ANC of San Diego County Welcomes Congressman Hunter’s Agreement to Cosponsor H.Res.106

EL CAJON, Calif.– After learning of Congressman Brian Bilbray’s (R-CA-50) cosponsorship of H. Res. 106 on March 14, 2007, the Armenian National Committee of San Diego County expressed its appreciation to Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA-52) whose office confirmed that the Congressman has agreed to cosponsor H.Res.106, the Armenian Genocide resolution. Rep. Hunter, a 14-term Congressman and Vietnam veteran, is the Ranking Member of the US House Armed Services Committee. He has also declared his candidacy for the 2008 Presidential Elections. On Wednesday, March 21 the ANC of SDC met with Hunter’s legislative aide, Holly Hough in Rep. Hunter’s El Cajon District Office. The meeting was led by ANC of San Diego County Chairman Garo Artinian and included fellow San Diego County ANC advocates and Hunter constituents Boghos and Lena Yerevanian of the San Diego Homenetmen, as well as Ani Lanuza of the San Diego chapter of the Armenian General Benevolent Union and Serop Karoghlanian. The group was joined by Saint John Garabed Pastor Datev Tatoulian, Parish Council Chairman Gary Takessian (AAA), World War II veteran George Katchigian and San Diego County ANC Board Member Edik Esmailian. The ANC of SDC organized the meeting to provide an opportunity for the community to build its relationship with Rep. Hunter’s office and discuss current issues of concern to them. Rep. Hunter enjoys one of the largest concentrations of San Diego County Armenia’s in his district which extends east across the county and up to its northeast corner. Artinian opened the meeting by introducing Hough to the meeting participants and briefly discussing the San Diego Armenian community. He noted that the community had a long-standing relationship with the Congressman and appreciated his past support of issues of concern to them, including previous Armenian Genocide resolutions. Hough was familiar with the resolution and was interested in learning more about the history of the genocide. Artinian referred her to Peter Balakian’s book, "The Burning Tigris", and pointed out that the first international humanitarian aid effort by the United States was in response to the Armenian Genocide. Artinian noted that several US diplomats courageously reported the details of the genocide as it occurred. He also mentioned Congressman Howard Berman’s recent "dear colleague" letter drawing attention to a statement by the International Association of Genocide Scholars in which the association affirmed the Armenian Genocide. As pastor of the local community for many years, Father Tatoulian noted that the Armenian Genocide remains important to subsequent generations of Armenian Americans who are disappointed with US officials who compromise history and justice by remaining silent about the Armenian Genocide. Artinian emphasized that the community expects the United States to be a leader by acknowledging its American history as it relates to the Armenian Genocide and, in doing so, encouraging Turkey to dispel the official policy of denial that clouds its history. Lanuza noted the community’s concern regarding the recent assassination of Hrant Dink. Dink, the editor of the weekly Armenian newspaper AGOS, was killed outside his offices in Istanbul earlier this year. Dink recently faced prosecution under the infamous "Article 301" of the Turkish criminal code for "insulting Turkishness", a blanket law used to silence freedom of expression and dissent in Turkey. The law has been repeatedly used by Turkish prosecutors to charge individuals who diverge from the Turkish government’s policy of Armenian Genocide denial. Members of the group also expressed concern about repeated threats issued by Turkey against the United States and its armed forces in response to H.Res.106. "Thousands of Armenian Americans proudly served and continue to serve this country," noted Artinian. "It is disturbing that Turkey, a supposed ally, continues to bully and threaten the United States and the fundamental values on which it was founded in order to prevent even the discussion of a resolution that honors the victims of, and the American response to, the Armenian Genocide." In the days following the ANC of SDC meeting with Hough in El Cajon, CA, Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) Executive Director Andrew Kzirian visited Rep. Hunter’s office in Washington, D.C. to deliver constituent letters to the Congressman. In the past several months, the ANC of SDC has also organized local district office meetings with Representatives Bilbray, Davis, and Filner who are joined by Representative Issa as co-sponsors of H.Res.106. These activities, in conjunction with both 1) the ANCA’s "End the Cycle of Genocide" advocacy campaign which was organized in collaboration with the Genocide Intervention Network and 2) the ANCA-WR’s POWER Initiative have helped to advance Armenian American concerns in relation to the Armenian Genocide Resolution. "The ANC of San Diego County was delighted to bring together a broad cross-section of the local Armenian community for meetings this past month with Congressmen Bilbray and Hunter," said Artinian. "Their support of H.Res.106 is a testament to the strength of our local ANC advocates’ grassroots efforts as well as that of our affiliates in our regional and national offices."

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