Survivor accounts; U.S. diplomatic cables cited as community urges President Obama to honor his Genocide recognition pledge
WASHINGTON—Armenian-Americans from across the Greater Washington, DC area called for an end to U.S. complicity in Turkey’s genocide denial at a White House rally held just days before President Obama’s annual April 24th statement.
The April 21st “Let Your Voice be Heard for Genocide Recognition!” protest was organized by the Armenian Youth Federation “Ani” Chapter, in coordination with a coalition of Armenian American groups comprising the Greater Washington Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee.
“We are all gathered here today to commemorate and bring awareness to what New York Times Best Selling Author of The Sandcastle Girls, Chris Bohjalian aptly called, ‘the slaughter you know next to nothing about,'” began AYF Ani Chapter Chairwoman Narineh Abrahamian. “The United States – President Obama – can play an important role in pressing Turkey to deal honestly with its dark past by speaking truthfully about this crime. Anything less only enables Turkey’s continued genocide denial. Anything less makes the United States complicit in that denial. Anything less sends the dangerous message to other despots that they too can get away with genocide,” continued Abrahamian.
Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian, relayed the hope of the Armenian American community when then candidate Obama pledged to recognize the Armenian Genocide and the disappointment in the face of 5-years of subsequent U.S. kowtowing to Turkish Government threats. “We are going to be the conscience of this great nation,” explained Hamparian. “We are going to put America – if not this April, but eventually – back on the right side on the Armenian Genocide issue and in so doing move American policy back to the right side in dealing with all genocides.”
Throughout the course of the protest, AYF members presented photos and survivor accounts detailed in the iWitness project, the oral and visual documentation of survivors of the Armenian Genocide by Ara Oshagan and Levon Parian. The photos and survivor series has been adapted into a lesson plan for 7th to 12 graders by The Genocide Education Project. After the reading of each survivor account, protesters urged President Obama to honor the lives of these and all survivors and recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Also presented were cables written by U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau and other U.S. Consuls posted throughout the region during course of Genocide, documenting the deportation and murder of the Armenian, Greek and Syriac populations from 1915-1923.
“In Memory of the Millions,” a poem by noted Armenian author Jack Hagopian was presented by spotlighting the strength and endurance of the Armenian people through the Armenian Genocide. Armenian music was poignantly performed on saxophone by Jake Bournazian throughout the rally.
President Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, each, as Senators, consistently and repeatedly recognized the Armenian Genocide, and called on former President George W. Bush to properly recognize this crime. President Obama, in a statement to the Armenian American community in January, 2008, stated “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that President.” Over the past 5 years, the President has not honored his pledge, with his Administration having gone so far as opposing a House Armenian Genocide resolution and legislation calling on Turkey to return Christian Churches to their rightful owners, the vast majority of which were confiscated during the Armenian Genocide.
The April 21st White House demonstration was part of a series of Washington, DC area Armenian Genocide commemorative activities, including a demonstration in front of the Turkish Embassy and the annual Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide Observance, both to be held on April 24th.