Grassroots Pressure Building for Congressional Hearings on Evans Firing

WASHINGTON–DC–Tens of thousands of Armenia’s–in the United States and Armenia–have voiced their outrage over the Administration’s firing of US Ambassador to Armenia John Marshall Evans–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

In Armenia–tens of thousands of Armenia’s took part in the "Yellow Ribbon Campaign" to protest the Evans firing and–more broadly–to voice opposition to a number of recent instances in which foreign diplomats stationed in Armenia have denied the Armenian genocide. The campaign–which took place at the Dzidzernagapert Memorial to the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan–started on April 24 with countless thousands of individual Armenia’s each tying a single yellow ribbons on 100-yard lengths of rope stretched along the walking path leading to the Genocide Monument.

In the United States–Armenian American activists have called for Congressional hearings into the Government of Turkey’s role in dismissal of this highly-respected 35 year Foreign Service veteran over his honest and accurate description of the Armenian genocide as a clear case of genocide. The ANCA WebFax system–on the web at www.anca.org–has been used by activists from throughout the United States–including a large number from state and districts represented by Members of committees with oversight responsibility of the State Department.

In their WebFaxes–these concerned citizens have stressed that: "Ambassador Evans is–in effect–being punished for honoring his President’s pledge to properly recognize the Armenian genocide–a promise that George W. Bush made on the campaign trail in February of 2000 but abandoned once in the White House. Ambassador Evans should be praised–not dismissed–for rejecting "gag-rules" imposed by the Turkish Government on the discussion of the Armenian genocide by America’s leaders at home and diplomats abroad."

In demanding hearings on the Evans firing–the WebFaxers note that these inquiries should "include testimony by all the key figures involved–including the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. Among the issues that should be explored is the role of the Turkish Government in exporting its suppression of free speech to the United States and the implications for the future of the Foreign Service if a senior American diplomat’s career has been ended simply for acknowledging the historical record on one of the world’s greatest human rights tragedies."

Commenting on the lack of openness by the Administration in dealing with this matter–the WebFax letters note that–"the Administration has lacked the courage to speak honestly–either to Congress or the American people–about its reasons for firing Ambassador Evans. Hopefully–these hearings will provide the transparency that we–as citizens–have the right to expect of our government."

The firing of Ambassador Evans was the result of his February 2005 statemen’s at Armenian American community functions characterizing the Armenian genocide as a genocide. Following his statemen’s–Ambassador Evans was forced to issue a statement clarifying that his references to the Armenian genocide were his personal views and did not represent a change in US policy. He subsequently issued a correction to this statement–replacing a reference to the genocide with the word "tragedy."

The American Foreign Service Association–which had planned to honor Ambassador Evans with the "Christian A. Herter Award," recognizing creative thinking and intellectual courage within the Foreign Service–reportedly rescinded the award following pressure from the State Department a few days before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Washington–DC to meet with President Bush. Congressional Response:

On the eve of the announcement of Evans’ replacement–sixty Members of Congress–led by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA)–sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking for clarification of the reasons behind Ambassador Evans’ recall. Earlier–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA) had each officially called on Secretary Rice for a clarification of the State Department’s position on this issue. They have yet to receive any response to their inquiries. Media Response:

The Los Angeles Times–in a strongly worded March 22 editorial–made direct reference to Ambassador Evans’ impending dismissal–calling on the Turkish Government and US State Department to end their policies of Armenian genocide denial.

On March 24–the Fresno Bee–published a similarly strong editorial condemning Evans’ firing. The Washington Times–on May 26–ran a story about the "geopolitical firestorm" created by Evans’ remarks. Armenian Youth Response:

At the Armenian Youth Federation Junior Educational Seminar–held in Western Pennsylvania over the Memorial Day weekend–over 400 young Armenian Americans designed–produced–and signed original petitions protesting the Administration’s decision to fire Ambassador Evans for telling the truth about the Armenian genocide.

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