The Brussels Times - Lars Andersen - 25/04

A memorial day for the Armenian genocide opened at 11 a.m. yesterday (Monday). The opening memorial service took place at the Armenian Apostolic Church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (the main church of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox community) in Ixelles. Those participating then walked to the commemorative monument dedicated to the Armenian genocide, also in Ixelles, where a further ceremony took place.

In the afternoon, the organisers said that nearly 500 people met. This figure was stated by the spokeswoman for the Brussels-Ixelles police zone as being 350. Those gathering demonstrated outside the Turkish embassy on Rue Montoyer, calling for the Turkish authorities to acknowledge that the genocide took place. The day ended with an evening event at the Armenian Centre in Laeken.

The memorial service began with a prayer. The President of the Committee of Armenians in Belgium, Karen Tadevosyan, evoked the genocide taking the lives of around 1.5 million victims from the Armenian Turkish Empire population. Tadevosyan emphasised that more than 400,000 in the Assyro-Chaldean minority of the Eastern provinces and 350,000 Pontian Greeks were killed.

He went on, “The Armenian genocide, in 1915, was the first to occur in the twentieth century. Afterwards came the Shoah [the Holocaust] and the Tutsi minority genocide [in Rwanda during 1994].”

The President concluded, “With everything that is currently happening in the Middle East, we now have more than simply topical interest reasons to both keep alive the memory of those who died and to learn the lessons from history.”

The Ambassador of Armenia, the Mayor of Ixelles, Dominique Dufourny and Julie de Groote, the President of the French-speaking Brussels Parliament, all spoke. Tutsi minority, Eastern Christian and Kurdish community representatives also gave speeches.

The event is, in particular, endeavouring to place pressure upon Turkey. The hope is that Turkey will acknowledge the genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire. Karen Tadevosyan stated regretfully, “All successive [Turkish] governments have denied the genocide ever took place.” He went on, “Some Belgian politicians are doing their best to instigate dialogue in this arena and to ensure that Turkey acknowledges the genocide. Others wish to avoid offending Turkey.”

He finished by saying, “As Belgians, we understand these difficulties at diplomatic level, but maintaining human dignity is, of course, essential.” In the evening, speeches revolved around the Armenians who sought refuge in Syria after the genocide. Such Armenians are, once again, being deported. A classical music concert is scheduled to take place in memory of the victims.

A symposium will be organised tomorrow (Wednesday) with around 20 secondary school history teachers. They are concerned to defend the importance of teaching the events of the genocide exactly as they happened, without using unreliable sources. This point was observed after the study by Belgium's Armenian community during recent months.

Lars Andersen The Brussels Times