Long-delayed, disputed Armenian memorial unveiled in Geneva

Long-delayed, disputed Armenian memorial unveiled in Geneva©FMAC, 2015
Streetlights of Memory dismantled in Venice, during its long search for a home
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A memorial series of street lamps commemorating the 1915-1917 Armenian genocide has been officially unveiled in Geneva. Turkish groups said that the initiative is a mistake.

“Streetlights of memory” was unveiled on Friday in the presence of various members of the Armenian community, including current Armenian ambassador to Switzerland Charles Aznavour, and the artist behind the work Mélik Ohanian.

No representative of the federal administration attended, a fact that could be ascribed to the ongoing diplomatic tensions around the 1915-1917 genocide, for which Turkey continues to deny responsibility.

Speaking to Swiss public broadcaster RTS in the Tremblay park in Geneva, not far from the United Nations European headquarters building, Armenian ambassador Charles Aznavour (a famous French singer, in another life) said that the installation was not just a reminder of past disaster; “it’s a monument that says that this must never happen again”, he said.

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Turkish representative groups, notably the Federation of Turkish Associations in French-speaking Switzerland, called for demonstrations and criticized the authorities’ decision to allow the installation of the 10-metre-high posts.

“We are frustrated because this monument is symbolic of a conflict between communities, which I think is very dangerous,” said Federation president Celâl Bayer. “The city of Geneva has made a big mistake.”

The memorial was first approved by Geneva authorities a decade ago, in 2008, but disputes about location and diplomatic tensions delayed its installation. In the lead up to Friday, right up until the moment of inauguration, the work was surrounded by protective barriers to discourage vandalism.

The Armenian genocide was recognized by the parliament of Geneva in 2001 and by the Swiss federal parliament in 2003.

This article was first published by swissinfo.ch