Genocide Commemorated During Capitol Hill Reception

*Governor Kean and Professor Simpson receive ANC Freedom Awards for defense of academic integrity in Armenian Genocide scholarship

WATERTOWN–Mass.–Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congressional Armenian Caucus Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) joined with over 30 members of Congress and some 300 Armenian-Americans from throughout the United States at an April 30 Capitol Hill observance marking the 82nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The three hour program–held in the historic Senate Caucus Room–was sponsored by Sen. Reed–Representatives David Bonior (D-Mich.)–Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.)–Martin Meehan (D-Mass.)–George Radanovich and the Armenian National Committee.

The program opened with a moving invocation by Reverend Father Khoren Habeshian of Soorp Khatch Armenian Church. The master of ceremonies for the evening–Armenian National Committee of America Board member Bedros Bandazian–then formally opened the program by introducing ANC-Eastern United States Chairman Dikran Kaligian–who thanked "the members of Congress who have supported us each time we’ve asked for their help to pursue the Genocide as a political issue–the different members of the diplomatic delegations and other individuals in academia who have supported us–including our two ANC Freedom Award winners–and finally each of you in the Armenian community who have made the Armenian Genocide a current issue. You have pursued it with your representatives in Congress–you have pursued it with the members of the media–and you have pursued it in academia – and because of that the Armenian Genocide is a live topic–it’s a very important topic and it is very gratifying to see all of you here to remind the world that the Armenian Genocide cannot be forgotten and justice must be gained for it if there is to be justice in this world."

Bipartisan Group of Legislators Emphasize Importance of Genocide Commemoration

Among the Senators and Representatives who offered their words of remembrance and commemoration of the Armenian Genocide were senators Jack Reed–Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) and James Jeffords (R-Vt.) and Representatives William Delahunt (D-Mass.)–Jon Fox (R-Penn.)–Sue Kelly (R-NY)–Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.)–Joseph Knollenberg–James McGovern (D-Mass.)–Connie Morella (R-Md.)–Richard Neal (D-Mass.)–Frank Pallone–Steve Rothman (D-NJ)–Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)–Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.)–Robert Weygand (D-RI). Many other members attended the program but did not offer formal remarks.

"Parev Paregamner (hello friends)–we are here to commemorate and remember the sufferings of the Armenian people," began the evening’s co-host Senator Jack Reed. In his remarks–he relayed the story of Armenian Genocide Survivor Noyemzar Alexanian who had traveled from Rhode Island to attend the event. "Mrs. Alexanian was only six years old when her village was surrounded by Kurdish cavalry. She lost her father–her mother–her two sisters and her home before she emigrated to Cuba and then to the United States. Her husband–Krikor–is also a refugee from Armenia… It is painful to note what took place then–but it is noble and glorifying to note that despite those horrors the Armenian people could not be broken," explained Senator Reed. Among the other Armenian Genocide Survivors at the Capitol Hill Observance were Ashkhen Shamigian and Berjouhie Shamigian from Maryland and Asdghig Alemian from Massachusetts.

During his remarks–long time supporter of Armenian-American Issues–Rep. Joe Kennedy–noted "If you look at what has happened in the Congress and–even to be perfectly frank–why this Genocide resolution hasn’t passed since I’ve been in the Congress of the United States–it has been because of the continued influence of an Ottoman regime of a bygone era–and ladies and gentlemen–it is time to put history in its proper perspective. Rep. Kennedy emphasized the importance of the Armenian-American community’s continued vigilance in obtaining the proper recognition of the Armenian Genocide. "Understand that it is your individual actions–by coming here to Washington–DC–by coming from places as far away as California and New Jersey and–yes–Watertown Mass.–to come here to Washington to make sure that no one ever forgets the fact that the Genocide took place–the fact that there are causes that we need to stand up for not because of the almighty power of the dollar but because it is simply the right thing to do."

"I continue to shake my head in disbelief that we still–as a government–do not officially recognize that tragedy that took place years ago," stated Massachusetts Democrat James McGovern. "I’m a freshman member of Congress and I’m here to tell you that I will join with others here–Senator Reed; my colleague–Congressman Weygand; and others–to try to correct that tragedy and to pass a bill in this Congress to officially recognize the Genocide."

"America has a special responsibility to pay more attention to the Genocide because this is a country of immigran’s," explained Rep. Knollenberg. "We came to America to make things better by the sweat of our brow. The Armenia’s that came to America came because they were forced. They had to go. But thank God they came to America because they made our communities better. I know they’ve contributed so much to my community."

Pennsylvania Republican Jon Fox discussed the importance of having such an observance on Capitol Hill. "We’re meeting tonight to make sure genocide never happens again. We must remain vigilant. We must work together." Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.) restated her long-standing support for the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. "We’re with you. We’re behind you. It is a genocide that we should always remember because it reminds us of the importance of human rights throughout the world. If people have blinders on and are myopic–this can happen. It is a symbol to all of us so that it does not happen again."

New Jersey freshman Congressman Steve Rothman explained "I am delighted to be a person you can count on to speak the truth and remind the world of this terrible–terrible tragedy and I offer my services to this community to do whatever I can to continue to help in that regard." Rep. Rothman went on to note that as a member of House International Relations Committee "I have offered some thoughts and some amendmen’s to some programs to emphasize the need for justice with regard to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and how its neighbors are treating those very important areas of interest to me."

"The Armenian National Committee always keeps me up to date," explained New York Congresswoman Sue Kelly. "When I call and have a question or ask for help in understanding an issue–the Armenian National Committee is always there–willing and able to help. I applaud all of you." Rep. Peter Visclosky echoed these remarks and added "I come here to thank you for your untiring effort and dedication to human rights–not only for the Armenian people–but for all people who have been oppressed through the centuries and who are oppressed today. It is a privilege to represent you in the United States Congress and to continue to work on issues important to all of us."

Representatives Pallone and Sherman Renew Call for Direct Aid to Nagorno-Karabakh

Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-chairman Frank Pallone and Freshman Member of the House International Relations Committee Brad Sherman emphasized the importance of Armenian Genocide commemoration and renewed their call for direct aid to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. In his opening remarks–Rep. Pallone stated "First of all–I would like to thank the ANC because of all they have done to highlight the Genocide issue… We have to put the US Congress and the US government on record as recognizing the Genocide. That has to be the highest priority. The ANC has always said that this is the highest priority and I just want to commend all of you for continuing that effort because it is so important." Rep. Pallone then stressed that the reasons for continued aid to Armenia and efforts to send aid to Nagorno-Karabakh are "not only that we are proud of the fact that there is an independent Armenian nation and we are proud of the fact that Nagorno-Karabakh has exercised its right to self-determination and I believe it will ultimately be an independent nation as it is de facto or part of Armenia and that everyone will recognize it as such. But we also want to support Armenia and support Karabakh’s self-determination so that we don’t see another Genocide occur."

"When the Turkish government denies its Genocide at the beginning of the century it justifies its blockade at the end of the century. That’s why this isn’t just an ancient–historical exercise," explained Rep. Sherman. He then urged the Armenian American community to support his amendmen’s–presented in the House International Relations Committee the following day–to send direct aid to Karabakh. "You know what we are up against. And so–maybe they will try to defeat this amendment or maybe what they will do is to let the amendment go through and talk about how they are concerned about the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and then in the amendment–right after the word Karabakh–they want to try to insert the words ?region of the Republic of Azerbaijan.’ This is not what the author of this amendment had in mind. We have to make it clear that the purpose of this amendment is to feed the hungry–not to enshrine the State Department’s mistake."

ANC Freedom Award Given to Former NJ Governor Tom Kean and Prof. Christopher Simpson

President of Drew University and former governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean was the first of two ANC Freedom Awards recipients. Kean–a vocal advocate against so-called scholars who continue to deny the Armenian Genocide–last week coordinated a Drew University Conference entitled "The Armenian Genocide: ?Controversy and Academic Responsibility.’" On accepting the award–Kean stated "The first time we had such a memorial–when I was governor–I got letters of complaint–an official protest from the Turkish Embassy–and a call from our own State Department saying you really should not do that–which made me resolve to do it every year–which I then did. It is a crime–or should be–to deny history–to claim that historic events did not occur–to destroy evidence–which has been done in the case of the Genocide–and to pretend that an event of this importance did not happen."

Kean went on to explain–"We have had–in the last 15 years–a genocide in Asia–a genocide in Africa–attempted Genocide in Europe. If we do not understand that fellow human beings can act this way then we will never be able to prevent it in the future. It will occur to somebody else–and what happened to the Armenian people should never happen again happen to any people. And so it is important that we study it–that we understand it. It is important that all the world understands that it happened–understands why it happened–why it was perpetrated–the tragedy of the people against whom it was perpetrated. That is why–as a university president or in any other way that I can–I will try to discover the facts–to learn more about this genocide and to make sure that we know enough about it to prevent it."

The second ANC Freedom Award recipient was American University Professor and Armenian Genocide researcher Christopher Simpson. Prof. Simpson is the author of the award-winning book "The Splendid Blond Beast," which demonstrated how the international failure to address the Armenian Genocide set key legal precedents that have obstructed international responses to other crimes against humanity. In his remarks–Simpson explained "we see the failure of the international community to address the Armenian Genocide driven–in part–by greed–frankly–and particularly by a desire for oil wealth–leading to laying the basis for the non-response to the Holocaust in the next generation."

Simpson added–"non-Armenian Americans have a lot to learn from Armenia’s in terms of its success in organizing–in speaking to Congress–and in getting their message across; and also in standing up to an organized campaign of revisionism–of organized forgetting–of organized distortion of what took place during World War I that is being bankrolled by the Turkish government–at least in part with the cooperation of multinational companies that do business in Turkey… it is an important example to other communities who are facing some of the same types of problems from other parts of the world."

Ambassador Shugarian Thanks US for its Assistance to Genocide Refugees

Armenian Ambassador to the United States–Ruben Shugarian–noted the significance of April 24–stating "This is the day that we say to the world ?never again’ and we say to ourselves the same thing. This is the day that we concentrate with a double effort on our nation-building–on our present day. This is the day that really we thank all the governmen’s of the world–all the countries and among them the United States of course for providing the shelter and home for many Armenia’s who had to leave their country because of the Genocide in 1915."

Ambassador Shugarian went on to note–"Today–the Embassy–the country itself is a living testimony to the fact that we overcame our past that we endured–that we really prevailed in our past and that we are looking to the future." Ambassador Shugarian was joined at the Observance by his wife Lillit and the Embassy’s First Secretary Khoren Terterian.

Broad Array of Organizations Pay Tribute to Victims of Genocide

The Armenian Genocide Observance included a host of representatives from the Clinton Administration including Special Assistant to the President Marilyn DiGiaccobe of the White House Office of Public Liaison–Michael Matera from the National Security Council–Philip Remler from the State Department–Michael Mahdesian from the US Agency for International Development and Aram Kailian from the Government Services Agency–among others. Democratic National Committee Ethnic Coordinating Council Chairman Tom Albert was also present.

Also in attendance were Achilles Paparsenos from the Embassy of Greece–Vassilis Alexandris of the Delian League; Mustafa Al Karadagi of Kurdish Human Rights Watch; Rouben Adalian and Linda Bedeian from the Armenian National Institute and representatives of the Armenian Youth Federation–Armenian Relief Society–Armenian Revolutionary Federation–Hamazkayin Cultural Association–Homenetmen Athletic Union–the Soorp Khatch Armenian Church Board of Trustees and Ladies Guild and the Armenian Assembly. Traditional Armenian music was provided by noted kanoun player Leo Sarkisian.


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