Friday, May 29, 2009

April 24 commemorations

Armenians around the world commemorate the Genocide
by Maria Titizian and Emil Sanamyan
Published: Friday April 24, 2009

Yerevan and Washington - Hundreds of thousands of people, from near and far, today made the solemn journey to Tzitzernaka­berd, the Armenian Genocide memorial here, to lay flowers and pay tribute to the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who were made to waste away in death marches or were killed outright in the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-17.

In Washington, President Barack Obama issued a statement on "the 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire," avoiding the term genocide.

In a reference to his campaign pledges that as president he would recognize the Genocide, Mr. Obama wrote, "I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts."

But, the president argued, "the best way to advance that goal right now is for the Armenian and Turkish people to address the facts of the past as a part of their efforts to move forward."

Reacting to the statement, Ken Hachikian of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) voiced "sharp disappointment with President Obama's failure to honor his solemn pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide."

Ross Vartian of the U.S.-Armenia Public Affairs Committee (USAPAC) said in a statement, "President Obama's first April 24 statement became a lost opportunity to affirm the Armenian Genocide."

On April 22 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) and Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.) along with fellow members of Congress joined hundreds of Armenian Americans and friends for the annual congressional commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.

"It is long past the time for the United States to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide," the Speaker said. "How far we can go with the resolution this year depends on the outreach that each and every one of us can do to win on the floor of the House," she argued.

"We can do any amount of inside maneuvering in the Congress and Washington, but what is important is the outside mobilization to bring to bear the voices of people across America."

Meanwhile, the Turkish government briefly recalled "for consultations" its ambassador to Canada after Canadian officials attended an Armenian Genocide commemorative event.

Ambassadors accredited in Armenia were also at the Genocide memorial. U.S. envoy Amb. Marie Yovanovitch said, "The prayers of all Americans are with the Armenian people at this time, so we are pleased to be able to be here and to be able to pay our respects."

Ukraine's envoy, Ambassador Alexander Bozhko told Armenpress that the Ukrainian people share Armenia's anguish. "An entire civilization was exterminated - a notable part of the Armenian people. I've translated Sasuntsi David; I've translated Vardan Vardanian's novel Komitas; Mushegh Galshoian's novels about Western Armenia; I know what took place in reality," said the ambassador.

Members of Congress mark April 24 with calls for U.S. recognition of Armenian Genocide
by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Thursday April 30, 2009

Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressing the annual congressional commemoration of the Armenian Genocide on April 22, 2009. She called for “mass mobilization” to surmount opposition to the Armenian Genocide resolution but did not pledge to act on the measure now backed by more than 100 members of the House of Representatives. Armenian Reporter

Washington, - As in years past, members of the U.S. Congress marked April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, with speeches, statements, and pledges of support for the congressional resolution on the Genocide.

Among those attending the April 22 congressional commemoration held annually on the Capitol Hill and hosted by co-chairs of the Armenian Caucus Reps. Frank Pallone (D.-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.) were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.), House Majority leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.), Sen. Jack Reed (D.-R.I.) and 20 other members of Congress. (See the Armenian Reporter for April 25 for some of the comments and photos from the commemoration.)

Also this week support for H. Res. 252, affirming the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide, increased to 116 House members. Statements by congressional leaders gave no indication of when the resolution might be considered by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Congressional Record

Additionally, statements for the record were made by Senators Reed and Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.), Reps. Pallone, Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.), Howard Berman (D.-Calif.), Michael Capuano (D.-Mass.), Jim Costa (D.-Calif.), Jerry Costello (D.-Ill.), Scott Garrett (R.-N.J.), Carolyn Maloney (D.-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D.-Mass.), Gary Peters (R.-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D.-Md.), Tim Walz (D.-Minn.), Henry Waxman (D.-Calif.) and Frank Wolf (R.-Va.).

Last year, Sen. Boxer was the only member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote against the Bush administration's nominee for ambassador to Armenia; she took exception to the administration's policy on the Armenian Genocide issue. In her April 24 statement, the senator expressed support for recent talks between Armenia and Turkey, expressing hope that "this process will lead the Turkish Government to finally acknowledge the irrefutable truth of the Armenian genocide and also to greater peace and prosperity for the people of Armenia."

Referring to President Barack Obama's pre-election statements on the Genocide, Sen. Boxer stressed, "There is no need for further study or debate because we must never legitimize the views of those who deny the very worst of crimes against humanity."

Sen. Reed in his statement underscored the need "for our own country to recognize the Armenian genocide." He concluded the statement in Armenian "Menk panav chenk mornar - We will never forget."

Rep. Pallone expressed hope that "the U.S. Government can stand behind our statements and our promises" on the Armenian Genocide.

"If we are going to live up to the standards we set for ourselves and continue to lead the world in affirming human rights everywhere, we need to stand up and recognize the Armenian Genocide," Rep. Pallone said. "To not do so sends a message that we are complicit in Turkey's denial."

In a statement on April 22, Rep. Costa - who represents Fresno and San Joaquin Valley - recalled, "Year after year, we have seen the same standard letter from the White House which offers sympathy and apology for the ‘mass killings,' yet refused to label these events as genocide."

Rep. Costa added, "I am hopeful Madam Speaker, we finally escape from being under Turkey's thumb on this issue. It is vital our Nation has a foreign policy that accurately reflects history."

An April 28 statement by Rep. Wolf - a veteran Republican from northern Virginia - recalled that Raphael Lemkin's coinage of the word genocide "was driven largely by what happened to the Armenians."

Rep. Wolf said stressed, "there is power in speaking the truth, even about atrocities that occurred nearly a century ago so that other men with evil aims might not be empowered by our silence."

In his turn, Rep. Walz - who represents southern Minnesota - said he remained "committed to the public recognition of the fact of the Armenian genocide," noting that "it is the only way to make sure we are forever vigilant to prevent genocide in the future."

At the April 22 congressional commemoration, Rep. Walz was the only speaker to express his disappointment with President Obama's nonuse of the word genocide during his recent trip to Turkey.

"We hope the day will soon come when it is not just the survivors who honor the dead but also when those whose ancestors perpetrated the horrors acknowledge their terrible responsibility and commemorate as well the memory of genocide's victims," said Rep. Berman in his statement.

Rep. Berman chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to which the House Resolution 252 affirming the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide has been referred since its introduction.

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