessors anxious not to anger Turkey used only the Armenian phrase Meds Yeghern (Great Crime) in reference to the events of 1915.

Pashinyan seemed to put the emphasis on Meds Yeghern in his latest April 24 statement. The 440-word statement mentions the term for 11 times, compared with four references to the “genocide.”

Pashinyan also did not condemn the regime of the so-called Young Turks that ruled the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. He said instead that Ottoman Armenians “became victims of geopolitical intrigues and false promises.”

“For us, commemoration of the martyrs of the Meds Yeghern should symbolize not the lost homeland but the found and real homeland, the Republic of Armenia, whose competitive, legitimate, thoughtful and creative policies can preclude a repeat [of the genocide,]” Pashinyan went on.

“Never again. We should say this not to others but to ourselves. And this is not an accusation against us at all but a point of view where we, only we, are responsible for and in charge of our destiny.”

Earlier this month, a senior Armenian pro-government lawmaker allied to Pashinyan, Andranik Kocharyan, called for “verifying” the number of the genocide victims and ascertaining the circumstances of their deaths. Kocharyan said Pashinyan wants to “make the entire list of compatriots subjected to genocide more objective.”

The remarks sparked an uproar from Armenian government critics, civil society figures and genocide scholars. They accused Kocharyan of echoing the official Turkish narrative that Armenians had died in much smaller numbers and not as a result of a premediated Ottoman government policy.

Kocharyan stated the following day that he expressed his personal opinion, rather than the Pashinyan government’s position. He denied casting doubt on the Armenian genocide. Opposition leaders dismissed the explanation, continuing to accuse Pashinyan of planning another far-reaching concession to Ankara.

Pashinyan’s wife, Anna Hakobyan, was jeered by several dozen people when she visited the Tsitsernakaberd memorial later on Wednesday. The hecklers, who apparently included opposition supporters, chanted “Genocidal Nikol!” and “Nikol the Turk!” as Hakobyan and one of her daughters surrounded by bodyguards laid flowers by the memorial’s eternal fire.

 

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