New York, NY- On May 19, 2008, Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region (ANCA ER) Executive Director took part in commemorating the 89th Anniversary of the Pontian Genocide. Strong winds and brisk temperatures did not keep community activists from gathering at Bowling Green Park for the first New York City commemoration.
Organizing the event was the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York and the Pan-Pontian Federation of USA and Canada. Dimitris Molohides, Secretary of the Pan-Pontian Federation of USA and Canada, addressed the crowd in attendance and urged for decisive action for recognition of the Pontian Genocide.
Molohides, who spoke at the Armenian Genocide commemorative event at City Hall in New York City during the ANC of NY’s April 24th event stated “today, May 19th the Pontian community with Hellenes and Philhellenes here in New York City and around the world will commemorate the 89th anniversary of the Pontian… it is the first time that we gather here in the Bowling Green Park in the heart of the economic center of New York City to raise together the Greek flag and the single-headed eagle symbol of Pontus. Today’s event is an emotional but also a historical moment for all of us that are present here.”
Speaking on behalf of the ANCA, Birazian addressed the crowd. In her statement she remarked: “the tragic sufferings of Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks will never be forgotten. The Turkish Government tries to silence us, but we will not be silenced, and together we will in fact end Turkey’s “Gag Rule” and seek recognition of this great crime. Nine decades ago they tried to silence the innocent victims that fell under the Turkish sword, and today we are still here. Nine decades from now we will still be here for we will never forget and work to seek justice” (Full comments can be read below).
Also present at the event include the Cypriot Action Network of America (CANA), the presidents and members of the two local associations “Komninoi” of New York and “Pontos” of Norwalk Connecticut and from the “Holy Institution Panagia Soumela.”
Speakers included Reverend Father Ioannis Romas from the St. Nicholas church that was destroyed on 9/11, Mr. Dimitris Dimitriou, General Secretary – Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, Mr. Elias Tsekerides, Past President of Pan-Pontian Federation USA & Canada, Ms. Donna Fotiadou, member and coordinating committee of the Pontian Youth Association USA & Canada, and Mr. Ioannis Fidanakis, President of Panthracian Union of America “Orpheus.”
The Ottoman Empire, under the cover of World War I, undertook a systematic and deliberate effort to eliminate its minority Christian populations. This genocidal campaign resulted in the death and deportation of well over 2,000,000 Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks.
The Pontian Genocide has been formally acknowledged by Greece and Cyprus and, within the United States, by the states of New York, New Jersey, Florida, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, among others. Most recently, the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) released a statement commenting:
“BE IT RESOLVED that it is the conviction of the International Association of Genocide Scholars that the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Association calls upon the government of Turkey to acknowledge the genocides against these populations, to issue a formal apology, and to take prompt and meaningful steps toward restitution.”
Comments by ANCA ER Director
“On behalf of the Armenian National Committee of America, I would like to thank the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York and the Pan-Pontian Federation of USA and Canada for inviting us here to speak in commemoration of the 89th Anniversary of the Pontian Greek Genocide.
My personal relationship with the Pontian Greek community is very recent, where after the passage of a mandate to teach genocide in the Illinois school system, I met George Mavropoulos and others from the Pontian Society of Chicago Xeniteas Chapter and from there a dedicated team of individuals worked to organize and host successful workshops on the teaching of genocide to teachers throughout the Chicagoland area. We shared a common ground, not only because of the closeness of our culture and heritage, but we both suffered a genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire and relive it each day with its ongoing denial today.
The tragic sufferings of Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks will never be forgotten. The Turkish Government tries to silence us, but we will not be silenced, and together we will in fact end Turkey’s “Gag Rule” and seek recognition of this great crime. Nine decades ago they tried to silence the innocent victims that fell under the Turkish sword, and today we are still here. Nine decades from now we will still be here for we will never forget and work to seek justice.
Though this is a somber occasion, the devotion our organizations have in making sure this great crime against humanity is never forgotten shows the strength of our survival. I am proud that the Armenian National Committee of America is working to build a relationship with the Federation of Hellenic Society, and the Pan-Pontian Federation of USA and Canada, and as victims of genocide, I urge everyone not only to continue working for recognition of this crime, but also work in stopping the ongoing genocide in Darfur. We must be the voice for those who cannot speak and fight for those who cannot do so. I urge you all to take action, and come and rally with Africa Action and other organizations this Thursday, May 22, at 12pm to urge the United Nations to take action and make sure that the deployment of well equipped peacekeepers to Darfur happen. We need your presence there to make a difference. The rally will take place at Lexington and 45th St.”