LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Following the UN Secretary General’s request to remove a sentence referring to a million Armenians being murdered during the Ottoman Empire from the Aegis Trust exhibition “Lessons from Rwanda,” and the exhibition’s subsequent cancellation, Serj Tankian and Carla Garapedian have issued the following statement:
“We are very shocked by this decision by the Secretary General to remove mention of a historical event which is well-documented by thousands of official records of the United States and nations around the world, including Turkey’s wartime allies, Germany, Austria and Hungary; by Ottoman court martial records; and by eyewitness accounts of missionaries, diplomats and survivors; as well as decades of historical scholarship. In the U.S., President Bush has called the events the ‘forced exile and annihilation of approximately 1.5 million Armenians.’
“Elie Wiesel says denial is the last stage of genocide – this act of censorship by the Secretary General is effectively an act of appeasement to the very forces in Turkey that led to the recent death of Hrant Dink and the prosecution of Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk. Other writers and artists in Turkey are facing prison sentences today under Article 301 for wanting to speak openly about this issue. What message does this send to them? The reason why genocides have continued in the last century – from the Armenian genocide, to the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda, to the genocide going on now in Darfur – is because the international community has not intervened to stop them. Sadly, the Secretary General’s decision to stop any mention of the antecedents to the Rwanda genocide is a blow to those who want to stop genocide now.”
Serj Tankian, songwriter, singer, poet, activist and lead singer of System of a Down, appears in the film “Screamers,” which traces the history of genocide in the last century, from the Armenian genocide, to the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. He was invited by the Aegis Trust to meet the Secretary General on Monday, along with “Screamers” director, Carla Garapedian. Aegis is co-sponsoring a screening of “Screamers” in the British Parliament, following its theatrical run in the U.S. and screening in the U.S. Library of Congress.
James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust, wrote to Tankian and Garapedian explaining why Aegis wouldn’t submit to the Secretary General’s request, which followed a protest from the Turkish government. The sentence in dispute: “Following World War 1, during which one million Armenians were murdered in Turkey, Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin urged the League of Nations to recognize crimes of barbarity as international crimes.”
“Had we been asked to remove reference of atrocities to Jews because Germany objected, we would have been equally resistant,” said Smith. “We can’t apply one rule to some and not to others because the political wind in the UN is blowing against the Armenians,” he said. Removing the sentence would amount to a “denial of elementary facts.”
Garapedian added, “Perhaps the Secretary General should visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, where another sentence is engraved on the wall – ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’ That was Hitler’s answer to why he could get away with murdering the Jews. Hitler used the Armenian genocide as a blueprint for the Holocaust. The Secretary General should also visit the Kigali Memorial Centre in Rwanda, which has become the focal point for national remembrance and education about the 1994 genocide. There, too, the Armenian genocide is commemorated. No one there is trying to bury the truth.”