Assembly Co-Chair Krikorian Lays Out American, Turkish, Legal Records in Congressional Testimony on Genocide and Turkish Denial


Van Krikorian

Van Krikorian

WASHINGTON — On the eve of the centennial anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Van Z. Krikorian, Co-Chair of the Armenian Assembly of America Board of Trustees, testified before the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) congressional hearing entitled “A Century of Denial: The Armenian Genocide and the Ongoing Quest for Justice.”

Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) opened the hearing with a powerful statement. “The Armenian Genocide is the only one of the genocides of the twentieth century in which the nation that was decimated by genocide has been subject to ongoing outrage of a massive campaign of genocide denial, openly sustained by state authority,” Chairman Smith said. “This campaign of genocide denial is a slap in the face to the Armenian people, preventing reconciliation and healing. As Pope Francis said at this Mass marking the centenary of the genocide, ‘Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.’”

Excerpts from Krikorian’s statement are below.

“President Obama has used the Armenian term for the Armenian Genocide (“Meds Yeghern”), he has described and condemned all of the events which provide a dictionary definition of the Armenian Genocide, he has called on Turkey to deal with its past honestly and he has referred back to his prior statements as a Senator explicitly using the term Armenian Genocide. But since his election as President, he has been misled by false promises and bowed to threats from the worst kind of people. This undercuts his own credibility. Worst of all it puts more lives at risk as history does repeat itself.

“The record has never been in doubt. To say that people are shocked is an overstatement. The news that the Turkish Foreign Minister met with Secretary Kerry and National Security Advisor Rice with ISIL on the table made everything clear. However, to say that we are deeply disappointed is an understatement.

“The truth is we feel pain and sorrow, close to when a loved one is lost. We feel pain for the innocent people and civilization that was destroyed. We feel sorrow in the knowledge that it will continue unless change comes. And like other victim groups, we are more than resilient enough to rededicate ourselves to the cause of preventing genocide which we have inherited.”

Throughout the hearing, Krikorian exposed the fallacies of the denialist arguments on “archives,” “letting the historians decide” and “calls for a commission,” with the experience of his participation in the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC). TARC held a legal hearing and jointly issued a legal opinion that all elements of the Genocide Convention definition were met, ending the terminology debate. “Considering the record, Armenian President Sargisian has a good response on the disingenuous commission idea — Turkey seems determined to keep asking for commissions until one finally agrees with its position,” Krikorian stated in his testimony. Other topics covered include the 1982 State Department Note, the historic and modern US and international record, Raphael Lemkin, the impact of Hasan Cemal and his book on the Armenian Genocide, Hrant Dink, the prescient reporting of Dr. Wilfred Post, the 2009 Protocols, the opening of the online Armenian Genocide Museum of America, the need for increased contact between Armenians and Turks, and more.

Paraphrasing Obama, Krikorian emphasized: “As Armenians have before, we are willing to extend a hand if the first on the other side in unclenched.”

Rep. Steven Cohen (D-TN), co-chair of the Congressional Turkey Caucus, urged that all historians be heard, to which Krikorian responded forcefully by reminding the committee of Bernard Lewis’ 1995 conviction in a French court for liable on the Armenian Genocide, as well as Lewis’ 1961 and 1968 publications acknowledging the terrible holocaust of 1.5 million Armenians.

Krikorian’s testimony included President Obama’s 2008 quote: “the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy….America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that President.”

Also speaking at the hearing were Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who lent their support to Chairman Smith for holding the hearing, and added their agreement with the witnesses testimonies on Turkey’s need to end its campaign of denial and acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.

In addition to Krikorian, other witnesses included Dr. Taner Akçam, Professor of History, Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies, Clark University; Kenneth V. Hachikian, Chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA); Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou, Visiting Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution, The Fletcher School, Tufts University; and Karine Shnorhokian, representative of the ANCA/Genocide Education Project. All witnesses agreed that reconciliation requires recognition.

Krikorian’s testimony, as well as those of the other speakers are available at the Armenian Assembly’s web page.