FACT SHEET: WHY DO ARMENIAN-AMERICANS COMMEMORATE THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE?

ARMENIAN RESEARCH CENTER

The University of Michigan-Dearborn

Dearborn, MI 48128



The Armenian Genocide created the Armenian-American community

Armenians have lived in the area of area of eastern Anatolia for over 2,500 years. Sometimes they have had their own sovereign states in that area, sometimes not. In the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Turks became the rulers of the area, and Armenians lived under Ottoman rule for over 400 years. When the Ottoman Empire became decayed and corrupt, it began to turn on its Armenians in massacres, at first isolated in time and narrow in geographic focus, but escalating, first into Sultan Adulhamit II's massacres of 1894-96, and then into full genocide in 1915. Faced with this downturn in Ottoman-Armenian relations, Armenians began emigrating from the Ottoman Empire in the 1880s, often, as many other immigrants to, emigrating to the United States. The 1915 Genocide of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, led to a major swell in the numbers of Armenians in the United States, enough to take them from small numbers of immigrants to a national community of Armenian-Americans.

The local Armenian-American community

The Detroit-area Armenian-American community, consisting of 30,000-50,000 people, is the third-largest in the United States, after Los Angeles and Boston. Just as Detroit grew up with the automobile industry, so did many of the early Armenian immigrants to Detroit prosper in their new land. As the Detroit-area community began to knit itself together, its members diversified into other professions. Detroit-area Armenian-Americans can be found in business, medicine, law, education, and in many other areas as well. Just as many people left Detroit for the suburbs, so too did the Armenian-Americans, whose new Detroit-area loci are Dearborn,Southfield, Farmington, Bloomfield, West Bloomfield, and Troy. The ranks of prominent Detroit-area Armenian-Americans include, Alex Manoogian, industrialist and philanthropist; Marilyn Varbedian, City Councilmember of Bloomfield; John Darakjian, jeweler; Richard Thompson, Oakland County Prosecutor; Kaye Tertzag, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge; State Senator George Hart; State Representative John Jamian; Edgar Hagopian, carpet distributor; Dennis R. Papazian, Professor and frequent radio and TV commentator; and George Googasian, George Bedrosian, and Peter Kupelian, attornies.

The wounds of the Armenian Genocide still fester in the hearts of Armenian-Americans since Turkey denies its occurance.

In the most part, Armenian-Americans are either suvivors of the Armenian Genocide, or children and grandchildren of survivors. To have the successor state to the Ottoman Empire deny that the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were a victim of genocide, is a slap in the face to these survivors and descendents of survivors. Also, the modern state of Turkey adds insult to injury by falsely claiming that the Armenians were traitors wanting to collaborate with the Ottoman Empire's enemies in the midst of war. Turkish apologists take several local acts of self-defense and claim that the disorganized 2.5 million Ottoman Armenians were a threat to 17 million armed and organized Turks and Kurds. This dishonors the 1.5 million Armenians who were disarmed and killed by the Ottoman government and shames modern Turkey before the rest of world which does accept what happened as a genocide. See Appendix II

The denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government implies it has not ceased the genocidal policies of its Ottoman predecessor.

To this day, there are still some Armenians living in Turkey, mainly in Istanbul, where the presence of many foreigners made the Turks too nervous to try and wipe them out in 1915. However, their basic human rights are not respected by the government of Turkey. Restrictions are put on the ability of Armenian parents to decide on the education of their children. Restrictions are put on the functioning of Armenian schools in Turkey, as well as on the ability of Armenian churches to have repairs made. Armenian cemetaries are not afforded the same kind of police protection as Turkish cemetaries.

Turkey either destroys historic Armenian architecture and relics or relabels them as products of civilizations other than Armenian. This practice is leading to the obliteration (a cultural genocide) of the historic presence of Armenians in eastern Turkey, a presence which dates back over 2,500 years and predates the arrival of the Turks in Anatolia by over 1,500 years (succintly described by the German Vice Consul at Erzurum, Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, as "a culture which is older and much more elevated than that of the Turks").

In its foreign policy, modern Turkey has also shown its hostility towards Armenians. Turkey imposed an illegal blockade on Armenia in 1992, and its late president Turgut Ozal uttered several threats—never repudiated—against Armenia. Turkey has also illegally sent arms and instructors to help arm and train the Azerbajiani army, which was fighting Armenians.

What local Armenian-Americans will be doing to commemorate the Armenian Genocide

April 19, Wreath-laying ceremony (7:30 PM) at the Gomidas monument on Jefferson Ave, followed by a brief candlelight rally at Hart Plaza.

April 24, Talk From the Heart, a regular broadcast on WMUZ 103.5 FM, will have a special program on "April 24th and Its Present Day Ramifications" from 2:00-3:00 PM featuring Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian, pastor of the Armenian Congregational Church (Southfield, MI), and Mr. Robert Kachadourian, a lay minister of the same church.

April 24, A memorial church service (beginning at 7:00 PM) and memorial dinner at St. Sarkis Armenian Church (Dearborn, MI).

April 28, A special memorial service will be held at St. John's Armenian Church (Southfield, MI) following the Sunday Mass which begins at 10:30. At 12:30 PM, a memorial dinner will be held at which Rev. Stuart Winster, Director of the British branch of Christian Solidarity International, an international human rights group, will be the keynote speaker.


Appendix I: Statements made by U.S. Presidents on the Armenian Genocide


Herbert Hoover wrote in his memoirs: "Probably Armenia was known to the American school child in 1919 only a little less than England . . . . of . . . the staunch Christians who were massacred periodically by the Mohammedian [sic] Turks, and the Sunday School collections [of] over fifty years for alleviating their miseries . . . .

President Reagan signed a proclamation, on April 22, 1981, which read in part, "Like the genocide of the Armenians before it and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it—and like too many other such persecutions of too many other peoples—the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten."

President Bush issued a news release in 1990 calling on all Americans to join with Armenians on April 24 in commemorating the "more than a million Armenian people who were victims".

President Clinton issued a news release on April 24, 1994, to commemorate the "tragedy" that befell the Armenians in 1915.



Appendix II: World Recognition of the Armenian Genocide


April 6, 1996