Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)
Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Forget me not

Nora Koloyan-Keuhnelian pays tribute to her ancestors and joins the Egyptian delegation to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan

Al-Ahram Weekly

An Egyptian delegation of 115 people flew to Yerevan, the capital of the Republic of Armenia, Monday to take part in commemorations of the centennial of the Armenian Genocide committed by Ottoman Turks in 1915. Accompanying the delegation were 52 figures from the Egyptian media, Archbishop Ashod Mnatsaganian Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Egypt, the chairman of the board of the patriarchate, members of the board and a number of Armenian Egyptians from the Armenian community in Egypt.

 “The Armenian Patriarchate in Egypt together with the Egyptian committee to commemorate the centennial have invited 60 media personalities to take part in the commemorations in Armenia. Fifty-two people accepted the invitation, including chief editors, reporters, intellectuals and TV channels,” Armen Mazlumian, member of the committee and head of the media delegation, told Al-Ahram Weekly. According to Mazlumian, the Egyptian delegation is the second biggest after France. The schedule includes meetings with the All Armenians’ Catholicos and ministries and sightseeing tours.

Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II and a group of clergymen were also among the delegation heading to Armenia. Speaking to the Weekly aboard the charter flight organised especially for the occasion, Pope Tawadros said that the Armenian and Coptic churches are sisters: “We have a history of friendship. In our regular prayers we mention the Armenian St Gregory the Illuminator. We also mention Armenian nun St Hripsimé who has a great history.” The Armenian Saint Gregory was the first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church and is credited with converting Armenia from paganism to Christianity in 301. Armenia thus became the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion.

Pope Tawadros sees participation of the Coptic Church in the centennial as significant: “The Armenian Church shared with the Coptic Church its sorrow upon the passing of Pope Shenouda III. I always had the desire to visit Armenia, but was waiting for the appropriate chance. While I was in Russia in November, I received a phone call from All Armenians Catholicos Karekin II who invited me to take part in the commemoration events, so I decided to accept his invitation to pay respect to the victims of the genocide.”

Pope Tawadros stressed his church’s relation with the Armenian Orthodox Church in Egypt: “I meet Archbishop Ashod frequently. We have children from our Coptic community whose parents are partly Armenian; they receive education in the Armenian schools in Egypt.”

The Egyptian media delegation had its first tour in Yerevan city upon arrival. The first destination was the “Mother Armenia” statue located in the Victory Park. The statue ¾ erected in 1967 to replace a statue of Stalin erected in 1950 ¾ is the female personification of Armenia, on a massive basalt pedestal overlooking the capital city. The statue holds a large sword. Standing proudly, Mother Armenia directs her gaze to the borders of Turkey-Armenia, ready to defend her territories, we were told.

An international forum, titled “Against the Crime of Genocide”, will be held Wednesday and Thursday in which heads of states and top officials and prominent journalists will take part. “I will have the honour to take part in this very important forum,” said Emad Gad, writer and deputy director of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. “There’s a real annihilation that hit the Armenian nation. This nation is a great one. Armenians have a huge civilisation and great achievements throughout their history and the world’s. The genocide they were subject to was the second biggest tragedy on earth. Thus our participation is important to show our solidarity after a century, and at a time when Turkey is still denying its crimes and still insisting on calling the 30 June Revolution (in Egypt) a ‘coup’, upon which relations between Egypt and Turkey have deteriorated,” said Gad.

Gad thinks all Arab countries should show solidarity to victims of crimes against humanity. “So long as we Arabs do not show concern towards the Armenian cause, we as Arabs shouldn’t expect others to show solidarity towards our own causes, like the Palestinian cause for example,” Gad told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Asked whether Egypt will recognise the Armenian Genocide, Gad explained it as a complicated matter. “There are unknown reasons behind Egypt still not recognising the genocide or not taking part in the commemorations with an official delegation. But I imagine if we succeed in pressing the issue, this might come around eventually.”

Gad sees that one of the obstacles could be not having a parliament until now. “But especially this year, the Egyptian media widely covered the Armenian Genocide issue. I hope [Egypt] will recognise it after the parliamentary elections,” Gad concluded.

The Egyptian government and the Coptic Church recently condemned Turkey’s refusal to recognise its crimes against the Armenian nation.

While head of the media delegation, Mazlumian, believes that the Egyptian government is interested in recognising the genocide, and it is also symbolically important for Egypt to do so, “as Egypt is the biggest and most important Islamic country in the region. It can stimulate other Arab countries to recognise the genocide. Only the Lebanese parliament did that, but Egypt’s recognition has a significant importance to the Arab and Islamic world in particular, and to Armenians worldwide in general.”

The mass killings of the Armenians were not driven by religious motives. It wasn’t a Christian-Muslim war: it’s a human rights related cause, stated Mazlumian.

Yerevan’s streets, the largest city in Armenia and one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, have started to become more crowded ahead of Friday’s centennial. Commemorations run from 21 to 26 April. System of a Down (also known as SOAD), the American rock band who previously announced a tour, “Wake Up The Souls”, that started in Europe on 10 April, had their first ever performance in Armenia, in Republic Square, yesterday evening.

Meanwhile, a ceremony of canonisation of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide took place yesterday at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. The service was led and presided over by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, and Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia. The canonisation marks a major event in the history of the Armenian nation, as no elevation to sainthood has taken place in the Armenian Apostolic Church since the 14th century. The canonisation is meant to transform the remembrance of the martyrs into energy and strength in the spiritual life of the Armenian nation.

Today, and before the Weekly goes to print, a mass march to the Dzidzernagapert Memorial Complex will take place. Every year, on 24 April, thousands of Armenians gather at the memorial to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Over the years, a wide range of politicians, artists, musicians, athletes, and religious figures have visited the memorial, founded in 1967.

In his short interview with the Weekly, Pope Tawadros was keen to show his appreciation for the Armenian nation that was slaughtered one hundred years ago and that fought for its existence.

“We read your history often and we feel that the Armenian nation is a fighter, a hard worker, something that amazes us all the time, and which we appreciate.”

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