ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Hovhannisian gained headlines after staging a strike against Sargsyan.
Raffi Hovhannisian, the most prominent rival of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan for the country’s Feb. 18 presidential elections, has revealed that he is the descendent of Armenians saved during the 1915 events by their non-Christian neighbors.
“My mother’s family comes from Garin [the present-day eastern province of Erzurum], and my father’s family is from Harput [the former name of the eastern province of Elazığ],” Hovhannisian recently told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that he often visited East Anatolia.
“My grandmother Khengeni was saved from the genocide by a Turkish family in Erzurum. My grandfather Kaspar was saved by a Kurdish family in Harput,” he said.
The son of Richard Hovhannisian, a professor in the United States, Raffi Hovhannisian was born in the U.S. and came to Armenia in 1988 to help rescuers after a strong earthquake that hit the country at the time. Two years later, he decided to settle permanently in the country.
Speaking about relations with Turkey, Hovhannisian said ensuring that the 1915 mass killings of Armenians are recognized as “genocide” would be a must if he is elected.
“Turkey, based on its own needs and interests, should recognize the great genocide and national dispossession of the Armenian people, seek full redemption and effect restitution, restore Armenian cultural heritage, ensure a secure right of return,” he said.
Hovhannisian, meanwhile, said Turks who saved Armenians during the mass killings would be commemorated in Yerevan on the centenary of the event in 2015.
Hovhannisian, a former foreign minister and the founder of Armenia’s Heritage Party, gained headlines after staging a hunger strike against Sargsyan two years ago.
“It was a fast for freedom, rule of law, and the supremacy of rights,” he said.