Armenian Genocide: 100 Years Later

Nicole Fries – Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

This coming weekend there will be an event called “100 Years Later: ASU Armenian Genocide Conference,” a two-day academic conference to be held at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law on Saturday, March 21 and Sunday, March 22. Conference speakers and panelists include scholars, attorneys, and community leaders from across the state, the nation, and around the world. The conference includes perspectives on Armenian, Jewish, and Native American experiences of genocide, recognition, and cultural revival.

The inaugural keynote will be given by Professor Taner Akçam (Clark University) on Saturday evening at 5 PM, and will be followed by a Networking Event at Culinary Dropout. Sunday’s program will feature four afternoon panels, starting at 1 PM, including:  “The Armenian Genocide in a Comparative Perspective,” “The Legal Framework of the Armenian Genocide,” “Armenian Futures: Reconciliation & Remediation,” and “From the Ashes: Perspectives on Post-Genocide Culture.” Sunday afternoon’s legal panel will feature ASU Professors Bodansky, Rothenberg, and Clinton, as well as UofA Professor Najwa Nabti (speaking on violence against women during genocide), and renowned trial attorney Mark Geragos. The conference will conclude with a keynote by Professor Peter Balakian (Colgate University).

The conference is generously co-sponsored by the ASU Jewish Law Students Association, the ASU Law Center for Law & Global Affairs, the ASU School of Historical, Philosophical, & Religious Studies, the ASU Melikian Center, the ASU Center for Jewish Studies, the ASU Center for the Future of War, the ASU Center for Religion & Conflict, The American Red Cross, and others.

The year 2015 marks the passage of 100 years since the systematic extermination of more than one million Armenians by the Ottoman government. To this day, despite a general consensus by scholars and historians, Turkey fails to recognize the Armenian genocide. As the loss of Armenian culture and life still reverberates, the struggle for recognition and remembrance continues. The word genocide was coined by Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in response to the Armenian Genocide, which prompted Lemkin to fight for international laws defining and forbidding it. Since then a variety of legal work has ensued, from broad action under International Humanitarian Law to more local action, yet the Armenian people continue to face ongoing threats to their safety and security including hateful rhetoric, displacement, and the destruction of artifacts of culture and memory. As we remember the Armenian genocide, we cannot forget that its legacy and its lessons remain acutely relevant today.

The history of the Armenian Genocide is full of highs and lows. During World War One, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks, it what has been called the first genocide of the 20th century.[1] However, many have refused to recognize it’s existence as a genocide, or even a mass killing, often arguing it was an internal conflict or Turkish national security measure. [2] More recently, Amal Clooney has represented Armenia in a case before the European Court of Human Rights against a Turkish official who called the genocide an “international lie” in a public speech while in Switzerland in 2005.[3]

However, Armenian history was dealt another blow when in 2014 ISIS destroyed the Memorial Church in Der Zor, Syria.[4] Seen as the Armenian memorial equivalent of Auschwitz as a Holocaust memorial, Armenians have gathered there every year to commemorate the genocide since it was built in 1989. The Memorial church housed the remains of victims and contained a museum focused on the events of the genocide.

Both for the purpose of commemoration, but also for the important value of educating the world on largely unreported events that took place in Armenia, Turkey, and Syria during World War One, this conference welcomes discussion and learning. Conference attendance is free. To register, and for more program and speaker information, please visit http://conferences.asucollegeoflaw.com/azarmgenocide/.

[1] http://time.com/3687958/amal-clooney-turkey-armenian-genocide/

[2]  DECLARATION BY TURKISH ACADEMICIANS ON THE TURKISH-ARMENIAN PROBLEM (23 Nisan 2001, 23 April 2001)

[3] Id.

[4] http://armenianweekly.com/2014/09/21/der-zor/

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