WASHINGTON, DC –An overflow crowd of Armenian Americans from across the United States joined with over 35 Members of Congress, Administration officials, foreign diplomats, ethnic community leaders, and a broad array of individuals representing Washington’s foreign policy community on April 17th in commemorating the 87th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on Capitol Hill, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The eighth annual program, organized jointly by the ANCA Eastern Region, Western Region and Washington DC offices and Congressional co-hosts Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and George Allen (R-VA) and Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) was cosponsored by more than 100 Members of Congress (for a complete list of cosponsors, visit the ANCA Website). The event was held in the historic “Gold Room” of the Rayburn House Office Building.
Master of ceremonies, ANCA Western Region Board Member Raffi Hamparian invited Senate and House Members throughout the evening to pledge their commitment to Congressional reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide and to speak about their recent efforts to urge President Bush to honor his campaign pledge to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide as ‘genocide’ in his annual April 24th commemoration. In recent weeks, over 162 U.S. Representatives wrote to the President on this subject.
His Eminence Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern U.S. and Canada and Bishop Manuel Batakian, Apostolic Exarch of Armenian Catholics in Canada and the U.S. gave moving opening and closing prayers setting the mood for the solemn observance. Armenian Genocide survivors from as far away as Weymouth, Massachusetts attended the gathering and were honored by Senators and Representatives alike. Participants included Armenian American activists from across the U.S., who used their time in Washinton DC to meet with their legislators in the days and week prior to the event.
Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States, Arman Kirakossian, in his remarks, noted that, “The ANC is among the most effective and dedicated Armenian-American groups with an impressive grassroots network of committed activists and community members. I value our cooperation and I believe we can do many things for the Armenian people.” An accomplished historian, the Ambassador explained that, “Eighty-seven years have passed since 1915 and today we are fortunate to have an independent Armenia and an active Armenian Diaspora community. Yet the genocide of 1915 has left permanent scars in the mind of our nation. Millions of Armenians found refuge in foreign lands creating strong, prosperous and vibrant communities. In the United States, there are more one million Armenian-Americans and everyone admires the spirit, vitality and strength of their community. When Armenia reclaimed its independence in 1991, we, the citizens of the new republic, resolved to build a free, prosperous and strong Armenia that will never again allow foreign oppressors to perpetrate Genocide against the Armenian people.”
The Republic of Nagorno Karabagh’s Representative to the United States, Vartan Barseghian, stated that, “Only a decade ago the shadow of genocide was hanging over Karabagh again. In response to a legal and peaceful demand by the Nagorno Karabagh legislature to reunite with Armenia, Azerbaijan unleashed a full-scale military offensive. Its sole intent was to put an end to the possibility of this reunification by killing or driving Armenians out of their land. This barbaric response parrots the genocidal actions of Ottoman Turkey.” He closed by noting that, “Karabakh, supported by Armenians around the world, eventually succeeded in preventing a new Armenian genocide.”
Members of Congress and their staffs were provided with detailed information regarding on Armenian Genocide and complementary copies of the recently published book “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” by Samantha Power. This widely acclaimed book examines U.S. foreign policy responses to 20th century genocides, including the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide and the most recent mass slaughter and genocide in Rwanda.
Click below for selected remarks from the speeches offered by Members of Congress at the observance.