04/25/2020, 11.27
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The silence of Covid-19 and 105 years since the Armenian genocide

by Pierre Balanian

Virtual pilgrimages to the Mausoleum. Patriarch Karekine II makes a lone prayer visit. The speech of Prime Minister Pashinian. Silence, darkness and light. Turkish denial.

Yerevan (AsiaNews) - The mausoleum of the Armenian genocide located on a hill near the capital Yerevan has never been as empty as yesterday, April 24, the anniversary of the genocide (photo 3).

Every year, the mausoleum - erected on the occasion of the 50th anniversary - is invaded by millions of mourning Armenians. Yesterday was completely empty due to the Covid-19 emergency. For the first time ever, all roads leading to the memorial were closed until 10 this morning, with the only possibility that of a virtual pilgrimage.

From 8 am yesterday morning, anyone who wanted to participate even with a sign, could send a text message, even from abroad. The names of the people who sent the text message were projected onto the 12 columns of the mausoleum which represent the 12 provinces of western Armenia.

For all Armenians this region was occupied by the Turks who in 1915 perpetrated the most horrible crime against humanity. They then took possession of the goods, the monasteries, destroyed precious secular manuscripts, occupied 90 percent of the homeland of the Armenian people.

The genocide not only caused the annihilation of most Armenians in western Armenia, but deprived them of their homeland, also their spiritual and religious heartland, condemning to oblivion irreplaceable treasures not only in material terms, but also in terms of music, language, culture and even the language of some dialects now lost forever.

At 9 o'clock in the evening of April 23, the eve of the commemoration, the bells of all the churches in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh rang in unison for 3 minutes, followed by the turning off of all the lights in the streets and squares of Yerevan and all the provinces of the country. At the same time, the entire population, each at the window of their home, lit candles, smartphone lights, all joining in the minute of collective silence across the country (photo 1).

Meanwhile, on live television and on social media sad melodies and moments of silence were broadcast from the mausoleum. Suffrage masses for the victims in empty churches were streamed via the web.

The first to arrive and lay down a wreath of flowers, praying before the eternal flame in memory of the one and a half million victims, was the Katholicos of all Armenians, Karekine II (photo 2).

He was followed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, accompanied only by his wife. In a speech broadcast live from the mausoleum, the premier recalled "the policy of armenophobia conducted by the Ottomans" in 1915.

"The Armenian people - he added - have not only suffered the loss of a huge number of human lives, but also the forced deportation and cultural genocide ... This crime is not only against our ethnic identity; it is a crime against human civilization".

“We are grateful - said Pashinian - to the countries and peoples who recognized him. But why our feelings do not subside, rather they are more vivid after 105 years? Simply because the consequences of the genocide have not yet been eliminated. To date, Turkey has not asked for forgiveness for what it has done."

The Armenian genocide, the only genocide against Christians, and the first of the last century - called "the century of genocides" by John Paul II - continues to be denied by today's Turkey. A Turkish law penalizes anyone who claims that it ever happened. In a statement two days ago, the Democratic People's Party - in the opposition in Turkey - criticized the Ankara government for failing to address its responsibilities after more than a century, and proposed to name squares and streets in Turkey in honor of the Armenian victims of the genocide.

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