‘We Will Remember not the Words of our Enemies, but the Silence of our Friends’

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‘We Will Remember not the Words of our Enemies, but the Silence of our Friends’

By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

April 20, 2006


As Armenians are commemorating the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide this week, they should keep in mind that 91 years after the fact, a distinguished U.S. diplomat has become its latest victim!

John Evans, the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, fortunately has not lost his life, but has sacrificed his diplomatic career for speaking out on the Armenian Genocide. He is being recalled by the State Department for publicly acknowledging the facts of the Genocide during his tour of the United States last year.

As Martin Luther King said: "At the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." This famous statement aptly describes the regrettable situation Amb. Evans and Armenians find themselves in. The U.S. Ambassador is a true friend of Armenia and Armenians. But, more importantly, he is a defender of the truth. His friends should not remain silent about his predicament.

By speaking out, Armenians would be defending not so much the Ambassador -- who deserves their full support -- but their own cause. They cannot remain silent when the State Department is indirectly trying to bury the truth about the Armenian Genocide. A noble messenger is being eliminated in order to silence his message!

The upcoming commemorative events of the Armenian Genocide are the perfect opportunity for Armenians to raise their voices in defense of the acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide, in solidarity with Amb. Evans. As Armenians gather in various cities throughout the world during the week of April 24, the keynote speakers at commemorative events in every city should condemn the shameful action of the State Department against one of its finest diplomats! They should urge their audiences to write to the State Department expressing their outrage about its inexcusable treatment of Amb. Evans.

A group of Armenian Americans and their friends in Yerevan are launching this week a "Yellow Ribbon" campaign in order to shatter the wall of silence surrounding this affair. As more than a million Armenians will be marching in a solemn procession to the Genocide Memorial Monument in Yerevan on April 24, volunteers will be asking each individual to tie a yellow ribbon on a rope along the path leading toward the Monument. The organizers have chosen the “Yellow Ribbon” campaign as a mode of silent and respectful protest that is so familiar to Americans. This activity will be publicized throughout Armenia as well as the Diaspora.

These actions and the ensuing publicity would add to the extensive media coverage in recent weeks of the State Department’s shocking recall of Amb. Evans. As the Los Angeles Times wrote in an editorial published on March 22: "Punishing an ambassador for speaking honestly about a 90-year-old crime befits a cynical, double-dealing monarchy, not the leader of the free world." In a similar harshly worded editorial published on March 24, the Fresno Bee wrote: "Shame on the State Department" for recalling Amb. Evans.

Prominent British journalist Robert Fisk wrote a scathing article in The Independent on April 8. He castigated the State Department for recalling Amb. Evans and took Pres. Bush to task for reneging on his campaign promise of acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. Fisk said that after getting elected, Pres. Bush "caved in, gutlessly calling it [the Armenian Genocide ] a ‘tragedy’ so that he wouldn’t get his fingers burned by that wonderful democratic NATO ally – and would-be EU member – called Turkey."

Despite extensive critical media attention and several letters of inquiry by members of Congress to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the State Department continues to stonewall and remain officially silent on the Evans affair.

If Armenians worldwide react strongly on this occasion, maybe in the future the State Department and the White House would carefully weigh the repercussions of their actions, before contemplating important decisions on Armenian issues. Silence and inaction are not valuable commodities in the pursuit of any cause, let alone a noble one!


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