One hundred and one years ago, 1.5 million Armenians were killed. Armenian sons saw their mothers murdered in front of their eyes. Mothers saw the same of their children, as did brothers, sisters, grandparents, and friends. “If you were in Armenia in 1915, you were a victim of genocide,” speaker, trainer, and author, as well as Forbes contributor Brian Rashid says in a Forbes article he wrote after travelling to Yerevan, Armenia to celebrate – as he puts it – the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
On April 24, 2016, 101 years after the atrocities that wiped 1.5 million lives from the planet, the first annual Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was held in Armenia. On behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity will be granted annually to an individual whose actions have had an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes. The Selection Committee, including George Clooney – who does his best to shed light on vital issues like this – consists of nine professionals who bring a diverse background. Only one of them is Armenian.
“To say this was a world-class event would be an understatement. Everyone was there to celebrate the Aurora Prize,” Rashid says.
Celebrating the three philanthropists – Vartan Gregorian, Dr. Noubar Afeyan, Ruben Vardanyan – who founded the Aurora Prize, as well as presenting the outstanding individuals and the winner of the prize who through their work have had an exceptional impact on vital humanitarian causes, Rashid says that the event was more than a prize, more than a night of celebration.
When asked if there is anything he needs, Rashid says he wanted to answer that Armenians “have done more for me that you will ever know. In the face of a century of the death you experienced, you have shown me how to live?”
“George Clooney shook the winner’s – Marguerite Barankitse – hand as she won the Aurora Prize of $1.1 million. Her life will be forever changed, and she will in turn change the lives of those she lovingly serves,” the author says.
“But for an entire weekend, I was handed something perhaps more valuable than a million dollars.”
“Hope,” Rashid adds. “Because the 1.5 million Armenians that were killed 100 years ago are still alive. They live in the smiles of their beautiful people. The ones we see on the streets. The ones we stand with on the stages. The ones we hold close in our hearts.”
“You (Armenians – editor’s note) have already given me everything I’d ever need. A life of hope, faith and love. So I guess the winner of the Aurora Prize is… you.”
The Armenian Genocide (1915-23) was the deliberate and systematic destruction of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I. It was characterized by massacres, and deportations involving forced marches under conditions designed to lead to the death of the deportees, with the total number of deaths reaching 1.5 million.
The majority of Armenian Diaspora communities were formed by the Genocide survivors.
Present-day Turkey denies the fact of the Armenian Genocide, justifying the atrocities as “deportation to secure Armenians”. Only a few Turkish intellectuals, including Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk and scholar Taner Akcam, speak openly about the necessity to recognize this crime against humanity.
The Armenian Genocide was recognized by Uruguay, Russia, France, Lithuania, the Italian Chamber of Deputies, majority of U.S. states, parliaments of Greece, Cyprus, Argentina, Belgium and Wales, National Council of Switzerland, Chamber of Commons of Canada, Polish Sejm, Vatican, European Parliament and the World Council of Churches.