Chairman of Armenian National Committee of Sao Paulo: “The Armenians have the right to live and create on their historic land”

The cooperation between Brazil and Artsakh, recognition of Artsakh and the Armenian Genocide, the issues of the 25-30,000 Armenians living in Sao Paulo and the activities of the Armenian National Committee of Brazil-these are the topics that Chairman of the ARF-D Armenian National Committee of Sao Paulo and lawyer Kevork Zatikian talked about in an interview with Aparaj.

ARF-D Armenian National Committee of Brazil

The ARF-D Armenian National Committee of Brazil has been around since 1985. Besides pursuing Brazil’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide and disseminating pro-Armenian policies, throughout the years, the Armenian National Committee has also carried out activities in other directions, particularly preservation of the Armenian identity, the formation of youth groups and the establishment of the Armenian Cultural Society and the Armenian Relief Society.

Cooperation and obstacles

Most of Brazil’s political figures accept us very well, starting from the municipality to the Senate and President. The Armenian community of Sao Paulo is known as a community of honorable and hard-working people since we Armenians have always provided assistance and carried out activities for not only Armenians, but also Sao Paulo.

The only problem facing the Armenians in Brazil is the lack of funding. Unlike the Armenians, Turks and Azerbaijanis spend tremendous amounts of money and make our work hard. The Turkish lobby especially gained momentum in the past years when the Armenian National Committee of Brazil started working more actively for recognition of Artsakh’s independence.

Issues of the Armenian community

In terms of structure, the Armenians have no problem in Brazil. Today, the Armenians of Sao Paulo have the St. George Apostolic Church, the St. Gregory the Illuminator Catholic and Evangelical Churches, a square named “Ararat”, a metro station and a bridge. A monument to the victims of the Armenian Genocide is erected at Armenia Square. In 1964, the University of Sao Paulo opened a Chair of Armenian Studies, and the city’s radio station also broadcasts Armenian-language programs and Armenian songs and music. Armenia’s embassy will also open in Brazil soon.

Our key objective is to preserve the Armenian identity. It is much easier to preserve the Armenian identity in a country where there is opposition, but when a country accepts you very well and opens all the doors for you, you become assimilated over time. The Armenian language is forgotten over time. If you start using a couple of words in Portuguese, after a while, you don’t use Armenian at all.

Brazil has not recognized the Armenian Genocide

Although online presses released information stating that Brazil has recognized the Armenian Genocide, we must understand that the law has only been passed by the Senate and has not been approved by the National Assembly and President.

Evidence of the fact that Brazil has not passed a law condemning the Armenian Genocide is the visit of Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Aloysio Nunes (Nunes set forth the law condemning the Armenian Genocide) to Armenia, particularly Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial where Nunes stated that a painful “incident” had taken place. He didn’t say “a genocide” had taken place. If the law was passed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs would state the word “genocide”.

We and Armenia’s Ambassador to Brazil Ashot Galoyan are continuing to work in that direction.

Recognition of the Republic of Artsakh

We are aware of the need for and importance of recognition of Artsakh’s independence. We are continuously working with Brazilian officials. We organize regular visits to Artsakh for them and introduce them to the Artsakh issue, as well as the history, culture and characteristics of Artsakh.

Brazil and Artsakh can establish cooperation in the spheres of education, healthcare and culture. Both Artsakh and Brazil are known for wine production, and I think we can consider this.

Yes, there are hardships, but on this side of the world, we value human rights and understand that, like all nations, the Armenians also have the right to live and create on their historic land.

Interview by Lusine Tevosyan

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