BY RUPEN JANBAZIAN
From the Armenian Weekly
YEREVAN—As the world prepares to commemorate the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, Yerevan seems to be the place for Armenians and non-Armenians to come together to honor the victims of the century-old crime.
Several commemorative events will take place in Armenia over the next few days, including the canonization of the victims of the genocide at Holy Etchmiadzin on April 23, a free open-air concert by Armenian-American rock band System of a Down on the eve of the anniversary, the annual march to the Armenian Genocide Memorial monument at Dzidzernagapert on April 24, and in the evening, a torch-lit procession to the monument will take place.
The Armenian Weekly caught up with visitors from various parts of the world who are in Armenia to commemorate the Centennial.
Jaques Markarian, 24 (Beirut, Lebanon)
“It’s the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide, so I decided it’s best to be in Armenia for the commemoration. In addition, System of a Down is having their concert here for the occasion, so I thought what better time than now? I love it here and I think all Armenians from around the world should come and experience this place for themselves. I’ve only been here four days now, and although it’s been tiring, I can’t wait to soak it all in and see everything I can. It’s my first time here—three weeks is definitely not going to be enough.”
Xavier Zimsch, 39 (Paris, France)
“It’s my first time here. I decided to visit with my family for the Centennial of the genocide. I’m French, but my wife is Armenian, so we thought it would be fitting to bring our children here and experience this all together. I think it’s important to be here on the 100th anniversary of the genocide, since it hasn’t been recognized by many countries around the world. This is something that happened. It’s fact. It says a lot that people from all across [the world] come here to commemorate the past.
“We’ve never been to Armenia before, so we figured the best time to come is April 2015, a hundred years after the crime. It’s an interesting time with what’s happening in Germany and who knows, maybe the United States will recognize this year. I’m glad I’m here to take it all in.”
Thalar Arig, 33 (Paris, France)
“It’s very important for us to be here this year. My family and I are descendants of the Armenian Genocide; our ancestors are from Ottoman Turkey—historic Armenia. Our roots are from there and my grandparents lived through the genocide. It’s important for us to be here, not only to commemorate, but to celebrate that we are still here. I truly believe that this is a once in a lifetime experience.
“I feel that since I am Armenian, I must be here. I was here last year for April 24, and participated in the torch-lit march to Dzidzernagapert. It was amazing. I’d love to live it all over again, and I can’t imagine what it will be like this year. I try keeping up with the newspapers in Turkey and it seems like a lot is changing there, at least with the people. The world is ready to accept the truth. What will happen in Turkey, though, is the big question.”
Saeed Torkaman, 24 (Hamedan, Iran)
“I’m here for System of a Down. I’m a big fan and decided to come to Yerevan to catch the show. I don’t know much about the Armenian Genocide, but I know that the band is dedicating their concert and their tour to the victims. This is my first time here and I think I will learn more about the genocide while I’m here. It seems like a lot of people are here for the 100th anniversary. I like it here so far, and I think I’ll be back soon.”
David Benveniste, 44 (Los Angeles, U.S.)
“I’m here for the Centennial commemoration for the Armenian Genocide. I’m also the manager of the band [System of a Down]. It’s my first visit and I’ll be staying here for three days. I think it’s important for people from outside of Armenia to convene here on this momentous occasion. I think it’s a great show of support and says a lot to the rest of the world. People must recognize and accept that this was, in fact, genocide and not just a random act of violence. All genocides, holocausts, mass killings need to be recognized properly. The Armenian Genocide happened a hundred years ago and it’s time for people around the world to know that it happened. Things are beginning to percolate in the political world, with Germany’s announcement yesterday. Hopefully other countries will follow suit. I really hope this sends a message to the U.S.”
Karnig Hasserjian, 28 (Toronto, Canada)
“I think the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide triggers a wide array of emotions for all Armenians because it is an open wound. Some of us will take this opportunity to protest and make waves in the diaspora; we have been destined to. Others may desire to be in Turkey’s capital to stand as proof to those who continue to deny that we are here. For me, it was important to try to be in Armenia to commemorate it within the homeland that was never meant to be. Armenia’s existence 100 years after the fact is what softens the pain for me. Being able to visit here with eight of my friends on the Centennial is the ultimate commemoration.”
Maurice Janbatian, 62 (Beirut, Lebanon)
“This trip to Armenia was a pilgrimage for me and six other friends. A hundred years later, it is important for us to participate in the commemorative events in our own homeland.
“For me, the canonization of the one and a half million victims is the most important event in the coming days. A century ago, our grandparents and great grandparents were victims of genocide and it is because of them that we are here today. While they have all been saints for us all along, their canonization proves to the world how we value our forefathers.”
Nairi Ohanian, 25 (Almelo, Netherlands)
“This is our homeland and we need to be here; it’s as simple as that.
“I’m looking forward to the torch-lit march because it proves to the world that the Armenian youth has demands from Turkey. All Armenians, regardless of where they live or where they may be on the 100th anniversary, must remain diligent and always demand what is just and what is fair.”
Avak Garabedian, 33 (Kuwait City, Kuwait)
“My friends and I commemorate the Armenian Genocide in Kuwait every year; we have events with the local Homenetmen scouts and AYF members. This is the first time I’ve been in Armenia for April 24. My friends and I figured the Centennial provides the perfect opportunity to experience something unique. In Kuwait, we are very limited with the way we can commemorate the genocide; our events are strictly for the Armenian people. My wish is for Armenians around the world who have the means to shed light on the genocide to the wider public in their respective communities.”
Nerses Kyoumgian, 31 (Montreal, Canada)
“I haven’t been to Armenia in 10 years. I missed the country, and although I would never expect to be here in April, I figured this was the best time to be here. I told a few friends from abroad that they should join me, and little by little the number grew. We’re 45 in all now, from all over. It’s a great feeling, since this is more of a celebration than a commemoration.”