YEREVAN (Reuters)–Thousands of Armenian mourners gathered at the Tsitsernakaberd hilltop on Tuesday–April 24 to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. A river of people young and old walked slowly up a tree-lined path to Yerevan’s genocide memorial–a towering granite needle flanked by an eternal flame.
The snow-capped Mount Ararat bore silent witness to the ceremony from across the border in eastern Turkey–the region where Armenian forefathers were systematically exterminated between 1915 and 1923.
Elderly men in threadbare suits clutching tulips and daffodils climbed alongside Armenia’s with video cameras from the country’s huge Diaspora.
The director of the Genocide Institute-Museum–affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences–Lavrentiy Barseghian said about 200,000 people visited the Genocide museum the same day–located nearby at the Memorial Complex. The number of attenders was higher than it had been in the preceding ten years.
A 20-member delegation of Assyrians–led by a US Senator John Nimrod–Turkish reporter Ali Erratum who leads a Frankfurt-based Union Against Genocide–four members of the Union–a group of Austrian journalists led by Artem Ohanjanian–Chairman of Franz Werfel committee were present in Armenia on April 24 to commemorate the Genocide alongside the Armenian people.
President Robert Kocharian–members of the Armenian government–representatives of political parties–diplomatic corps and top clerics from the Armenian Apostolic Church also laid wreathes at the memorial.
"I think it’s important for every Armenian to commemorate the genocide and remember the victims," said Sevan Yousefian–a 23-year-old student from Massachusetts. "It’s very moving for me to be here–shoulder to shoulder with Armenia’s from all over the world."
Hrachik Manukyan–a 68-year-old doctor–said his family came from the shores of Lake Van in Turkey–and that many of them were killed by the Ottoman armies. "That is where we lived–we had houses and land there–we buried our gold in the soil," he said. "What the Armenia’s have lost must be returned to them–and the people who did such terrible things must be punished."
Armenian students marched in a torch-light procession to the Genocide memorial. Around 1,000 young members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Nikol Aghbalian Student Union marched in a torch-light procession from central Yerevan to the Tsitsernakaberd Monument in the northern part of Yerevan on Monday–April 23rd.
Before the procession there was a meeting where participants condemned the government of Turkey for extermination of 1.5 million of innocent Armenia’s in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the efforts of the modern Turkish government to deny it. The participating youth also took with them the national flags of 14 countries that have officially recognized the Armenian genocide.
President Kocharian Addresses Nation On April 24
Armenian President Robert Kocharian addressed a message to the nation in connection with the 86th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The message reads as follows:
Today we commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The Genocide was the biggest tragedy in the history of the nation that had lived for thousands of years in its historical cradle contributing to the development of the civilization. It has left a heavy trace in the future of all sections of Armenia’s.
The consequences of Genocide are still felt today–as the humanity has stepped into a new millennium with new hopes and expectations for deepening international cooperation.
Seeking international recognition of the Genocide remains on the agenda of Armenia’s foreign policy as a reflection of just and legal expectations of all Armenia’s throughout the world.
But the tragedy that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century is first and most a crime against the humanity and requires a unified and complete assessment by the international community.
The world has already tested in the 20th century the bitter fruits of rendering to the oblivion this crime. The international recognition of the Armenian Genocide is not only linked to the desire of the Armenia’s to restore the historical truth–but it is also a necessary prerequisite for the regional stability and development–as well as for having normalized relations with Armenia’s neighbors.
Today–April 24–bowing down before the memory of the innocent victims–the Armenia’s in all parts of the world witness their united will for building a free and prosperous homeland–a country that will have its own place and its own share of responsibility within the international community–a country that is no longer a hostage to its past and is looking ahead to the future."
Foreign Ambassadors To Armenia Pay Homage To Victims Of Armenian Genocide
The role of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide is great in the matter of restoring historical justice. Many countries and international structures have recognized and condemned the crime committed by the Ottoman government–but not all have yet pronounced on the issue. Foreign ambassadors to Armenia participated in the wreath-laying ceremony at Tsisternakaberd on April 24.
Greek Ambassador to Armenia Panaiotis Zografos expressed a wish that the Armenian people and the humanity always remember the day of the Armenian Genocide. He pointed out that April 24 is one of the crucial dates in Armenia’s history.
US Ambassador to Armenia Michael Lemmon called for building up a new–democratic and prosperous Armenia. He wished that Armenia’should be involved in all the regional and international processes. Armenia itself must become a living monument to the victims–the US ambassador said.
Bulgarian Charge d’Affaires to Armenia Ivan Ivanchev wished that the Armenian people should never experience such horror any more and that in the future it should only celebrate holidays.
Ukrainian Ambassador Alexander Bozhko wished the Armenian people firmness–vigilance and optimism.