By Maria Asimopoulos
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Getting countries to recognize and publicly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide is an important step in ensuring it does not happen again, said advocate Anthony Barsamian in a speech Tuesday.
Barsamian, a lawyer and co-chair of the Board of Trustees of the Armenian Assembly of America, spoke to students at Loyola College about the genocide and how it “is known for the longest denial in history.”
“Armenians were the first genocide that’s never been acknowledged by the world,” Barsamian said. “In Turkey, the country that perpetrated the genocide, the government will not acknowledge it. It’s a crime… to insult the Turkish in this way, talking about the Armenian Genocide.”
Barsamian gave his presentation just over two weeks before April 24, the date commemorated as the start of the genocide over 100 years ago.
The Armenian Genocide began in 1915 when leaders in Ottoman Turkey, entering World War I as Germany’s ally, sought to rid the country of Armenian Christians. Victims were killed or marched into the Syrian desert to die from exposure and starvation.
The genocide ended in 1923. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed out of the 2 million that lived there.
“This has been recognized outside of Turkey. The world knows what happened,” Barsamian said. “But we have to win over the hearts and minds of those in Turkey. If the perpetrators don’t come to terms with this, the cycle will continue again.”
In terms of reparations for the Armenian people, Barsamian said Turks should work with Armenians to rebuild places that were destroyed during the genocide.
He said this cooperation would build confidence for the groups to live in peace together. Without Turkey’s acknowledgment, he said, that cooperation is impossible.
“By acknowledgment comes then compassion, and with compassion comes a real sense of security for all people in the region,” he said.
Barsamian also emphasized the genocide’s relevance to the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler is believed to have suggested that the world would not care about the Holocaust because nobody “speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians.”
While steps have been taken worldwide for governments to recognize it, Barsamian said it is still an important political matter.
Turkey lobbies to keep the United States Congress from acknowledging the genocide. Although several past presidents, like Barack Obama, have made public statements in recognition of it, the Armenian Genocide Resolution was first introduced in Congress on Tuesday.
The resolution intends to establish three aspects of United States policy: rejection of the genocide’s denial, ongoing recognition by the United States government, and education about what happened.
Barsamian told the group of about 50 students that getting involved in political campaigns and taking action were how to start to effect change, not just in support of recognizing the Armenian Genocide, but for any societal problem.
He also encouraged students to seek out a career or do work in human rights once they’ve graduated.
“In everything you do, if you know the warning signs, you can prevent these kind of atrocities,” Barsamian said. “Human rights is a fight, and you need to be in that fight.”