WASHINGTON, DC – Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Chairman Ken Hachikian, in a letter sent today to the United Nations, called upon the international body to reverse its recent decision to close a major exhibit, organized by the Aegis Trust, on the Rwanda Genocide due to the Turkish government’s objection over a portion of the display that referenced the Armenian Genocide.
The ANCA letter, addressed to Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, expressed the “Armenian American community’s profound disappointment over [the] decision to allow the Turkish government to delay – and quite possibly cancel – a United Nations exhibit intended to help ensure that the lessons of the Rwanda Genocide are used to help prevent future genocides.”
Hachikian stressed that the dismantling of the exhibit represents “a troubling retreat from the founding principles of the United Nations,” and added that, “in allowing Turkey’s protest over the exhibit’s historically accurate mention of the Armenian Genocide to delay its opening, you have, very unfortunately, undermined the credibility of the United Nations on a central issue of our time – ending forever the cycle of genocide. Rather than rightfully standing up for the organization’s highest values, you permitted the immoral objections of one member state, Turkey, to drag the entire institution into complicity in that nation’s shameless campaign of genocide denial.”
Commenting on the U.N.’s decision, Mark Hanis, Executive Director of the Genocide Intervention Network, said that, “Hitler felt justified to carry out the Holocaust when he saw how little resistance there was to the Armenian genocide of 1915. It is incumbent on the U.N. to ensure that the atrocities of Armenia and other past genocides are exposed, not just for the memory of those dead but for the safety of future generations.”
Commenting on the exhibit’s postponement, James Smith, the chief executive of the British-based Aegis Trust, said, “If we can’t get this right, it undermines all the values of the U.N. It undermines everything the U.N. is meant to stand for in terms of preventing (genocide). . . You can’t learn the lessons from history if you’re going to sweep all of that history under the carpet. And what about accountability? What about ending impunity if you’re going to hide part of the truth? It makes a mockery of all of this.”
Serj Tankian, songwriter, singer, poet, activist and lead singer of Grammy Award-winning band System of a Down, and Carla Garapedian, who directed the award-winning documentary “SCREAMERS” about the band’s anti-genocide advocacy, issued a statement condemning the U.N.’s decision: “We are very shocked by this decision by the Secretary General to remove mention of a historical event which is well-documented by thousands of official records of the United States and nations around the world, including Turkey’s wartime allies, Germany, Austria and Hungary; by Ottoman court martial records; and by eyewitness accounts of missionaries, diplomats and survivors; as well as decades of historical scholarship. In the U.S., President Bush has called the events the “forced exile and annihilation of approximately 1.5 million Armenians.'”
Tankian and Garapedian went on to stress that, “The reason why genocides have continued in the last century – from the Armenian genocide, to the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda, to the genocide going on now in Darfur – is because the international community has not intervened to stop them. Sadly, the Secretary General’s decision to stop any mention of the antecedents to the Rwanda genocide is a blow to those who want to stop genocide now.”
The New York Times, Associated Press, and other major news outlets have reported extensively about the controversy surrounding Turkey’s pressure to close down the Rwanda Genocide exhibit. The New York Times, in an April 9th article, explained that, “the panels of graphics, photos and statements had been installed in the visitors lobby on Thursday by the British-based Aegis Trust. The trust campaigns for the prevention of genocide and runs a center in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, memorializing the 500,000 victims of the massacres there 13 years ago. Hours after the show was assembled, however, a Turkish diplomat spotted offending words in a section entitled ‘What is genocide?’ and raised objections. The passage said that, ‘following World War I, during which one million Armenians were murdered in Turkey,’ Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer credited with coining the word genocide, ‘urged the League of Nations to recognize crimes of barbarity as international crimes.’ […]”
The full text of the ANCA letter is provided below.
April 11, 2007
Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information
One United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Dear Under-Secretary Akasaka:
I am writing to voice the Armenian American community’s profound disappointment over your decision to allow the Turkish government to delay – and quite possibly cancel – a United Nations exhibit intended to help ensure that the lessons of the Rwanda Genocide are used to help prevent future genocides.
Your actions, as reported by the Associated Press and the New York Times, represent a troubling retreat from the founding principles of the United Nations. In allowing Turkey’s protest over the exhibit’s historically accurate mention of the Armenian Genocide to delay its opening, you have, very unfortunately, undermined the credibility of the United Nations on a central issue of our time – ending forever the cycle of genocide. Rather than rightfully standing up for the organization’s highest values, you permitted the immoral objections of one member state, Turkey, to drag the entire institution into complicity in that nation’s shameless campaign of genocide denial.
We join with Armenians worldwide, and with all people committed to ending the cycle of genocide, in respectfully calling upon you to reverse your decision, and to immediately facilitate the opening of the Aegis Trust’s complete Rwanda Genocide exhibit.
Kenneth V. Hachikian