Tuesday, 3 March 2015


Cardiff 28/1/2015


This year is highly significant for the Armenian community as it marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide that lasted through to 1923.

The genocide began with the decapitating of a group of Armenian intellectualsor people who held prominent positions at the time, on the 24th of April 1915,  One of those intellectuals who was executed was my ancestor a journalist.

This was followed by a systematic obliteration the Armenians as a race & culture with deportations
and massacres. The result was that over 75% of the Armenians in Anatolia were killed.

At the time Britain was at the forefront of calling for justice for this genocide. However the position has since changed - the current UK position is clear; they do not want to use the word genocide because this and previous governments feel it would jeopardies diplomatic relations.  Turkey is a NATO ally with whom the UK has strong commercial and military ties. However other countries have not adopted this stance; in fact that 22 countries have accepted the Armenian genocide, some of also members of NATO, with no subsequent diplomatic or economic redress with Turkey.

The word Genocide was in fact coined by a Jew, Raphael Lemkin when he considered the tragedy of the Armenians who had no redress in international law.


100 years on and how things have changed.

Neither the UK Government nor the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. They have used a variety of rather flimsy reasons to explain their policy, such as (evidence),. With this approach, they are aligning themselves with the position of Turkey that denies the charge of genocide, despite the overwhelming independent evidence to the contrary.

The UK Government have discouraged ministers to attend commemorative events or church services.

HMD - Position

The Holocaust Memorial Day events that originated in Cardiff and were held at the Temple of Peace not only remembered the Armenians but the Armenians were allowed to actively participate.

Then on January the 27th 2006 there was a sudden change of heart; we were dropped from the remembrance services held at the Millennium Centre

Between 2007 and 2010 the Armenians were sporadically mentioned at annual HMD events, although subsequently no mention has been made.

Requests to HMD in Wales for the 2015 simply to mention the Armenians unfortunately were not accepted.

The original remit for the HMD events was to publicise past atrocities in the hope they would never happen again.

We have now been advised that the HMD have to commemorate atrocities after the Holocaust and not before.  Yet there are well researched published links between the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. This date seems a rather arbitrary cut-off point as the Armenian Genocide is widely (but unofficially)  recognised as the first systematic annihilation of people based on race in the 20th century.

The HMD Trust has said that its duty is to follow the government line. This is a political position to take for an independent trust even though it receives substantial funding from the Tax payer

Legal Opinion by Geoffrey Robertson QC

An in-depth reasoning behind HMD and UK Government stance can best be explained by the Legal Opinion by the eminent human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC which is self explanatory and the conclusion at the end sums up UK position.

The Position of the Welsh Government

The Assembly does not deem the issue of the Armenian Genocide  foreign policy to be within the remit of the devolved government.

This is a very convenient and easy solution to ignoring the Armenian Community in Wales, and
once again we see the goal posts being moved.

Subsequent to the last National Assembly event we wrote a letter written to the First Minister requesting a meeting to discuss the issue. We reiterated that we felt this was a local matter and based on the previous milestones  & historical links and we requested the WAG not to bow to pressure and turn their back on the Armenians in Wales. Unfortunately we have received no response to date.

The local community should not be subject to political offloading of a substantive judicial and moral issue between UK government entities.

This is a local Welsh issue through and through and it is a sorry situation when the Wales government cannot assert itself against the diktat of Westminster.

In conclusion it appears that Cardiff Bay & HMD in Wales are toeing the Westminster and Foreign Office Line.

The overall position is summarized bellow by Armenag Topalian of the Legal Initiative Group.

Please note in the item from Derby News in the following email, that the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust gave instructions to the various regional organisers that the Armenian Genocide should not be mentioned. 

Derby disregarded this to their credit. We were also directly informed by Ruth Barnett, the indefatigable Holocaust survivor, that she too was asked not to mention the Armenians in the Brent commemoration.  Again she ignored this on conscience and integrity grounds.

it is outrageous that an organisations dedicated to stopping the repeat of genocides should give such orders. It is easy to see the hand of the FCO behind all this (and they do fund the HMDT).

As you will also read in the last paragraph, it appears that pressure is being applied to stop a joint Anglican-Armenian Church service at Westminster Abbey.  I expect the FCO will capitulate to representations by the Turkish embassy.

Ive written to my MP, Robert Buckland (now the Solicitor General), that the UK should be represented at the 24 April commemorations in Yerevan by a minister of at least the same seniority as that who attends the Gallipoli event (now moved this year to the same 24 April day).

At a recent press conference our ambassador seems to imply that only the Church of England will be represented.
How insensitive and malleable can a government get?

The Position of the Welsh People

Firstly our deepest thanks to the enormous support we have received in Wales for the recognition
of the Armenian genocide.

Despite all the above we have been so fortunate to have the support from AMs, councilors, clergy from all denominations, academics & individuals who have taken the time to listen and make their own judgments, sometimes against the wishes of their organisations.

We cannot express our gratitude enough in particular to two organisations. The Church In Wales
& The Temple of Peace/WCIA

In particular we must express our undying gratitude to three exceptional Welshmen:
Eilian Williams, Canon Patrick Thomas & Stephen Thomas.

The events that follow are directly attributable to these three individuals.

In 2004 a vote was taken unanimously by Gwynedd Council to recognise the Armenian Genocide.

A plaque to thank Gwynedd was installed in 2014 on the 10th anniversary at Caernarfon Council Offices.

In 2007 the National Assembly graciously donated the land at the Temple of Peace and allowed the word Genocide to be used on the memorial.  The then speaker of the National Assembly conducted the opening ceremony.

We have had over the years two Statement of Opinions where a majority of the Assembly members accepted the Armenian Genocide

We received the full support of the Church In Wales where the Bishops voted unanimously to recognise the 24th April as Armenian Genocide Day and special prayers were written in Welsh & English to be repeated each year henceforth.

There are currently 3 memorials in Wales to the Armenian genocide and soon to be 4.

The memorials are located at:

St Deiniols Hawarden Armenians of Tbilisi gave a Silver Chalice, Silver Bible & Stained Glass window for the help given by Britain at the time of the first genocide in 1896

Caernarfon City Hall Plaque thanking Gwynedd for the unanimous VOTE on the recognition
of the Armenian genocide

The Genocide memorial the first on public ground in Cardiff in the Gardens of the Temple of Peace

Finally soon to be erected a statue in St Davids Cathedral (details at the end)

As you note Wales has had a long history of supporting the Armenians from the first Hamidian genocide of 1894/6 till to day.

As mentioned this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
The last survivor died last year. Therefore it becomes even more important to remember.

Leaving aside what happened 100 years ago the current plight of  Christians in the Middle East is dire. Systematic deportation & killings are reported to include Armenians, and even the Armenian Genocide Memorial at Deir Zor has been desecrated by IS fighters.

It appears that the lessons from history have not been learnt even today. Read the Armenian Massacres by W.E. Gladstone and you could be forgiven you were reading an article relevant to

Lessons from history can never be learnt when there is selective memory and such a consistent denial of the truth.

Forthcoming Events

There are two events that are scheduled to take place in Wales to commemorate the centenary.

The commemorations for this year begin on the 24th April where there will be flower laying & short prayers specifically written by Canon Patrick Thomas & Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian of the Armenian Apostolic Church at the Genocide Memorial at the Temple of Peace.

The main event will take place at the National Assembly where there will be an exhibition on Armenia & Armenian Genocide. There will be prayers and a short speech followed by the lighting of 100 candles

This will be followed by the main event for the day, the book launch on the Armenian Genocide by Canon Patrick Thomas.

The second event scheduled to take place later in the year (May 2015) will be the Unveiling of the Statue in St. Davids Cathedral Pembrokeshire (artist impression attached)

The wording on this memorial is as follows

In memory of the Armenian victims of 1915

This reflects the forthcoming canonization by the Mother Church in Armenia of all the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Bellow is a short brief with regards the importance of the memorial prepared by Canon Patrick Thomas.

The proposed statue is the gift of the Armenian community in Wales to St Davids Cathedral (as the mother church of Wales) in gratitude for the recognition of April 24th as Armenian Genocide Day by the Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales. 2015 is the centenary of the Armenian Genocide during which approximately a million and half Turkish Armenians died.

The statue is the work of Mariam Torosyan, a Cardiff-based Armenian artist. It portrays the Virgin Mary and the Christ-child (the subject of the icon traditionally placed on the altar of Armenian churches). During the Armenian Genocide the men were separated from their families and killed, while the women and children were sent on death marches towards the Syrian Desert, during which they underwent appalling suffering. The archetypal Mother and Child thus have a particularly appropriate significance as the subject of the memorial. Many Welsh Armenians are descended from the small percentage of women and children who survived the death marches.
The memorial also includes a representation of the Cathedral of Holy Echmiadzin, the focus of Armenian Christianity. This is a reminder both that Armenia was the first officially declared Christian nation (in the year 301), and that both Holy Echmiadzin and St Davids are centres of pilgrimage for their respective peoples (the two were bracketed together by a nineteenth century visitor to Armenia). It also symbolizes the growing friendship and understanding between the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church and the Church in Wales, which have been pioneered by the Dean and Chancellor of St Davids Cathedral.

Deir Zor (sometimes called Deir-Es-Zor, Deir-Es-Zor or Deir-el-Zor) in the Syrian Desert is to Armenians what Auschwitz is to the Jews. Armenians built a memorial church there in memory of the 200,000 or more of their people who perished there during the Genocide. In 2014 the church was deliberately desecrated and destroyed by Islamic militants. One Welsh Armenian rather poignantly remarked to me, That is another reason why we want a memorial to the martyrs of the Genocide in St Davids. We know that it will be kept safe there.

The brief inscription on the memorial will be in three languages: Armenian, Welsh and English.
Canon Chancellor Dr Patrick Thomas

We sincerely hope you will be able to cover these events on the 100 anniversary of the
Armenian genocide.

Yours Truly
John Torosyan
Chairman of the Mission Parish Cardiff
Mobile 0771 279 23094
e mail; john@jagproperties.co.uk

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