Armenian Genocide; Small steps for recognition in the UK (Derby)

Holocaust Memorial Day , in the UK, is led by a charity established by the Government and is commemorated on the 27th January.  In the official booklet for this year it states “ 27 January is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust under Nazi persecution and in the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur” (my emphasis). By implication, anything that happened before the 1930’s is not a Genocide. One of the other purposes of the Charity is about “learning lessons from the past and creating a safer, better future”.  One might conclude that “learning lessons” from the Armenian Genocide is vital to ensuring a “safer future”

In Derby, my home city, there is a committee responsible for the details of the local events.

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In the morning there was a brief service in a very small, and old chapel called The Chapel of St Mary on the Bridge which was followed by a “Setting of the Stones” at the trees dedicated to Anne Frank and Olga Nahlak. This was led by the Dean of Derby, The Very Reverend John Davies and his colleague The Reverend Andy Trenier. In the service to precede the stone-laying the first event to be recognized by being read out was for “ the victims of crimes against humanity – citizens of Armenia”. This was followed by those who suffered in the Ukrainian Holodomor, the Holocaust, and, sadly, many others since then.

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Later on there was a service at the Cathedral in the city and once again the roll call of Genocides was started with reference to the Armenian Genocide and the death of 1 million people.  I felt slightly uneasy that within the list there were clearly entries that were not Genocides, or were references to people who were killed in a war. Whilst war deaths are tragic, they are not automatically Genocides. For example – 34,500 Bosnian Children injured 1992-95. I also felt that 4 separate entries for Bosnian Muslims between 1992-95 was more of a reflection of the fact that there is a Bosnian Muslim community in Derby, and not that it warranted such detail.

Despite the passing references to the Armenian Genocide, there was nothing substantial done to remember what happened in 1915 or to reflect on the consequences that still affect many Armenians today. I wrote to the chair of the Derby committee and asked how we could have a week to remember the Genocides in the world and yet have so little representation of the events in 1915. I also said that, with the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, we should not be ignoring the fact that this historical Genocide has the potential for surfacing again in the 21st Century.

I am pleased to say that he took the position very positively, and recognized that this was a major omission from the timetable. This was largely as a result of the absence of an Armenian community in Derby – this was a reason not an excuse. The Derby committee have shown their willingness to depart from the National guidelines already with respect to the Ukrainian Holodomor  ( pre-Holocaust). He has confirmed that he will plan to address the Armenian Genocide more substantially in 2015 – and to that end, I have been invited to join the committee to support that initiative.

I look forward to ensuring that there is a fitting recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Derby in 2015.

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