LOS ANGELES–More than 150 students from the University of California, Los Angeles rallied at the universities Bradley International Hall Saturday night to protest a visit to the campus by Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA).
Outraged by the congresswoman’s attempts to secretly undermine House Resolution 106, which affirms the United States’ record on the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian Student Association and Armenian Graduate Student Association at UCLA organized the evening’s event. Joining the ASA and AGSA in support of their protest was the Armenian Youth Federation, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Shant Student Association and a number of student activists from the Armenian National Committee. The event also featured speakers from the campus student undergraduate and graduate student governments as well as the Darfur Action Committee.
“While endorsing House Resolution 106, the Congresswoman secretly authored a letter, released publicly on October 3, in which she urged the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to prevent consideration of the legislation,” Arek Santikian a member of the ASA at UCLA said during his speech at the protest. “When confronted by members of her constituency led by the Armenian Youth Federation and the Armenian National Committee, Harman responded by saying that now is not the right time to vote on this resolution.”
On October 10, the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs adopted H.Res.106. Prior to the vote, it was revealed that Congresswoman Harman was secretly urging the committee leadership to avoid considering the resolution, while publicly proclaiming to be supportive of the resolution. In a letter to the committee chairman, Congresswoman Harman suggested that given circumstances in Iraq and Turkey’s role in the region, it was not the right time to consider a resolution regarding the Armenian Genocide–a position often espoused by the Turkish government and its lobbyists to push for an indefinite shelving of the legislation.
“Saying that it is not the right time is an extremely dangerous argument to make,” said Raffi Kassabian, an executive officer of the AGSA at UCLA and one of the organizer of the event. “It gives inconsistent allies like Turkey the political muscle to bully the United States in both the domestic and international arena.”
“Our representatives need to have the courage to do the right thing by voting on this resolution now and not allowing threats to get in the way of upholding American Values and taking a stand against genocide,” remarked Nurit Katz, president of the UCLA Graduate Students Association, as she echoed the concerns of Representative James McGovern’s (D-MA) who, a week after the committee vote voiced concerns that Turkey was threatening and blackmailing the United States into silence on the resolution.
“What Jane Harman has done is a disservice to those who are trying to end to the Genocide in Darfur and we will hold her accountable,” said Karina Garcia, former president of the Darfur Action Committee at UCLA. “We will continue to stand in solidarity with the Armenian community against denial because recognition of the Armenian Genocide is crucial to ending the genocide in Darfur.”
Dozens of high school students from Ferhaian Armenian School also joined the protest. “As students participating in the UCLA Model UN, we spend hours researching, learning and writing about a variety of international issues. We discuss the problems and try and come up with solutions, said Aida Siyahian, a senior at Ferhaian and an ANC activist. “What Jane Harman did runs counter to everything we have learned about sound international policy so we felt that it was our duty to express our utter disappointment with Jane Harman and her actions.”
Earlier in the week, Harman, who was being given an award for exhibiting enhanced international and intercultural understanding in her volunteer and professional endeavors, expressed dissatisfaction when she discovered the UCLA community would be protesting her visit. Unable to persuade the school administration to prevent the demonstration, Harman offered to meet with the leaders of UCLA’s Armenian student community an hour before the event.
However, because none of her statements or actions to date–from previous meetings with other community organizations to statements of hers issued through various press outlets–have indicated that she is prepared to unequivocally support the passage of H.Res. 106, the Student’s declined, replying that they would be happy to meet with the Congresswoman when she is ready to support the passage of H.Res. 106.
Congresswoman Harman has repeatedly referred to a causal relationship between the resolution and mounting tensions in Iraq, read an open letter submitted to the UCLA Daily Bruin by the AGSA and ASA. The letter conveyed concerns over the Congresswoman’s previous statements and explanations for her opposition to the resolution’s passage at this time.
Turkey has always acted in accord with its own interests, the letter continued, referring to Turkish Ambassador to the United States Nabi Sensoy’s recent interview with Wolf Blitzer where he said there was no linkage between H.Res.106 and any current or future tensions between Turkey, the U.S. and Iraq.
“In 2003 when there was no Armenian Genocide Resolution pending in Congress, Turkey prohibited the United States from opening a northern front into Iraq through Turkey, said Babken DerGrigorian, a member of Students for a Democratic Society at UCLA. “Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself said that Turkey’s betrayal was a key factor to coalition losses, heavily damaging our strategic positioning in Iraq and further destabilizing the country.”
“Supporting this resolution is the easiest thing we can do to help put an end to genocide and representative Harman’s going back on her word is bad leadership in this regard,” said Michelle Lyon, the general representative of the Undergraduate Students Association Council (UCLA’s student Government) as she stood in solidarity alongside members of the ASA and AGSA and called for unequivocal support by Harman for the passage of the legislation.
Harman, who has now been confronted by demonstrators on this issue for the third time, continues to maintain her position despite the opposition of many of her constituents and colleagues. Her refusal to support the truth, however, has only invigorated Armenian-American’s and human rights activists throughout California, who are committing themselves to a long-term campaign for “the Education of Jane Harman.”