‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is the refrain often used to describe the Turkish government’s tactics: denial of the truth and a refusal to address the consequences of the Armenian Genocide in an apparent hope that this issue will go away.
An ever dwindling number of Genocide survivors come to April 24 commemorations and soon – as the centennial of the Genocide approaches – there will only be a handful left.
We can only do so much in trying to change Turkey’s behavior but it is completely up to us – as a community – whether we succeed or fail in building a national museum and memorial to the Armenian Genocide in the capital of the United States.
Today it is not the Turkish government that is holding up this project of national importance. It is Hirair Hovnanian, chairman and chief decision-maker of the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA).
Last January a federal court in Washington ordered that the property designated for the museum revert to the Cafesjian Family Foundation (CFF). CFF has made clear its intention to move ahead with building the museum and memorial with broad community support.
But when AAA leaders finally transferred the properties to CFF, they did so in a way that continues to block forward progress. They have filed an appeal that may take years to conclude. They have left CFF with millions in unpaid taxes and fees.
Most immediately, AAA refuses to vacate one of the buildings that must be demolished to make way for the future memorial and museum.
Prior to the handover of property, AAA moved its office to the building – one of four structures adjacent to the National Bank of Washington building – and now refuses to leave, citing a lease agreement that AAA gave itself.
Last June, CFF asked the court to invalidate the lease. Unfortunately for the project, in a ruling issued on September 12, the judge declined to do so. CFF will now have to appeal that ruling.
None of these legal maneuvers would have been necessary had AAA simply leased another office space. But they insist on staying in the space that should become part of the museum through 2015, effectively blocking any progress until that year!
What purpose can this serve other than delay of the project? An organization that declares genocide affirmation to be its goal stands in the way of genocide affirmation.
Hirair Hovnanian is in effect continuing his personal vendetta at the expense of the Assembly. AAA’s other members must realize that this course is rapidly diminishing the organization’s relevance. We can only conclude that they also fear that Hovnanian’s departure from leadership would leave a gap no one wants to fill.
But this also means additional expenses on litigation, money that could be spent on the project. And this means passage of precious time that undermines hopes of the community and only helps Genocide deniers.
Wheels of justice grind slowly. But justice will be done.
Armenians may not succeed in changing Turkey’s policies in time for the Genocide centennial or before we lose our last survivors.
We can and we must succeed in building a permanent landmark to our people’s experience in the limited time left before 2015.
And you can help by letting Hirair Hovnanian and the Assembly know how you feel by emailing the AAA office at [email protected] or calling 202-393-3434.