Worldwide Armenian Community Commemoration Events

LOS ANGELES/YEREVAN–On the 89th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide–the worldwide Armenian community–specifically those living in North America–commemorated the tragic events of the Armenian massacres–with victories–and one very hurtful statement by the US president.

The Canadian Parliament last Wednesday ignored long-standing government policy and angered Turkey by formally declaring that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenia’s in 1915. The non-partisan vote was 153 for and 68 against Motion M-380–which reads: "That this House acknowledges the Armenian genocide of 1915 and condemns this act as a crime against humanity."

Idaho became the 33rd US state to recognize the Armenian Genocide last week.

The New York Times lifted its long-standing policy against the use of the term "Armenian Genocide," allowing reporters to freely use the expression ‘Armenian genocide’ instead of the phrases such as–"what Armenia’s call the Armenian Genocide," or "alleged genocide of Armenia’s."

In a statement issued to Armenian Americans marking the 89th anniversary–Democratic Presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry called for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. "I join Armenian Americans and Armenia’s worldwide in mourning the victims of the Armenian Genocide and I call on governmen’s and people everywhere to formally recognize this tragedy. Only by learning from this dark period of history and working to prevent future genocides can we truly honor the memories of those Armenia’s who suffered so unjustly," said a portion of Kerry’s statement.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an Executive Proclamation addressing historical facts of the Genocide–and designating April 24–a "Day of Remembrance for the Armenian Genocide."

It was an interesting introduction to formal events that began with the "Rally Against Denial," on April 23. Over 1,000 people gathered to hear Alternative Radio host David Barsamian–along with a line of speakers and performers. Formal gatherings ended with AYF’s annual protest in front of Turkish Consulate on Saturday afternoon; 5,000–mostly youth–demanded Turkish recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The protest–which has been organized for the last thirty years–attracted all major broadcast and print media. Detailed coverage on both the AYF protest and the Rally against Denial will be provided in tomorrow’s edition.

The community gathered at the Montebello Monument at 1 PM on April 24–in what has traditionally become the principal event to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. A requiem service delivered by the spiritual leaders of all area Armenian denominations opened the program that featured local–state–and elected officials. Among those delivering remarks were US Representatives Adam Schiff and Linda Sanchez–State Senators Richard Alarcon and Charles Poochigian–California Assemblymembers Rudy Bermudez–Dario Frommer and Carol Liu–Zev Yaroslavsky (LA County Board of Supervisors)–Antonio Villairagosa (LA City Council Member)–and many others.

In his remarks–Chairman of the Armenian National Committee-Western Region Board of Directors Raffi Hamparian addressed the United State government’s continuous denial of the Armenian Genocide–saying that this denial has allowed the world to be comfortable in ignoring gross injustices–such as the Rwandan Genocide where 800,000 perished only ten years ago.

Hamparian detailed the efforts of Wisconsin Senator Proxmire–who in the mid 1970s made it his mission to get the US to ratify the 1948 UN convention on genocide–which seeks to not only prevent genocide–but to punish perpetrators.

Proxmire presented over 3,200 speeches in favor of the UN convention on genocide–urging ratification. Hamparian put Proxmire’s efforts into prospective–saying–"3,200 speeches amounts to one speech per day–everyday for ten years…"

Though President Truman’signed the Convention in 1951–the US Senate did not ratify it until 1986. Following the Senate ratification of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide–Congress passed the Proxmire Act to implement the Convention and criminalize genocide under US law.

Hamparian urged those gathered not to simply commemorate the genocide–but become dedicated to eradicating all futures genocides.

"Dedication–character–persistence," said Hamparian–"is what is necessary to defend the world against genocide."

He urged Armenia’s to embody those characters–as the resolute Senator Proxmire had done.

Keynote speaker–National Assembly (NA) of Armenia member and ARF NA faction leader Levon Mkrtchian–characterized April 24 commemorations throughout the decades and addressed among other topics–the pursuit of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Mkrtchian described genocide commemoration until 1965 as days of mourning to regroup and regain strength. "On the one hand–we were persisting under communist rule–while witnessing–on the other hand–the limitless–politically and culturally united territory of the Diaspora–which had been created as a result of our pain."

Mkrtchian described 1965 as a turning point in our history because the world discovered that the population of the Soviet-ruled Armenia–had been able to not only maintain its national identity–but was ready to wage a struggle when hundreds of thousands came out on April 24 demanding justice. With this–the Armenian people confirmed they did not require others to confirm the truth of the genocide.

Mkrtchian also addressed the pursuit of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a part of Armenia’s foreign policy–as it is connected to national security. "Our neighbor is Turkey who continues to blockade Armenia–and attempts to speak to us from a position of power; it places preconditions before establishing the simplest of relations–preconditions that serve to not only trample our individual and national rights–but also our pride."

Mkrtchian described the internal significance for Armenia’s in pursuing international recognition as–"one that ensures collective effort." This pursuit–he said is tactical in nature in reaching our goal–but has become strategic policy. "It is one of those issues that each Armenian–each Armenian organization–regardless of viewpoint–vision–or stance–is united in pursuing." Armenia Commemoration President Robert Kocharian–members of the Armenian government–representatives of political parties–and top clerics from the Armenian Apostolic Church–as well as thousands of Armenia’s from around the world gathered at the Dzidzernagapert Memorial on April 24 to commemorate the 1.5 million Armenian victims of the 1915 genocide in the Ottoman Empire.

Speaking to reporters about worldwide Genocide recognition efforts around the world–President Kocharian said–"Each year is marked with significant progress?We shall be as persistent as ever–and have immense resources to reach our goal."

Kocharian also delivered his message to those present at Dzidzernagapert–declaring–"We as a nation reiterate our determination to achieve full and unequivocal international recognition and condemnation of this crime against humanity." He also stressed–"Unpunished crimes can lead to new similar crimes. The international community has to do everything it can to prevent such a crime from ever happening again in any part of the world."

He concluded his address by saying that Armenia’stands above resentment or revenge and looks to building a peaceful–secure future.

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