Broad Cross-Section of Community Gathers for Rain-Soaked Demonstration
WASHINGTON—Armenian-Americans from across the Greater Washington area rallied in front of the White House just days before President Obama’s annual April 24 remarks, urging him to honor his pledge to properly characterize the murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish Government as “genocide.”
The protest was organized by the Armenian Youth Federation “Ani” Chapter, in coordination with a coalition of Armenian American groups comprising the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Greater Washington.
“President Obama’s record on genocide – whether it has been his failure to recognize the Armenian Genocide or to put an end to Sudanese President Omer al Bashir’s attacks on the Nuba people and South Kordofan — falls far short of the ‘unstinting resolve’ he pledged as Senator and Presidential candidate to stand up to genocide,” said AYF Ani Chapter President Tevin Polatian. “President Obama has instead resorted to empty rhetoric and worse, in the case of the Armenian Genocide, pressured Armenia to support the Turkey-Armenia Protocols – the latest in the arsenal of Turkey’s tactics to avoid dealing with this dark page in its past.” Polatian continued to note, however, that “It’s not too late. President Obama, on April 24th, has the opportunity to set the record straight — honor the bravery and principles of U.S. diplomats like Henry Morgenthau and John Evans – and describe the murder of 1.5 million Armenians for what it was – Genocide.”
Among the White House protesters was Visalia, California Mayor Amy Shuklian, who marched in memory of her grandmother, Aroosiag, who was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. Shuklian was clear and succinct in her message to President Obama that day: “Recognize the Genocide for what it was, Mr. President – a Genocide.”
At the end of the protest, Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Greater Washington member Jake Bournazian offered a passionate message to President Obama, urging him to honor the founding principles of the United States and become a great president by recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Bournazian detailed the cultural genocide being committed by the Turkish Government today, citing the ongoing destruction of centuries old Armenian Churches, and the need for Turkey to not only recognize the Armenian Genocide but make reparations to the Armenian people. Portions of his remarks are posted on the ANCA Youtube page and the Voice of America Armenia Division (VOA Armenia) page at the following links:
Coverage of the rally is already posted on Yerkir Media with news forthcoming on the H1 and VOA channels.
At the end of the two-hour demonstration, protesters were drenched from the torrential rain, but undeterred in their calls upon President Obama to end Turkey’s gag rule on U.S. affirmation of this crime with a clear and unambiguous statement on April 24th. President Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 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 4 years, the President has not honored his pledge, with his Administration having gone so far as opposing a House resolution affirming the Armenian Genocide in 2010, and later opposing House passage of H.Res. 306, which calls on Turkey to return Christian Churches to their rightful owners, the vast majority of which were confiscated during the Armenian Genocide.
The April 22nd 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 on Tuesday, April 24th, and the annual Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide Observance on April 25th.