DENVER—In what has become an annual tradition, initiated by the Armenians of Colorado, gubernatorial and local proclamations and a unanimously adopted General Assembly resolution marked the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in the Centennial State, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
Noting the murder of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 –1923 and the Turkish Government’s continued efforts to “deny and distort the facts of the genocide, honor the perpetrators of that crime against humanity as national heroes, and persecute its citizens who acknowledge or even allude to the Armenian Genocide,” Senate Joint Resolution 10-038 designated April 24th 2010 and every April 24th thereafter as “Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.”
Governor Bill Ritter’s proclamation cites the importance of commemorating past tragedies to teach tolerance in today’s society, stating “the State of Colorado joins the Armenian-American community in its annual observance of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 – 1923 to raise awareness of this unconscionable tragedy so that we may better understand the importance of eliminating hatred in our own communities.” Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s proclamation stresses that “all the world’s people should commemorate the Armenian Genocide and condemn any attempt to deny its historical truth or mischaracterize the episode as anything less than genocide.”
“We commend Governor Ritter, Mayor Hickenlooper, and the Colorado General Assembly for their vigilance in joining with Colorado’s Armenian community – for over 20 years – in honoring the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide and recommitting our collective efforts to end the cycle of genocide,” said ANCA Colorado activist Jirair Christianian. “We look to our Congressional leaders – particularly those who have remained silent on this key human rights issue, to immediately cosponsor the Armenian Genocide Resolutions and work actively for their Senate and House passage.”
Colorado Armenians gathered at the Armenian Genocide memorial at the State Capitol on April 24th to mark the occasion and attended commemorative programs, including an April 17 Arapahoe Community College event featuring remarks by noted attorney Mark Geragos.
Aspen’s Armenian community placed ads in the local “Aspen Daily News” and “The Aspen Times” urging Congress to end Turkey’s gag rule on U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide through passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution (H.Res.252 / S.Res.316). The ads led to a news story in the “Aspen Daily News,” focusing on local activist Stephan Isberian and community efforts to secure U.S. affirmation of this crime.
Colorado Senate and House Candidates Go on the Record on Armenian Genocide Affirmation
Colorado Armenian Americans have made U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide a key factor in their support for Congressional candidates, with Rocky Mountain Hye Advocates (RMHA) lead activists Pamela Barsam Brown and Vi Bashian Cooper leading the charge in circulating candidate questionnaires in the 2008 and 2010 election seasons. An unprecedented 100% of 2008 Congressional candidates elected to office had responded to the state questionnaires – all citing their support for passage of Armenian Genocide legislation. To date, Representatives Diane DeGette (D), Jared Polis (D) and John Salazar (D) have honored their campaign pledge through co-sponsorship of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res. 252). Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) cosponsored the Senate Armenian Genocide Resolution (S.Res.316) in February 2010.
Beginning in November 2009, RMHA initiated its candidate outreach to secure 2010 campaign pledges, with focus on districts where Representatives have not honored their pledge to cosponsor Armenian Genocide legislation. In Districts 4 and 6, where freshmen Representatives Betsy Markey (D) and Michael Coffman (R) have remained silent on Armenian Genocide affirmation efforts, challengers – both Republican (Cory Gardner and Tom Lucero) and Democrat (John Flerlage) – have already pledged to a concrete action of co-sponsorship upon election to Congress.
Special focus has been placed on the 7th Congressional district, where Rep. Ed Perlmutter – after a nine-year record of support for Armenian Genocide legislation – has not yet cosponsored H.Res.252. RMHA investigations have uncovered campaign contributions in excess of $28,000 by American military contractors, identified by the Associated Press and Reuters, as working to undermine congressional support for an Armenian Genocide resolution. Rep. Perlmutter’s Republican challenger, Ryan Frazier, has provided RMHA with his campaign pledge to co-sponsor an Armenian Genocide resolution upon election.
Turning to the Senate, Armenian Genocide Resolution cosponsor Michael Bennett’s Republican and Democratic party challengers – including Andrew Romanoff (D), Jane Norton (R), Tom Weins (R) and Ken Buck (R) – have each pledged support for Armenian Genocide affirmation, highlighting the broad bipartisan support this effort has garnered.
Sen. Mark Udall (D) has broken with Colorado Senate tradition and despite his longstanding House co-sponsorship record on Armenian Genocide legislation and repeated outreach by Armenian American and anti-genocide advocates, refrained from cosponsoring S.Res.316. In an effort to cover-up his broken Genocide affirmation pledge, Sen. Udall issued a statement on April 24, 2010, stating “After the events of 1915, we said ‘never again.’ We haven’t kept faith with those words in the years since — but we must keep faith with them now,” – all the while refraining to properly characterize this crime against humanity as genocide.