100 years have passed and the history of the 20th century’s first genocide is beginning to weigh heavily.
Every year on 24 April, Armenians the world over commemorate the 1915 Armenian genocide at the hand of the Turks. This year is the 100th anniversary of this tragedy. In order to mark the occasion, the Armenian community of Geneva in close collaboration with the municipality, decided to install a discrete memorial. To be located in the Capital of Peace, this consists of candelabras raising inscriptions in several languages but with no direct reference to the genocide itself. Originally, the Ariana park near the Palais des Nations, seemed the perfect spot, given the UN’s concern for human rights.
For the Turkish delegation, however, the plan has represented an unwelcome thorn in its foot. Having consistently denied the existence of the genocide, Turkey is refusing to tolerate any form of commemoration. As host to the world’s most active location of multilateral governance, Swiss diplomacy is now finding itself in an uncomfortable situation. As part of its formal acknowledgment of the genocide in 2001, the Swiss government authored one of the most beautiful texts ever written about the genocide. Now, however, the Swiss federal Conseil d’Etat has declared itself concerned about protecting the absolute neutrality of international Geneva. As a result, it is reluctant to follow the municipality’s lead. Meanwhile, the memorial – and what it represents – is starting to weigh heavily as Geneva waits to learn whether a worthy spot will be granted for this important memorial to what happened.