AGBU Hye Geen Hosts an Evening with Sarah Leah Whitson

Sarah Leah Whitson speaks to an audience in Pasadena

Sarah Leah Whitson

Sarah Leah Whitson


PASADENA, Calif.—As the Armenian Nation has been commemorating the Centennial of the Genocide all over the world, Armenians along with other ethnic minorities are still being killed and uprooted from their homes in such countries as Iraq, Syria and Egypt, where they had found shelter for over a century. Democracy is not the accepted form of government in the Middle East and even in the 21st Century, civilization is regressing instead of progressing.

AGBU Hye Geen, as a group of women within the civil society, organized on May 19 an evening with Sarah Leah Whitson, an attorney who is currently the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Middle East and North Africa division.

The event took place at the AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Center in Pasadena and was robustly attended by a public who has for several years been following the conflict in the Middle East with grave concern.

Ms. Whitson explained that “Resistance versus Repression” is ultimately the reason for the struggle in the conflict zone. While opposition against the ruling regimes was the impetus for the conflict in the region, including, Libya, Iraq, Egypt and Syria, the situation evolved into the horror that it is today.

Sarah Leah Whitson speaks to an audience in Pasadena

Sarah Leah Whitson speaks to an audience in Pasadena

Thousands were killed in one day during the uprising in Egypt, the largest Arab Country. There seems to be no accountability, and governments and rebel forces both get away with unimaginable atrocities. In Syria, where the community was repressed by the current regime for decades, various opposition groups came forward. Yet, they have liberated no one, instead they leave cities, towns, and priceless cultural monuments destroyed in their struggle against the regime.

The Invasion of Iraq by the United States military gave rise to an extremist group who had fled from Iraq to Syria. ISIS, who suddenly and exponentially grew in numbers in 2014, now occupies parts of Syria and Iraq and is horrifying the whole world with atrocities and shocking abuses, mainly focused towards the Shiite militia. Passionate and devoted Human Rights Watch members have documented some of these abuses at great personal risks. But the situation is currently just too dangerous.

What is more, as Ms. Whitson explained, the U.S campaign is failing, as the State Department seems to have no clear policy to address the chaos and horror. Even in Saudi Arabia, an ally of the United States, government offenses are abundant. The intense persecution of journalists by the government forces makes documenting everyday abuses very difficult.

The conflict has resulted in millions of homeless and desperate people fleeing from these dangerous areas to refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. What is more, to date the United States has no clear immigration policy pertaining to these refugees. It seems that the conflict created by ISIS will go on for years.

Ms. Whitson was not optimistic regarding the future of the conflict zones, she said it is advisable that the Armenian residents of Aleppo stay out of the conflict zones. She commended the government of the Republic of Armenia for offering shelter to the Armenians from the Middle East and for facilitating their settlement in Armenia.

Ms. Whitson’s presentation was followed by an intense question and answer session and the dialogue continued well into the evening around a hosted wine and cheese table.


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