4 August, 2010 New York, NY
Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention of Meaningfulworld
Dr. Ani Kalayjian
Phone: 201 – 941-2266
The July 29th symposium on “Genocide and Torture Prevention: Legal, Mind and Body Perspectives” proved to be a thought provoking and educational conference with various hints of controversy at the end. The response to the invitations for the event were well received as the conference room was at its full capacity, with many late registrants unable to take part, and late comers having to be seated on the floor.
The conference commenced with an insightful overview powerpoint presentation by founder and President of the humanitarian organization the Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention of Meaningful World, affiliated with UN’s Department of Public Information, and celebrated Fordham University psychology professor Dr Ani Kalayjian. Dr Kalayjian began with a powerpoint presentation on the UN conventions on human rights and their relevance to the rights of the individual in the contexts of genocide and torture. Dr Kalayjian followed up with iconic images of various genocides committed around the world, starting with slavery, the plot of the indigenous people of the world, the Genocide of Armenians, Rwandan, Darfurian, Jewish and Sikh genocides and stressed the critical importance that recognition and a willingness to address these atrocities have on the process of reconciliation and forgiveness for the survivors and their families. Dr Kalayjian concluded her presentation with a framework for identifying the effects of genocide on the mind, body and spirit and presented her Seven-Step Biopsychosocial and Eco-Spiritual model that ATOP of Meaningfulworld has applied successfully in 29 regions gripped with the effects of current and past conflicts.
The next speaker was Mr. Hansdeep Singh, graduated from Fordham law school and legal director for the Voices of Freedom NGO. Mr. Singh provided an informative contextual background to the systematic oppression/genocide facing the Sikh communities in India. Mr. Singh outlined the nature of the marginalization of the Sikh community, the outright involvement of the Indian security forces and the unofficial government support or indifference to the challenges facing the Sikhs. An online video was presented at the end of Mr Singh’s lecture.
The final speaker was Martin Harrich of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) who presented a slideshow and lecture to outline the grave humanitarian consequences of Israeli actions in Gaza, including the effects of the strict blockade which has starved Palestinians of essential medical, building, and material goods. Mr Harrich outlined the exchange of fire between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces and made special mention of “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008 when Israel closed off all remaining access to Gaza, took complete control of the flow of goods into Gaza including water and electricity, and continued to devastate Gaza’s shattered economy, not allowing Palestinians to rebuild destroyed buildings due to building material restrictions, and placed an enormous strain on the stretched Palestinian medical services. Finally, Mr Harrich called for the Gaza blockade to be lifted, for Israel to comply to its obligations under international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions, and for both sides to commit to the reality that there is no alternative to the two-State solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security, based on international law and Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338(1973), 1397 (2002), 1515(2003), 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009) and all other relevant United Nations resolutions.
At Mr Harrich’s conclusion, Dr Ani Kalayjian invited questions from the floor, asking the attendees to refrain from political statements and lengthy contextual backgrounds out of consideration for others who would like to ask questions as well. A man who identified himself as a member of the permanent mission of Turkey to the United Nations began refuting Dr Kalayjian’s statements regarding the Armenian Genocide, claiming that the number of Armenians killed had been much lower and that most of the Armenians perished as a result of a relocation process of the Armenian community away from First World War conflict zones, an official version of the events adopted by the current Turkish government. When Dr Kalayjian politely prompted the individual to ask a question if he had one and to refrain from political statements, he immediately became belligerent, accusing Dr Kalayjian of misrepresenting the facts, and acted in a manner that was both unprofessional and aggressive, continuing to yell his challenges to the panel. As Dr Kalayjian attempted to redirect the course of the intimidating exchange, the individual stormed out of the room and slammed the door.
Another man of Turkish origin attempted to refute Dr Kalayjian’s account of the genocide and subsequently left the conference room as well. What followed was an informative exchange of questions and ideas between the panel and the participants in an effort to move towards a better understanding of these painful and deeply impacting events.
Another disruption occurred during Dr Kalayjian’s attempts to conclude the symposium when the individual who had claimed to have been part of the Turkish mission to the UN returned and began demanding to be heard in an aggressive and disrespectful manner. Dr Kalayjian apologised for the time restraints but the conference needed to be concluded, at which point the individual became even more aggressive and Dr Kalayjian had to ask for security, at which point the individual stormed out once again.
Despite the overall success of the conference, the event was marred by the discovery of a threatening and derogatory note, written in Turkish, found near Dr Kalayjian’s seat at the panel. The note in question has been collected and will be submitted to the UN in a formal complaint.
Papers presented at this symposium do not reflect official opinions of cosponsoring organizations; they are solely opinions of presenters. Special gratitude to all cosponsoring organizations: The permanent Mission of the Republic of Armenia to the United Nations, Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention ATOP of Meaningfulworld; Armenian American Society for Studies on Stress & Genocide; Voices for Freedom, and Mr. Harrich Representative of OCHA.