Dr. Robert Fisk, the British Friend of the Armenian Cause
Dr. Robert Fisk and Mr. Raphael Grigorian of SOAS
UCL’s Armenian Societies and Armenian Genocide Centenary Commemoration Committee (AGCCC) UK jointly organised an enlightening evening with best-selling author and journalist Dr. Robert Fisk on Monday the 8th of June 2015. The presentation entitled The Armenian Genocide, A Century On, was yet another enlightening lecture organised by the AGCCC as part of the ongoing commemorations of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide in Great Britain.
By Hasmik Harutunyan
The auditorium at the Chemistry department of University College London was packed with students of various nationalities, as well as members of the Armenian and other communities of this cosmopolitan city. The audience had gathered to listen to the award-winning reporter, historian Robert Fisk. Dr. Fisk has witnessed the ongoing wars and civil conflicts in the Middle East that he has shared with millions of readers through his best-selling books on Lebanon at war, the destruction of the cultural heritage in Iraq, the atrocities in Syria and other countries of the region torn apart by wars.
Mr. Rafik Sarkissian of AGCCC
Mr. Vahe Boghosian, the Chair of UCL Armenian Society welcomed the public to this engaging lecture. On behalf of AGCC, the Chair Mr. Rafik Sarkissian summarised the activities of AGCCC in this critical year for the Armenian people across the world. Mr. Sarkissian confirmed that the centenary had mobilized the Armenian government and Armenians around the world in an unprecedented way, and said that the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by 28 countries was an significant achievement. However, there was still huge amount of work to be done so that the rest of the world (including Turkey) recognises the Armenian Genocide.
Mr. Raphael Grigorian, the Chair of SOAS Armenian Society introduced the famous speaker and gave few details about Dr. Robert Fisk’s professional path. Dr. Fisk has been Middle East correspondent for Independent for around thirty years. Dr. Fisk has covered the major conflicts in the Middle East during his career, and has won numerous awards and prizes, including British International Journalist of the Year award for seven times, more than any other journalist in Britain. Based in Beirut since the seventies, he reported on the Lebanese Civil war, Bosnian war, Iran-Iraq war, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other countries torn by civil wars and ethnic conflicts. Fluent in Arabic, Dr. Fisk has deep understanding of the conflicts in the Middle East, and is known for his analysis of the events “from the other side”, unusual for established mainstream journalistic reporting in the West. There is no surprise that Dr. Fisk is so popular among the misrepresented populations in countries across the Middle East.
Dr. Fisk took the stage saying:
“Armenians should be preoccupied not by the centenary commemorations, but think about how they are going to mobilize in the next hundred years to come for the full recognition of the Genocide.”
Dr. Fisk went on telling the audience about his trip to Istanbul on the 24th April 2015 to be with the Armenians living in Turkey, where the Genocide took place. He was impressed and humbled by the unity of the Armenians walking shoulder to shoulder with progressive Turkish people during the march in Istanbul for the victims of the Armenian Genocide Dr. Fisk equally welcomed the representatives of the Turkish community present in the UCL auditorium.
“It is crucial for Armenians to connect with progressive thinking Turkish people: scholars, historians, but also ordinary people, who once saved so many Armenian lives giving them refuge during the Genocide”.
The speaker continued by binging evidential parallels between the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis. Hitler had referred to the Armenian Genocide many times, and as early as in 1928, finding the idea of extermination of the Armenian nation by the Turkish authorities “inspirational” for masterminding the Jewish Holocaust. The historian showed some disturbing photographic evidence of the Armenian deportations in 1915: the march of hundreds of thousands of civilians, women and children towards their death – photographs taken by foreign soldiers and diplomats deployed in Turkey during World War I.
Dr. Fisk articulated clearly his disappointment with the British media and the British government for not recognizing something so strikingly obvious:
Multi-national audience at the Genocide talk in the UCL auditorium
“Armenian Holocaust was organised by the Turkish government that planned and brutally murdered millions of Armenian civilians in 1915”.
The audience followed the lecture with great concentration and emotion, while at the end of his speech; Dr. Fisk answered questions from the public, mainly from the members of the Armenian community. It was pity that there was neither proper debate nor challenging questions from the opponents of the Armenian Genocide in the course of the evening.
It is a long, tough learning process for everyone: for Armenians not to allow the world to disregard the atrocities of the first Holocaust of the 20th century; for the denialists, including the Turkish government, to come to terms and to accept the past.
As for Dr. Robert Fisk, it would be immensely valuable for his support of the Armenian cause, to publish a best-selling book on the Armenian Genocide as well, resuming all primary research, video and photographic materials that he has been collecting for the past twenty years. Such a book would unquestionably persuade more British journalists, historians and politicians to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, as Doctor Fisk has acknowledged after many years of research – being the defender of the oppressed and forgotten minorities trapped in the political spider web of the mighty superpowers.
By Hasmik Harutunyan