BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Armenian-Americans knew that they had scored a major victory for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide when Texas became the 46th State to recognize it. What Armenian-Americans did not realize is that the recognition by Texas had a devastating impact on the Turkish community’s lobbying efforts in that State.
Ferruh Demirmen, Ph.D., revealed in an article in Turkishnews.com the degree of despair he and his fellow Turks suffered in Texas when the State House recognized the Armenian Genocide on May 19, 2017. It is not very often that we come across a Turkish lobbyist who acknowledges total defeat at the hands of the Armenian community.
Demirmen starts by blaming his fellow Turks for “years of Turkish apathy and passivity, combined with Armenian aggressiveness and Western prejudice” for the passage of the resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. He also credits the activism by the Armenian National Committee of America, Western Region (ANCA-WR), for arranging “tours involving Armenian activists at town-hall meetings,” visiting “State elected officials individually,” and establishing ANCA-WR chapters in “Dallas, Austin and Houston.”
The Turkish activist also credits the success of the genocide resolution to the support of “State Representative Scott Sanford, who is also the Executive Pastor of a Baptist church in Texas.” Having done an incredible amount of research for his article, Demirmen recalls that “at a gala organized by ANCA-Dallas in April 2016, Representative Sanford was awarded ‘Advocate for Justice Award’ for his ‘strong dedication to raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide.’ ” At the gala, a letter from Republican Senator Ted Cruz was read recognizing the Armenian Genocide, according to Demirmen.
On January 26, 2017, Representative Sanford introduced Texas House Resolution HR-191 to recognize the Armenian Genocide. The Resolution was first presented to the Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee (TIAC) which called for a public hearing at the State Capitol in Austin on April 24. Demirmen regrets that the Texas legislature chose “April 24 for the public hearing, a date considered symbolic for Armenian allegations, [which] was the first sign that TIAC was pro-Armenian in its outlook.”
Demirmen is unhappy that “the hearing was closely coordinated with ANCA-WR and Rep. Sanford, and while the Armenian side had long known about the hearing, the Turkish side knew of the meeting less than a week in advance.” As a result, only six Turks attended the hearing (five from Houston and one from Dallas), while “a large crowd from the Armenian side was present. Also present [at TIAC] as an ‘observer’ was Rep. Sanford.” Demirmen expresses his regret that only four Turks, including himself, testified in committee, whereas 21 Armenians had testified. “The Armenian side ended up having five times more chances to present its case than the Turkish side. Thus the Armenian side dominated not only in terms of ‘presence’ in the hearing, but also in the testimonies given,” Demirmen admitted. “Among those who testified for the Armenian side were representatives from the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, and Houston’s Holocaust Museum,” Demirmen reported. In addition, “hundreds of letters were emailed to state legislators. Many more phone calls were made by the Armenian community.”
Among the objections raised by Turks who testified against the Resolution, were: 1) the “impropriety of Texas legislators to intervene in matters affecting U.S. foreign policy, 2) the damage the bill could do to trade relations between Texas and Turkey, 3) the divisive aspect of the resolution, and not the least, 4) the fact that the resolution is defamatory toward Texas residents of Turkish heritage,” Demirmen complained.
None of these objections made an impact on the TIAC members who approved the Resolution unanimously on April 24. The Texas House took up the Resolution on May 19 approving it with 137 yes votes (eight members were absent and five abstained).
In utter despair, Demirmen describes the outcome as “a feat masterminded by ANCA-WR and endorsed by the Texas House of Representatives. While the resolution has no legal force, for all practical purposes, and for the public at large, it was a declaration finding Ottoman Turks guilty of a heinous crime.”
Demirmen acknowledges that “the Turkish response, at least at the grassroots level, to HR-191, was feeble. … Turks are no match to Armenians on activism on the ‘genocide’ issue…. The Turkish side has only itself to blame for its lethargy and passivity.”
The Turkish activist concludes his article by blaming the ATA-Houston (American Turkish Association) for not bothering to oppose HR-191. He calls the group, “the happy-hour-conscious association, founded in 1979, was not interested in the Armenian issue….”
Even though Demirmen blames Texas Turks for their inactivity, there is actually only one reason why the Resolution was adopted: Because it tells the truth! The State of Texas finally acknowledged the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide!