"From this faith no one can shake us, neither angels nor men; neither sword, nor fire, nor water, nor any nor all other horrid tortures. . . . Do not, therefore, interrogate us further concerning all these things, because our bond of faith is not with men to be deceived like children, but with God to Whom we are indissolubly bound and from Whom nothing can detach and separate us, neither now, nor later, nor forever, nor forever and ever."
With these words, written fifteen hundred years ago, the people of Armenia led by Vartan Mamigonian and his knights refused to save their lives by rejecting their faith and their national existance. From the time of Vartan to this day, the Armenians have rejected threats from any foreign powers that seek to destroy their land, their religion, their language, and their sacred traditions.
As in Vartan's day, the Armenian people today are of one mind, one spirit, and one willingness to sacrifice. "Thereafter, master and servant, delicately reared noble and rustic peasants, were considered equal, and no one was more or less valiant than the other. They all possessed the same willing heartmen and women, old and young, and all were united . . . ."
The price of freedom was high.
"The dressing rooms and the nuptial chambers . . . became covered with dust and soot. . . . The lofty seats of their salons were destroyed, and their silver plates scattered. Their mansions toppled and fell, and their fortified shelters were overturned and ravaged. Their fragrant flower gardens shriveled and dried, and the vines of their vineyards were uprooted. They saw with their own eyes the spoilation of their household goods and heard with their own ears the pains and suffering of their loved ones. Their treasures were confiscated . . . and no ornaments were left on their faces. . . ."
"The delicate ladies of Armenia, who grew up on divans and in litters, caressed and indulged, went on foot, bare-footed . . . untiringly, that they might endure their suffering. . . . The skin of their bodies blackened, because in the daytime they were burnt by the sun and all through the night they lay on the cold ground."
Yes, the price of freedom was high in Vartan's day. It was high in 1915. And it is high today. But Armenians are willing to pay the price of freedom. Of that you can be sure.
I have a book at home. And in this book there is a photograph of Armenian children in an orphanage in Greece. Innocent children of innocent parents who were driven out of their homes and slaughtered by the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Yes, innocent children orphaned by a cruel and barbarous people. The orphans, most of whom had seen their parents and relatives die before their very own eyes, were sent to Greece where they were cared for by American missionaries. Greece, a hospitable land, freely accepted so many Armenian survivors of the Genocide.
Yes, the Armenians suffered a genocide. We will never forget. And we will never let the world forget. Of that you can be sure.
What would we be if we forgot the young Armenian men drafted into the Turkish army, disarmed, and slaughtered. What would we be?
What would we be if we forgot the Armenian men of the towns and villages who were disarmed, driven into secluded places, and slaughtered. What would we be?
What would we be if we forgot the old men, women and children who were drive out of their homes and forced into the death marches on the road to the deserts of Syria. What would we be?
What would we be if we forgot the hunger, the thirst, the beatings, the rapes? What would we be?
What would we be if we forgot the dreadful death camps, Ras ul Ain and the others, in the burning desert? What would we be?
What would we be if we forgot the bodies, innocent Armenian bodies, rotting along the road and bloated in the rivers? What would we be?
What would we be if we forgot the Special Organization, the Teshkilati Mahsusa, which was established parallel to the government by the Young Turks to wipe out a whole nation? What would we be?
What would we be if we forgot the chetés, the criminals let out of jail and organized into killer bands to rape, torture, and slay innocent children, girls and women? What would we be?
What would we be if we forgot our relatives and friends, our mothers and fathers, our grandmothers and grandfathers, who were cruelly put to death? What would we be?
No. We will not forget. And we will not let the world forget. Of that you can be sure. This is a solemn pledge.
A writer for the Los Angeles Times wrote an article recently in which she said the Armenians seek revenge. Armenians do not seek revenge; that revenge was take years ago against the perpetrators by Armenian avengers. What the Armenian seek today is understanding and justice.
What the Armenians seek today is a free and independent homeland which is not threatened by blustering Turks and Azeri Tartars. That is what the Armenians seek.
What the Armenians seek is an end to the Turkish and Azeri blockade of our free and independent homeland. That is what the Armenians seek.
What the Armenians seek is an end to cold winters without heat or light or food. That is what the Armenians seek.
What the Armenians seek is freedom for Nagorno-Karabakh. That is what the Armenians seek.
Yes, and what the Armenians seek is peace and friendship with its neighbors. That is what the Armenians seek.
What is wrong with that? Freedom and peace. Human rights. The right of self determination. That is all the Armenian seek.
But still the Turks press on trying in vain to complete the Armenian genocide as they did in 1918, 1920, and in 1922.
Today they blockade Armenia. They threaten Armenia. They are trying to destroy Armenia.
But Armenia will never be defeated. Nagorno-Karabakh will never be defeated. The Armenian people will never be defeated.
Last year at this time I spoke in Times Square. There were two to three thousand people present. I spoke about the Armenian genocide. I tried to identify the honest Turks who refused to participate.
I expressed hope that the present Turkish government might repent of its denial, that peace and cooperation might at long last come between the Turks and the Armenians.
But the news is not good. The Turks show no sign of cooperation. And what it worse, they continue in their denial.
I am sad that the present-day Turkish government becomes a part of the crime of genocide by a process of denial. Sad that the Turkish government has hired unscrupulous lobbying and public relations firms to deny the reality of the Armenian genocide. Sad that American scholars sell their integrity for twenty pieces of silver, or the equivalent in today's money.
Sad that the Turks, a good and bad people as everyone else, are denied by their unrepentant leaders of their own catharsis, their own chance at repentance, their own personal and civic healing. I am sad for the misdirected Turkish people.
You say that talks are taking place regarding peace in Nagorno-Karabagh. Yes. Talk. Talk. Talk. But no peace.
You say that talks were taking place in Ankara regarding the formation of an international commission to investigate the accusations of genocide. That is a joke.
You say that Jirair Libaridian was recently in Ankara talking peace. The Turks don't want peace, they want concessions.
Promises are dangled before our eyes to get us to give up our birthright. What's going on?
Last year I also spoke at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There were Turkish students present. They asked what's the big deal. What difference does it make if a genocide was committed 80 years ago.
I told them that the Turks were still committing genocide, genocide against the Armenian, embargo, hunger, freezing, and death.
I told them that the Turks were still committing genocide, genocide against the Kurds. Four years of warfare against civilians in southeastern Turkey, Kurdish citizens of Turkey, bombing, burning of villages, killing of innocent people, only because they want ethnic recognition, the right to speak their own language.
The Turks don't admit the Armenian genocide because genocide seems to be a Turkish policy, a policy for handling the nationality problem.
It is perfectly medieval. It is atavistic. It is inhumane. It is stupid. It the Turkish way of handling the nationality problem.
So today, eighty-one years later, we still have to talk about the Armenian genocide. I am sad about that. I would rather move on to other matters. I want to talk about life, not death. About the future, not the past.
I am sad to remind those here present what we would rather forget. Sad to have to testify once more to the murder of a nation. Yes, sad to remember that the Armenian people were driven from their homes to certain death; sad about the suffering and misery of an innocent people whose only crimeand that only in the brains of twisted mindswas to be a progressive people demanding their God-given human and civil rights in a degenerate state. Yes, I am sad today.
The present Turkish government, and its misguided allies, say it didn't happen, so we Armenians gave them the testimony of our survivors, people who lived through the attempted genocide and are living memorials to it. But the Turks continue to deny the truth.
So, we Armenians gave them the testimony of the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, a neutral observer who heard a confession from the mouth of Talât Pasha. But the Turks continue to deny the truth.
So, we Armenians quoted American counsellor officials stationed all over the Ottoman Empire, including Leslie Davis who called his district, the Slaughterhouse Province. But the Turks continue to deny the truth.
So we quoted honest American Christian missionaries who had five colleges in Western Armenia and dozens of schools; missionaries who in some cases gave their very lives to save their Armenian brothers and sisters. But the Turks continue to deny the truth.
So we quoted from the archives of the European Powers who had informants in Ottoman Empire who were eyewitnesses to this crime against humanity. But the Turks still deny the truth.
So we went further. We decided to quote the allies of the Young Turks during the First World War, the Germans and the Austrians, friends of the Turks, allies of the Turks.
And the German and the Austrian allies of the Young Turks told the same story as all the civilized European nations. But the Turks still deny the truth.
So we looked into the official records of the Turkish war crime trial, the official papers of the Turkish Courts-Martial held by the post-World War I repentant Turkish government, the last repentant Turkish government I might add.
These honest Turks said that there were, and I quote from the official Turkish record, "wholesale massacres," "mass drowning," "mass burnings," "mass rape," "mass pillage," and "mass plunder." That's what the Turkish war crimes trial record says.
The Turkish Courts-Martial said that there were, and I quote, "deportations," "expropriations," "destruction of villages and towns," and the "murder of innocent people." That's what the Turkish war crimes trial record says.
The Turkish Courts-Martial said in the trial verdict that Talât Pasha, the Minister of the Interior, "was the principle perpetrator of the crime," that he dismissed or killed those decent Turkish or Arab governors who refused to carry out his diabolical orders, and that Talât Pasha was a prevaricator (liar), a deceitful man, and a cheat. Talât was sentence to death by the Turkish court. That's what the Turkish war crimes trial record says.
The Turkish Courts-Martial said Dr. Nazim, a member of the Young Turk Central Committee, was the evil and secret master-mind behind the Armenian genocide. He was accused, tried, and sentenced to death by the Turkish court. That's what the Turkish war crimes trial record says.
The Turkish Courts-Martial said that Dr. Behaeddin Shakir organized criminals from jail, "killer bands," çes, to "exterminate the deportees along the death marches." That he committed "acts of depravity" and "animal brutality." He was accused, tried, and sentenced to death. That's what the Turkish Courts-Martial says.
The Turkish war crimes trial record says, when characterizing the Armenian genocide, and I quote, that it was "the shame of Turkey," and an "atrocious policy," involved illegal "mass conversions" since the religious leaders had never issued a fatwa calling Armenians to submit, nor was it legal under Islamic law to forcibly convert "Peoples of the Book," and carried out "outright massacres" of Armenians. They describe this period, the period of the Armenian genocide, as the "blackest page in Turkish history." That's what the Turkish war crimes trial record says.
As I said, we are not just talking about history today. What about the present? History, sad to say, as we warned repeatedly over the years, is repeating itself. What about Cyprus, what about the Kurds, what about the Greek Islands? What about Armenia? What about Nagorno-Karabakh?
The United States sends troops to Bosnia to protect the Muslims. That is fine. We should protect the Muslims. But who is protecting the Christians in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh?
What are we talking about here today? We want the Turks to cease their denial of the Genocide and confess as did the repentant government of Damat Ferit Pasha. We want the blockade of Armenia lifted. We want self-determination for Nagorno-Karabakh. And, as should be clear by now, Armenia wants peace, harmony, and trade with its neighbors.
The Turks don't want to lift the blockage of Armenia. The Turks don't want self-determination for Nagorno-Karabakh. The Turks don't want peace and trade with its neighbors. What the Turks want is surrender. The Turks want Armenians to commit suicide.
Let one thing be clear. We will not surrender. We will never surrender. We will never surrender. This is a solemn pledge.