BY ALEX SARDAR
Last year–in April–some friends and I organized a viewing of the BBC documentary on the Armenian Genocide here in Yerevan–and during the discussion after the film–an Armenian friend stood up and complained that when Diasporans speak about denial and the importance of remembering the Armenian Genocide–they never consider the fact that denial is a non-issue in Armenia. At the time I was offended by my friend’s disposition–but then I thought about it and figured that she was probably right–because who–after all denies the Armenian Genocide in Armenia.
This week–I had a reminder.
As reported by Harout Sassounian of the California Courier last week–the British Ambassador to Armenia–in an interview in January–had called into question the veracity of the Genocide as an actual genocide–claiming that the Armenian Genocide does not fit the UN’s definition of the term. Below–I am providing my response to the British Ambassador–sent this week–without the attachmen’s–of course.
The one thing I forgot was to thank her for answering my friend’s question.
Thanks for your indulgence.
HM Ambassador Thorda Abbott-Watt
34 Baghramyan Street
Dear Madam Ambassador:
As an American working in the aid community in the Republic of Armenia over the last 23 months–I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with you on several occasions–and I’ve been delighted with many of the projects sponsored by the British Embassy and the British Council under your auspices.
It was therefore an unpleasant surprise to read words attributed to you regarding the Armenian Genocide and the applicability of international conventions to this–the first genocide of the 20th Century. I am certain that you have already received numerous letters in this regard. I also understand that as the highest ranking representative of Great Britain in Armenia–your words reflect the political stance of your government on the issue of the Armenian Genocide–and hopefully not yours personally.
In the interest of promoting human rights and civil discussion–however–I would like to respectfully disagree with your statement–and while aside from my limited exposure to other scholars’ works–I am not professionally qualified to argue historical facts of World War I and/or the Armenian Genocide–I would like to ask you to consider the attached list of literature on the Armenian Genocide and the history of the era–as well as the international response–including that of Great Britain’s–to this crime against humanity.
In addition to a news clipping on recent events related to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Europe–I’m attaching a copy of a recent article by international law scholar and former UN human rights expert Dr. Alfred De Zayas entitled "The Genocide against the Armenia’s 1915-1923 and the application of the 1948 Genocide Convention." I trust you will find this report enlightening and perhaps will share it with your colleagues at the Foreign Office for their consideration.
Madam Ambassador–I am well aware of the political sensitivities surrounding the issue of the Armenian Genocide and its recognition–and I understand that in the strategic paradigm–Armenia and its history may not be a priority for your government. At the same time–however–I would hope and would like to respectfully ask that in keeping with the great diplomatic history of your nation–your next statement on the Armenian Genocide–albeit a statement of denial of historical facts–be done with at least the same amount of consideration and regard as your government has for its relations with Turkey–when dealing with the latter’s past crimes and present human rights violations.
The Armenian Genocide may be a distant and historical–abstract concept for governmen’s–but it is a living and breathing reality for Armenia’s and all peoples of good conscience. American Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt–in conjunction with numerous other scholars wrote in a 1996 statement against denial of the Armenian Genocide–"Denial of genocide strives to reshape history in order to demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators. Denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide; it is what Elie Wiesel has called a ‘double killing.’ Denial murders the dignity of the survivors and seeks to destroy the remembrance of the crime."
Your statement has reinforced your government’s stance on the issue–but it has also caused much pain for the survivors of this great calamity. I hope you will take an example from the pages of your country’s diplomatic tradition–and clarify the record for Armenia and Armenia’s–your hosts.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue further.