JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)–Armenians throughout the world marked Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on Tuesday, commemorating the massacres of some 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey between 1915 and 1923.
In Jerusalem, special services were held in the Armenian Patriarchate in the Old City, including a requiem and holy mass in the community’s St. James Cathedral.
Although the genocide was perpetrated by the Young Turk regime of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire, modern Turkish governments have refused to accept historic responsibility.
Archbishop Aris Shirvanian of the Armenian Patriarchate addressed members of Jerusalem’s Yedidya Synagogue on Monday about the genocide and its effects on the Armenian people.
“All Armenians stand together and claim justice and reparations,” he said, noting that the community has pursued recognition of the genocide since 1965. “Until then, the generation of the survivors who had suffered as children and seen with their own eyes the killings and kidnappings, starvation, and tortures were in a period of mourning, but the new generation has sought justice for what was done to the Armenian people during this great crime, the first genocide of the twentieth century.”
Israel has so far not recognized the massacres as genocide, in deference to its diplomatic relations with Turkey. Perhaps in acknowledgement of the dismal state of these relations today, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has said he intends to establish an annual parliamentary session to mark the Armenian genocide.
Turkish pressure has meant that only 21 countries officially recognize the murder of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, including Canada, France, Italy, and Switzerland. After France passed a law in January outlawing the denial of the Armenian genocide, Turkey recalled its ambassador.
Ophir Yarden of the Inter-religious Coordinating Council in Israel, who arranged for Archbishop Shirvanian to speak at the Yedidya Synagogue, called Israel’s failure to recognize the genocide a “double standard.”
“The lack of recognition is very painful for the Armenian community,” Yarden said. “As a state in which the Jewish Holocaust is so significant, it is just plain wrong not to recognize suffering and genocide of other people.
“Hitler himself spoke about the failure of the international community to prevent or recognize the Armenian genocide as a reason not to be concerned about carrying out genocide against the Jews.”