ANCA and Genocide Intervention Network Take to Capitol Hill to End the Cycle of Genocide

WASHINGTON–Anti-Genocide advocates from across the United States converged on Capitol Hill on March 22 and 23 to urge Members of Congress to pass Armenian Genocide legislation (H.Res.106/S.Res.106), support targeted Sudan Divestment legislation (S.831) and ensure proper funding for peacekeepers to help stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). More than 100 activists from 25 states participated in the advocacy days, titled "End the Cycle of Genocide: Grassroots Capitol Campaign." The program was organized by the ANCA and the Genocide Intervention Network (GI-Net). By the end of the whirlwind two-day campaign, activists had visited all 100 Senate and 435 House of Representatives offices, meeting with Members of Congress, their staff and dropping off information regarding pending Armenian and Darfur genocide legislation. "I think this [ANCA / GI-Net] partnership is huge in the fact that we are combining the need to recognize past genocides to help stop current genocides," explained GI-Net Executive Director Mark Hannis. "These advocacy days are critical because, as all the experts show, it is political will that is the fundamental issue at failing to prevent and stop genocide. So that is where it is key that we pressure public officials, we meet with them as we have done over the past two days to let them know that they need to recognize past genocides and stop the ones happening right now." The advocacy days began at 8:00am on March 22nd with briefings by the ANCA and Genocide Intervention Network teams on the current status of Armenian Genocide and Darfur Genocide legislation followed by a brief primer on advocacy tactics, helpful for many who had traveled to the nation’s capitol for the first time. The participants, young and old, then split into groups committed to reaching out to every member of the Senate and House, attending meetings set up with the assistance of ANCA regional and local chapters. "This two day visit to Washington, DC could not come at a more critical time," commented Andrew Kzirian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region. "With the support of over 180 cosponsors for H. Res. 106 and the recent introduction of S. Res. 106, activists everywhere must realize that we must demonstrate our grassroots power both locally in our districts across the nation, and nationally in Washington, DC I am extremely pleased to see over 100 anti-genocide advocates here on Capitol Hill working to raise awareness regarding Darfur divestment and the Armenian Genocide," added Kzirian. "The diversity of Grassroots Capitol Campaign participants was most inspiring," explained ANCA Eastern Region Director Karine Birazian. "From former Congressional staff to students raising their voices for the first time in support of this key human rights issue it is clear that the anti-genocide constituency in the United States is growing and becoming increasingly effective." On Thursday evening, participants joined with anti-genocide advocates from the Greater Washington DC area to share their stories at the "End the Cycle of Genocide" Capitol Hill observance. Members of Congress participating in the observance included Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Armenian Genocide Resolution author Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), David Dreier (R-CA), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), John Sarbanes (D-MD), and Jean Schmidt (R-OH). Reps Pallone and Schiff emphasized the importance of holding advocacy days to call attention to anti-genocide legislation. "Grassroots… is really what it is all about," explained Rep. Pallone. "You come down here and you talk to Members of Congress and when you go home you talk to them and other elected officials and other community groups and create this type of coalition. It is crucial for any success in ending the cycle of genocide." Rep. Schiff explained that the assault on the Armenian Genocide resolution is greater this year than ever before. "Throughout the years that I have worked on this here, and Frank [Pallone] long before I got here, there has always been vigorous opposition to the Genocide Resolution. But I have never seen it of this order of magnitude. And the pushback from the Turkish lobby and its allies is extraordinary. And that means that all of you, and all of your friends and family and colleagues have to redouble our efforts not only to win new supporters of the resolution but to make sure that we keep the supporters that we have steadfast. Because they are working not only to prevent the growth of support for the resolution, but to peel people off of it." The anti-genocide advocates focused on Armenian Genocide legislation (S.Res.106/H.Res.106) which reaffirms the US record on the Armenian Genocide and urges the President to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide as "genocide" in his yearly April 24th statement. The House version was introduced this January by Representatives Schiff, George Radanovich (R-CA), Pallone and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) along with Representatives Sherman and Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. This measure currently has 182 cosponsors. The Senate resolution, introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and John Ensign (R-NV) currently has 26 cosponsors. Activists stressed the urgent need for action to stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur. They urged support for the Sudan Divestment Authorization Act (SDAA S.831) in the Senate, also introduced by Sen. Durbin, which authorizes states to divest from companies helping to fund genocide in Darfur, Sudan. In the House, activists called for increased funding for peacekeeping troops stationed in Darfur, in an effort to curb ongoing violence against innocent civilians. Since February, 2003, the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the Janjaweed militia have used rape, displacement, organized starvation and mass murder to kill more than 400,000 and displace 2.5 million, with numbers growing every day. The anti-genocide advocacy team included individuals of all ages from high school students to seasoned veterans of Capitol Hill outreach. Among them were the twenty-students from the New Jersey’s Pascack Valley High School Advanced Placement (AP) Government class, led by teacher Ken Sarajian. All participants called on legislators to take decisive action to properly commemorate past genocides, stop the current genocide in Darfur and recommit the American people and government to preventing genocides in the 21th century.

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