WASHINGTON, DC – A standing room only crowd of legislators, staff and community activists applauded the Capitol Hill screening of “AGHET: A GENOCIDE,” a powerful documentary by German filmmaker Eric Friedler depicting Ottoman Turkey’s annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923 and calling attention to the costs of the current Turkish government’s ongoing international campaign of genocide denial, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Congressional Armenian Genocide Resolution author Adam Schiff (D-CA), who hosted screening, offered poignant opening remarks thanking film Producer Katarina Trebitsch and Friedler for his “tenacity and his wonderful work.” He went on to note that the Turkish Embassy had, in the days leading up to the documentary’s first-time showing on Capitol Hill, sent him a letter objecting to the screening. The California legislator was forceful in his rebuke of foreign pressure to block Congressional discussion of the Armenian Genocide. “Unfortunately for the Turkish Ambassador and his government, the infamous Section 301 of the Turkish penal code, which makes it a crime to insult Turkishness, does not apply here, and we are free to speak the truth and admire the work of others like Mr. Friedler, who have stood up to the threats, the bullying, and the intimidation,” explained Rep. Schiff.
Characterizing ‘Aghet’ as an “important movie,” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) called special attention to its focus on the dispatches of the German government during the Genocide, highlighting the vastly different ways the German government and the Turkish government have dealt with their respective legacies of genocide. “One is the approach taken by the German government, acknowledging the Holocaust and then trying to build on that and trying to make sure that you do not see genocides in the future,” explained Rep. Sherman. “The other extreme we see is the actions of the Turkish government, illustrating that genocide denial is the last step of the genocide, when after trying to extinguish a people you try to extinguish the memory of that terrible act. And it is also the first step in the next genocide, the one thing that links the Armenian Genocide and Turkey on the one hand and the Germany on the other is the fact that Adolf Hitler was famously able to convince his cohorts that they could get away with genocide, for after all the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman Turks, have been able to do so.”
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), in his remarks, noted the critical role of documentaries like “Aghet” in educating Congress about the Armenian Genocide. “I think this is really important because obviously we will continue to fight to get the [Armenian] Genocide resolution passed and this is an important part of that effort,” explained Pallone. He went on to urge continued grassroots efforts to end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s genocide denial. “You are out there endorsing candidates – for President, for Congress, for Senate, whatever it is. That is what is going to make the difference,” concluded Pallone.
The filmmaker, Eric Friedler, with modesty, noted: “I do not know if my film ‘Aghet’ will have any impact on the way the American Congress will deal with the issue of Armenian Genocide in future. It is more than amazing and absolutely unusual that a German documentary might be considered to have any meaning to a political decision-making process. I feel very honored to be invited to Washington and that ‘Aghet’ is seen by members of the Congress.“
The screening was followed by a robust 90-minute panel discussion, sponsored by the Armenian National Committee of America, featuring the director, Eric Friedler, former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, SCREAMERS Director Carla Garapedian, and Vartkes Yeghiayan, Director of the Center for Armenian Remembrance. The discussion was moderated by ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
“Tonight’s Capitol Hill premiere of Aghet offered Members of Congress and their staffs an excellent opportunity to explore the costs and consequences of Turkey’s ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide,” said Hamparian. “We want to say a special thank you to Congressman Schiff for hosting this historic screening and are, of course, deeply appreciative of Eric Friedler’s compelling contribution to America’s civic discourse on this vital subject. We are greatly pleased that Ambassador John Evans, Carla Garapedian, and Vartkes Yeghiayan were able to join in making the panel discussion such a success. We look forward, in the days and weeks ahead, to this powerful film’s ongoing impact on our nation’s progress toward full and formal condemnation of this crime against all humanity.”
Among those attending the screening were the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Armenia, Varuzhan Nersessian, who was joined by a large contingent of Armenian Embassy officials; Robert Avetisyan, the Representative of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic in Washington, DC; Appo Jabarian, Executive Publisher and Managing Editor of USA Armenian Life Magazine, and; Donald Wilson Bush, an eighth generation Woodrow Wilson family descendant. The event may have also served as an educational experience for a group of Turkish Americans serving as interns on Capitol Hill. One of these interns asked a question of the panel, and several others remained at the event, speaking to the panelists and audience members, long after the program had ended.
AGHET: A GENOCIDE is a powerful documentary which debuted on German public television (NDR) in April, 2010, depicting the annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923 and the effects of the Turkish Government’s international campaign of genocide denial on international policy. Award-winning director Eric Friedler assembles an impeccable cast, who bring to life the original texts of German and U.S. diplomatic dispatches and eyewitness accounts, interspersed with never-before-seen footage of the Genocide and its political aftermath. The film, applauded by Nobel Prize laureate Gunter Grass, has sparked debate throughout Europe. It is now being showcased around the world on television, and in major film festivals.
For more information about the film, read an extensive review by Der Spiegel Magazine at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,687449,00.html