April 24 evokes the imperative to think about the past and the future of our nation; it is the most suitable time to get to know ourselves, evaluating our strengths and actions, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a statement on the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The message reads:
As for many decades now, today we are commemorating the innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide. We pay respect to the 1.5 million martyrs who fell victim to the criminal policies of the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
106 years ago, the first genocide of the 20th century was perpetrated by the Young Turk government in the Ottoman Empire. What happened in those days was described by the great powers as a crime against mankind and human civilization.
Millennia will pass, but we, the Armenians, will continue to commemorate the Genocide; we will not let the world forget that on April 24, 1915, the brass of the Armenian intelligentsia was arrested and sentenced to death in the Ottoman Empire. Top intellectuals, clergy and the cultural elite were beheaded at one stroke.
The Armenians were deprived of their legitimate right to live in their historic cradle. They were subjected to massacres, expelled from their homeland suffering unprecedented losses. The damage inflicted on our people’s cultural and religious heritage is beyond any estimate.
The Pontus Greeks, Assyrians and Yezidis were deprived of their homeland together with us. Those brotherly peoples were massacred and deprived of the right to live on their native lands.
Who’s to blame for, who’s to be held responsible for those appalling crimes? The answer is unequivocal: The Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire with the ideology of Turkism-Pan-Turkism, one of the key goals of which was to establish a mono-ethnic and expansionist Turkish state, which in turn gave birth to Armenophobia and to the idea of getting rid of ethnic and religious minorities.
During World War II, the genocide of the Jewish people was carried out in Germany under the leadership of Nazis. Six million Jews fell victim to the Holocaust. After the war, the perpetrators were brought to justice and were given a deserved punishment. The ideology behind genocide was condemned, too. Nazism was rightfully labeled a criminal ideology; today no one in the world dares to say anything in defense of it.
However, historical factors prevented the Armenian Genocide to get the same worldwide response. First, in the first half of the last century, human civilization lacked such mechanisms of justice that would make it possible to hold a state accountable for mass atrocities; the term “genocide” did not even exist ay that time. Moreover, the Armenian people did not have the opportunity to pursue their cause. In the first decades following the Genocide, the Armenian Diaspora could not make its voice heard in the international arena as it was busy healing the injuries and rehabilitating the national structures.
Soviet Armenia had been deprived of the opportunity to pursue the cause before the Great Patriotic War was over. The Armenian Diaspora managed to make the issue of Genocide recognition audible over the decades following World War II. However, at a time when the world was bipolar, Pan-Turkism was considered to be a historical past.
The Armenian Genocide and the ideology behind it went unpunished. We know that crimes that go unpunished and the ideologies that feed them have the habit of recurring and reappearing.
The Second Karabakh War, the Azeri-Turkish aggression which sought to annihilate the Armenian trace in Artsakh, Turkey’s expansionist foreign policy, and the territorial aspirations towards Armenia came to evidence the revival of their genocidal ideology. Armenophobia is in the essence of Pan-Turkism, and today we can see its most disgusting manifestations in Azerbaijan as fostered by the authorities of that country.
How can we defy the neo-Pan-Turkic threat: only by building a modern country strong with powerful allies; a country based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law? At the same time, it is undeniable that only the condemnation of a crime may prevent such crimes from recurring in the future. We highly appreciate the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by different countries of the world. This, however, can in no way be interpreted as a denial of regional dialogue. We are open for dialogue. However, the dialogue we imagine cannot be engaged from a position of strength. It can only succeed if underpinned by the principle of equality.
We will never question the fact of the Armenian Genocide; let no one think that any Armenian, any political entity in both Armenia and the Diaspora will ever abandon the memory of our innocent victims and will become an accomplice of the Armenian Genocide. Acknowledgement and condemnation is the only way to preventing new genocides.
April 24 evokes the imperative to think about the past and the future of our nation; it is the most suitable time to get to know ourselves, evaluating our strengths and actions.
The most important conclusion is as follows: The challenges faced by our people at the outset of the last century still exist today. The second Karabakh war was a vivid proof of that.
We cannot face these challenges, unless we build a country with an advanced economy and a modern security and political system – an Armenia that will unite all Armenians around it.