Raffi Sarkissian, founder and chair of the Sara Corning Centre for Genocide Education, presented about the importance of memory and justice and the challenges faced in remembering and commemorating the Armenian Genocide in the face of genocide denial and the passing of the surviving generation.
Sarkissian focused most of the talk on denial both as a catalyst for destruction and a barrier to social transformation in Turkey, “The systematic destruction and appropriation of sites of memory (religious and cultural sites and sites that could have been significant in educating about genocide) by the Turkish Republic, prevented these spaces from becoming sites for education and healing. The unceasing policy of denial has also led many families who saved Armenian lives between 1915-1923, to live in shame and remain silent about their good deeds while the memory of the perpetrators of genocide are celebrated. This assault on memory, realized through various state mechanisms and institutions, has prevented Turkish society to transition to a post-genocide era that could have been based on respect for the human rights of all citizens. Today, the Turkish government chooses to promote hatred and violence toward minorities. We see the most recent example of dehumanization and polarization in Turkey, with the unlawful arrest of eleven MPs representing the Peoples’ Democratic Party, including its co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.”