The two-day international conference on “The Rescue of Armenians in the Middle East, 1915-1923” was organized by the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Foundation. The first day of the conference was hosted by the AGMI; on the second day the conference continued at the Mother See of Holy Etchmadzin.
A welcome speech was delivered by the AGMI Director Harutyun Marutyan, who mainly stressed that “The idea of this conference was born as a result of collaboration between the Museum-Institute and the Armenian Missionary Association of America, and aims to present the fate of the Armenians who were displaced as a result of the Armenian Genocide and to highlight the activities of the Armenian and international organizations and individuals that were involved in the rescue of Armenian refugees, particularly women and children.
Exactly 100 years ago "One Armenian, one gold" movement was launched when thousands of orphans were in captivity and were on the verge of Islamization. The Armenian intellectuals realized that the future of a nation largely depends on these orphans and they must do everything to save them, who would become the citizens of tomorrow’s Armenia.”
Raymond Harutyun Kevorkian, Chairman of the AGMI Foundation Board of Trustees, also welcomed the participants. He first expressed gratitude to the philanthropists who contributed to the improvement of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute within the framework of the events dedicated to the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, in particular, to Syrian-Armenian Gabriel Chemberjian, who had laid a basis for proper organization of various events, and added: “There is no doubt that we have a tremendous amount of work to be done in the future, especially in scientific research. I have to thank the staff of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute for organizing this conference. I wish all of us fruitful working days”.
Zaven Khanjian, Executive Director of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, also welcomed the audience. In his video message, Mr. Khanjian particularly mentioned: “What we live is the irony of history. Here, today, when the opening of the conference is taking place, at the same time in the Syrian sanctuaries we are witnessing the new crimes of the same ruthless executioner for seven long years, and the scarified victims in those we are interested are the descendants of the Genocide survivors themselves. The perpetrator and the criminal have no stop, therefore it is necessary to be awake and expect the evil. Therefore, we must be fully prepared for the work of salvation”.
Welcome speech of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of the Republic of Armenia was delivered by the Minister Advisor Samvel Karabekyan.
Father Asoghik Karapetyan, Director of Museums and Archives of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, delivered a blessing speech.
The two-day conference had five sessions and twenty-two scientific reports.
The first session of the first day was dedicated to patriotic activities during the Armenian Genocide. Dr. Harutyun Marutyan touched upon the questions of interpretation of the term “Salvation.” Independent researcher, Dr. Edward Melkonyan spoke about the AGBU's participation in rescuing orphans after World War I. Prof. Raymond Kevorkian presented a speech about the Araratian and Vaspurakan Orphanages in Jerusalem, viewing them as a model of reconstruction. Dr. Seda Ohanyan, researcher at the Department of Armenian Communities and History of Diaspora, Institute of History of NAS RA, referred to the rescue and orphan-seeking activities of the Armenian organizations in Mesopotamia in 1916-1923. The session was chaired by the AGMI’s Deputy Scientific Director Dr. Edita Gzoyan.
The second panel continued with the discussion of the same issues and was chaired by Prof. Raymond Kevorkian. Dr. Arpine Bablumyan, researcher at the Department of Armenian Cause and History of the Armenian Genocide, Institute of History, touched upon the salvation of Armenians in Harput and Diyarbakir during the Armenian Genocide. The session was followed by the AGMI’s chief archivist, researcher Gohar Khanumyan, who spoke about orphan-seeking works in Van, Erzurum and Bitlis during the Armenian Genocide, and the AGMI Scientific Secretary, Dr. Narine Margaryan, who spoke about the Armenian orphanage in Aleppo in 1915-1924. Director of the Armenian Studies Program in Modern and Classical Languages and Literature at the University of California Prof. Vahram Shemmasian presented on Reverend Pastor Aharon Shirajian and British Friends of Armenia’s shelter for women in Aleppo, while Anna Aleksanyan, PhD Candidate at Clark University's Strassler Center for Genocide and Holocaust Studies, delivered a speech titled “‘Our Wounds’ or some of the issues of the liberation mission.” The session ended with the report of Dr. Antranik Dakessian, Director of the Armenian Diaspora Studies Center at the Haigazian University of Beirut, whose speech was titled “Navigating between quenching dreams, competing postures, and hopes for a new life 1919-1923.”
Each panel was summarized with a question and answer session. On the first day of the conference, the participants also visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial, put flowers at the eternal fire and honored the memory of the innocent martyrs with a minute of silence.
The first day of the conference was marked with the opening of the temporary exhibition at the Armenian Genocide Museum titled “The Rescue of Armenians in the Middle East, 1915-1923: From National Unity to Revival”.
On November 9 the conference continued at “Garegin I” Educational Center at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Father Asoghik Karapetyan welcomed the participants and the guests.
The first of three sessions of the second day was chaired by Dr. Harutyun Marutyan. The session was dedicated to the role of spiritual organizations in saving Armenians. Reports were read by Dr. Gohar Avagyan, head of the Research Department of the National Archives of the Republic of Armenia, titled “Activities of the Fraternal Relief Committee of Holy Etchmiadzin”; Archbishop Shahan Sarkissian, the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, whose report was titled “From Orphanage to Catholicosate: The Establishment of the Catholicosate of Cilicia in Antelias”; Mihran Minasyan, Head of the Department of Memoires, Documents and Press, AGMI, who spoke about the activities of the Aleppo National Prelacy during the Armenian Genocide; Dr. Hilmar Kaiser, researcher at the YSU, who presented the Protestant Relief Activities in the Ottoman 4th Army in 1915-1917. The last presentation was of Dr. Shushan Khachatryan, Head of Documentation and Data Collection Department of Armenian Genocide Victims, AGMI, who delivered a speech on Patriarch of Constantinople Zaven Der Yeghiaian’s activities during the Armenian Genocide.
The next session was chaired by Mr. Mihran Minasian and was dedicated to the role of international organizations in the salvation of Armenian people. Reports were read by Dr. Edita Gzoyan, who studied the role of rescue of Armenian women and children in the context of development of international law; Dr. Roy Knocke, researcher at the Lepsius House-Archive, professor of military history at the University of Potsdam, who presented “A silent film asking for support in the 1920s in the context of the not-so-quiet call for humanitarian aid”; Garo Derounian, an independent Lebanese-Armenian researcher, who spoke about Jacob Kunzler and Dr. Hayk Martirosyan, researcher at the Lepsius House-Archives, whose presentation was about the contribution of German missions to the salvation of Armenians in 1915-1919.
The final session, which was again devoted to patriotic activities during the Armenian Genocide, was chaired by Dr. Narine Margaryan. Dr. Robert Tatoyan, AGMI senior research fellow at the Department of Memoirs, Documents and Press, presented the statistics of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople on the number of orphans of the Armenian Genocide in 1919-1922. Dr. Karen Hayrapetyan from the Institute of History, Department of Armenian Cause and History of the Armenian Genocide, spoke about the issues of Western Armenian refugees in the foreign policy of the Republic of Armenia. Concluding report was delivered by Dr. Tehmine Martoyan, senior research fellow at the Department of Museum Exhibitions Organization, AGMI, whose report was tilted “Vahan Cheraz: Recruitment and Custody of Orphans Surviving the Armenian Genocide in Alexandrapol.”
AGMI Director Dr. Harutyun Marutyan and Scientific Secretary Dr. Narine Margaryan summed up the results and closed the international conference.
On the second day of the conference the participants and guests had a tour in the Mother See, they visited the Cathedral and got acquainted with the displays.
More than two dozen scholars from the Republic of Armenia and abroad (France, Germany, Lebanon, the United States) have delivered reports on the details of the salvation of Armenians who survived the Genocide.
The conference focused on the role played by the Armenian, and partly international organizations, as well as the activities of the Armenian spiritual organizations and national organizations - Armenian General Benevolent Union, Armenian Mesopotamian organizations.
The scholars presented the initiatives undertaken in the provinces of Western Armenia, as well as the activities of individual orphanages. The conference also highlighted the problems that existed during the fulfillment of the mission of salvation. Self-help manifestations, orphanage data, the salvation of Armenian women and children in the context of international law development were discussed, as well as a number of issues related to the topic.
The conference was organized in collaboration with the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, and sponsored by the Armenian Missionary Association of America.
Detailed information and photos of the conference and the exhibition can be found on the AGMI official Facebook page.
You can also search for the following hashtag: #Rescue_Armenians_inME15_23.