New York Times Best Selling Author Peter Balakian Receives ANCA Freedom Award; Canadian Parliamentarian Honored for Spearheading Successful Passage of Genocide Resolution

May 5, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC—A record crowd of over 400 Armenian Americans from throughout the United States joined with forty members of Congress at the historic Cannon Caucus room last week for the 10th annual Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Armenian Genocide Observance on Capitol Hill.

“We would like to thank all the Senators and Representatives and the hundreds of activists who joined us in marking the 89th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on Capitol Hill,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Through our collective vigilance and support for Genocide legislation – here in the Halls of Congress and in our communities across the country – we must work to ensure that we bring an end to this shameful chapter of official U.S. government complicity in Turkey’s worldwide campaign of Genocide denial.”

Master of Ceremonies, ANCA Western Region Executive Director Ardashes Kassakhian, invited Members of Congress to reflect on the solemn occasion, with successive speakers expressing their support for genocide legislation pending in the House and Senate marking the 15th anniversary of the U.S. implementation of the Genocide Convention. H.Res.193 and S.Res.164 specifically cite the Armenian Genocide as well as the Holocaust, and the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, noting the importance of proper recognition of these crimes in order to prevent future genocides. The resolutions have garnered broad bipartisan support with 39 cosponsors in the Senate and 110 cosponsors in the House.

In addition to Congressional speakers, Kassakhian invited remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission, Minister Plenipotentiary of the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia Armen Yedigarian and Nagorno Karabagh Republic Representative in the U.S. Vardan Barseghian. Yedigarian stated, that “as a representative of the Armenian Government, I want to reiterate our commitment to promote a greater international recognition and acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide, which remains on the foreign policy agenda of Armenia. We believe that the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide will serve the dual purpose of exposing the first genocide of the 20th century and better prevention of future genocides.” He went to note that the Armenian Government has established a special commission to coordinate the 90th anniversary Armenian Genocide commemorative activities next year. Barseghian also highlighted the theme of genocide prevention, noting, that “official Baku continues to threaten Nagorno Karabagh with new military aggression. Once again, we urge the U.S. Congress to closely monitor U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan so that it is not used against Armenia and Karabagh, thereby destabilizing the entire region.”

His Eminence Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern U.S., offered a closing prayer, noting “we are here today in the company of survivors and their descendants and many friends in Congress who gather to remember. It is necessary to remember, evil to forget. Remembrance is our only defense against future genocides.” Archbishop Choloyan spoke ardently about Genocide denial “not only by its perpetrators but by our own government in Washington, the same government in whose archives are thousands and thousands of documents that attest to the annihilation of the Armenians. We confess, Lord, that the denial of our government is difficult to comprehend and fills our hearts with ire. Denial is another assault, a second genocide.” Other clergy in attendance at the Observance included Legate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America Vicken Aykazian and Father Khoren Habeshian spiritual leader of the Greater Washington, DC Soorp Khatch Armenian Church.

The April 28th commemoration, organized jointly by the ANCA Washington DC headquarters and the ANCA Eastern and Western Regional offices was co-hosted by over 20 Senators and 110 Members of Congress (complete list available on the ANCA website.) Armenian Americans from nearby Maryland and Virginia were joined by activist delegations from California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Texas for several days of meetings with their Senate and House members leading up to the Observance.

Commenting on the pivotal role of community activists in advancing key Armenian American concerns, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian noted that “we are a grassroots organization that 100% depends on the support, action and activity of every single one of you. Those of us here in Washington merely spend the political capital that each one of you generate in the communities where you live and the communities where you work.”

Attendees also included several key Armenian American officials including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Joe Bogosian, Rolling Hills Estates, CA Councilman Frank Zerunyan, and John Kerry for President Ethnic Outreach Director George Kivork. Representatives of a wide range of Armenian community organizations were present at the Observance including Armenian Assembly Chairman Anthony Barsamian and Executive Director Ross Vartian.

Balakian Honored for Spearheading International Armenian Genocide Education Campaign

Among the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the ANCA Freedom Award to historian, author, and poet Peter Balakian for his tremendous contributions to educating the international community about the Armenian Genocide and the dangers of the Turkish government’s ongoing denial of this crime against humanity. His landmark study of the U.S. humanitarian response to the Armenian Genocide, “The Burning Tigris,” was released on September 30, 2003 and became a New York Times Best-Seller within weeks.

Balakian began his remarks by thanking the ANCA for “all the terrific work that you do week in and week out, year in and year out. Our work together is what makes the difference.” He went on to focus on recent progress in the ongoing fight against genocide denial. “What’s happened in the past few weeks, in the last year. ‘The Boston Globe’ made a policy change on representing the Armenian Genocide. A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times did the same, the Canadian parliament did its affirmation. We see these things happening now at a quicker pace but we are reminded of the fact that this is the result of successful education – of getting deep, rich knowledge out there into the public. I believe it is everybody’s responsibility to take a school in your local community and push our history to the place that it should be.”

Commenting on the U.S. government’s ongoing reluctance to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide as “genocide,” Balakian had these words. “I would also note this, especially given the irony of the U.S. government’s cowardice in the face of the Turkish government’s threats and hysteria over Armenian Genocide acknowledgement. The State Department has one of the most remarkable records on the Armenian Genocide in the archives of the world. American consuls stationed in the Armenian provinces, ordinary American boys who had grown up in peaceful, gay nineties USA, found themselves in the mouth of hell in the summer of 1915 [. . .] They wrote – they wrote brilliant dispatches and reports back to the U.S. State Department and back to their boss Ambassador Henry Morgenthau in Constantinople , who himself was an extraordinary hero in this moment. Those dispatches and letters constitute 3800 documents in the National Archive right here in Washington, DC. Thousands of pages of testimony, they are, indeed, the first ‘witness to genocide’ body of literature in history and they are ours – they are part of American history. We need to bring this huge piece of American history to our legislators, to our government infrastructure in Washington, and educate them about their own history. I believe it will make a difference as we move forward to that acknowledgement, which inevitably needs to take place.”

“It’s time for the United States to say ‘Yes’ to history,” says Canadian Parliamentarian

Lead sponsor of the recently adopted Armenian Genocide resolution in Canada, the Honorable Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral, was a special guest at the Capitol Hill Genocide Observance, receiving praise from Members of Congress and community leaders alike for spearheading the long-fought battle for Genocide recognition in the Canadian parliament. Elected to the House of Commons in 1993 as a member of the Bloc Quebecois, Ms. Dalphond-Guiral had previously been part of several other efforts to cite the Armenian Genocide as a crime against humanity, each succumbing to overwhelming lobby pressure exerted by the Turkish government. Commenting on the decisive 153 to 68 victory of the genocide legislation in the House of Commons, Ms. Dalphond-Guiral stated:

“What happened in the House of Commons on April 21st was an unequivocal victory for values over interests. Without consideration for party differences, parliamentarians on both sides of the House said ‘yes’ to history by recognizing the Armenian Genocide as a crime against humanity; ‘yes’ to our collective responsibility to prevent similar types intended to wipe out communities or groups just because they are different. By making an effort to understand the past, we equip ourselves to prevent the repetition of other genocides.”

“I feel confident that very shortly, Congress will join its neighbor to the north in acknowledging the first genocide of the 20th century. . . . It’s time for the United States to say “yes” to history.”

Forty Senate and House Members joined the Armenian American Community in commemorating the 89th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, including: Senators Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Paul Sarbanes (D-MD); House Genocide Resolution Lead Sponsors George Radanovich (R-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI); Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA); Judiciary Committee Ranking Democrat John Conyers (D-MI); House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Barney Frank (D-MA); House Democratic Caucus Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ); and, Representatives Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Howard Berman (D-CA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Bob Filner (D-CA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), James Langevin (D-RI), Sander Levin (D-MI), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Martin Meehan (D-MA), Edward Royce (R-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Hilda Solis (D-CA), Mark Souder (R-IN), John Tierney (D-MA), Christopher Van Hollen (D-MD), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), and Joe Wilson (R-SC).

Excerpts of remarks by Members of Congress are provided below

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI): We are here on this solemn occasion to say with one voice that the Armenian Genocide is a historical fact and not the myth that some would like us to believe. And this history will haunt us until we here in the United States formally recognize the Armenian Genocide. And I hope that after years of delay this Congress can finally do that. And then it is incumbent upon Turkey that they recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ): I know that the Armenian American community comes to Capitol Hill every April to remind us of a very important message—a message that says “Never Again.” As a matter of fact, I know that you do not take pride in this, but perhaps the Armenian community paid the price that we hope would have taught the world that we cannot stand by as genocide is taking place.

Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD): Your work constitutes a vital contribution towards ensuring that our foreign policy will reflect our nation’s highest ideals and our founding principles. No geostrategic arguments can hide the fact that the best foreign policy, one that will serve our nation best, is one that reflects our highest ideals and founding principles and we should be true to those principles and ideals and recognize as a nation the Armenian Genocide.

Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ): The Armenian Community has made such a contribution to American life and for all of us who believe in an open society and recognizing that if we don’t learn from our mistakes we are destined to repeat them, we must recognize what history tells us with regard to the Armenian Genocide. And we need to use that word and we need to speak out and demand that our political leaders do it.

Frank Pallone (D-NJ): I just want to say that as much as all of us work together—and we work in the Caucus to deal with all the issues that are so important to the Republic of Armenia and also to Nagorno Karabagh—we will never let this issue go. We will demand and will continue to push until the day comes when the U.S. Congress joins the Canadian Parliament in recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Joe Knollenberg (R-MI): As you probably know, going back into the prior Administration and the current Administration, there really hasn’t been that support for Armenia. But every time, if you remember, every single time we have gotten the federal government’s dollar numbers for Armenia, they have always been down and we’ve always had to bring it up. And we aren’t going to stop fighting to bring it back and to ensure there is parity on the military issue.

Adam Schiff (D-CA): We have the votes to pass the Genocide resolution on the House floor, but we have not been able to take up the bill on the House floor and there really only is one reason – and that is fear. Fear of the reaction of the Republic of Turkey. And it is, I think, quite a sorry situation, when the strongest nation on earth fails to recognize the murder of a million-and-a-half people for fear of how any other nation would react. And so we will fight on, we will persevere, and we will recognize the Armenian Genocide.

George Radanovich (R-CA): We must pass legislation that recognizes the Armenian Genocide and calls on the U.S. to learn the lessons of past genocides in order to prevent future ones. In passing this legislation, we also take a stand against those who would, in cold political calculation, deny genocide past or present. We reaffirm the principles taken by U.S. diplomats, religious leaders, and government officials in the years of the genocide and in the years since this tragedy.

Robert Menendez (D-NJ): I want you to know that as a member of the International Relations Committee, as Chairman of the Democratic Caucus we are pledged to having a vote on the floor, pledged to asking the President to use the word ‘genocide’ as it relates to the Armenian Holocaust and we will continue to fight with you until we can achieve that remembrance here in the nation’s capitol.

Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI): The only thing I want to say to the Armenian Community is a heartfelt thank you for helping me get in Congress. And I want you to know that I will continue to advocate for the same thing we all share – the recognition of the truth. And I will not rest until that truth is admitted by everyone, especially those responsible.

Shelley Berkley (D-NV): I am very supportive of bringing the Armenian Genocide resolution to the floor for a vote. It is important that we make that statement. I am very well aware of the economic issues facing Armenia. And, of course, I am not only supportive of providing the necessary foreign aid for Armenia but also to provide normalized trade relations between our two countries.

Raul Grijalva (D-AZ): I think it is time that this country, with a resolution, verify a fact that the genocide did occur, it is not a myth, as the Senator said, and by acknowledging that as a Congress and a nation, we fully acknowledge the presence and the contribution of the Armenian people to this great nation but more importantly, we are historically consistent.

Chris Van Hollen (D-MD): We gather, again, this evening, as we do each year, to mourn the loss of over 1.5 million Armenians who were killed in the Genocide in the end of World War I. And we rededicate ourselves to making sure that that kind of horror, that kind of evil, is never perpetrated again.

Anna Eshoo (D-CA): Let me just say how meaningful it is that Armenian Americans, organized by this distinguished organization – the Armenian National Committee – have traveled from all over the country to the power center of the world – Washington, DC, to the Congress of the United States of America. Why? Because you have come here to take your place—our place—at the public table as contributors to this great nation, to recognize the history of our people and it is a history that the Congress must and should recognize, and it should be a formal part of America’s foreign policy.

Darrell Issa (R-CA): Recognizing that for whatever reason we have delayed it so long, the time is now to recognize the Armenian Genocide. But to go one step further, at a time when Turkey wants to belong to the EU, at a time when Turkey wants to be a close ally to the United States, when we are not essentially bound by opposition to communism, we also have a role as Members of Congress here tonight and the many that have come before in insisting that Turkey recognize and put behind it a tragic part of its own past.

Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ): Genocide is the most reprehensible form of violence, and genocide is what happened to the Armenian people. And it needs to be understood, not simply because we want to pay homage to the elders who survived, not simply because we want to pay respect to the elders who did not survive, but because we want never again for any group of people, least of all our friends in this community, ever again to have to face the threat of genocide. We study history so we can avoid the repeating it.

Bob Filner (D-CA): “Who Cares” people ask me, and I am sure people ask you. Well, if we ignore the Armenian Genocide, then we give a message to the international community “it’s okay.” “It’s okay,” whether it is Rwanda’s Hutu government ten years ago, Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge or Adolph Hitler’s Nazis.

John Conyers (D-MI): Look, I want to see you every year, but it is time that Congress acts. I am tired of being oppressed in the Congress. I want a vote on this measure [H.Res.193]. And if they don’t do it, I want the President of the United States to wake up and realize that we need his support. He’s up for reelection just like me. I’m supporting the Armenian Issue and George Bush ought to be too.

Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX): Your cause is sacred. Your cause is solemn, and there should be no Member who should be ashamed, frightened or inhibited from standing alongside those who cry in the night for ancestors lost in such a horrific way.

John Tierney (D-MA): I thank all of you for all of the work that you do in keeping the Members informed, making sure we are energized on all the issues that are important in coming every year, because with our persistence, as you heard so many others say, we will get this done, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Joseph Crowley (D-NY): It is important for modern day Turkey and the Armenian people to recognize what took place, because unless we recognize what took place, we cannot move forward. Not about the Armenian Genocide but about trade, about strategic cooperation, about energy, about oil, about all of the different issues that are important to the life of Armenia and Turkey as well. Let’s not make this personal, let’s make this about recognition and about moving the process forward.

Mark Souder (R-IN): I want to thank the distinguished Parliamentarian from Canada. They took the lead and passed the genocide resolution and that ought to be a rebuke to us here in the United States that we need to pass it in our Congress as well.

Nita Lowey (D-NY): I am privileged to serve on the Committee that funds foreign aid and I can assure you that although the Administration’s budget had a cut to $62 million for Armenia, we’re going to fight as hard as we can, with your help, to ensure that the numbers are where they should be, because the Armenian community deserves it. It’s important as we commemorate the 89th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide to remember that hatred and intolerance all exist today. And this is why your coming here today, reminding us of the horrors that occurred is absolutely essential to today’s agenda and we shouldn’t forget it.

Ed Royce (R-CA): I just wanted to say a word for the ladies here with the Armenian Relief Society, they should be recognized for the work they’ve done, along with the AYF, there are other groups here along with the ANC that have done so much in recognizing that it is in the United States interest to have close ties with Armenia.

Howard Berman (D-CA): We’re here to honor the memory of the innocent victims. We are also here to reflect on the capacity of human beings, of mankind, to commit such acts of unspeakable horror and it is very important to constantly reflect on that capacity in order to avoid it in the future. And finally, we are here to celebrate the spirit of the Armenian people, who have over and over again faced and overcome adversity in so many different ways.

Rush Holt (D-NJ): It’s really inconceivable that individuals and governments continue to ignore substantial evidence. The international community must deal honestly with this, and of course, for that to happen, we can’t just talk among ourselves. The international community must acknowledge unequivocally the murders, the genocide, and the international community must use their position to reveal the truth and bring attention to the tragedy.

Brad Sherman (D-CA): In every other circumstance, whether it was Athens, whether it was Rome, when each was viewed as the preeminent and sole power, the other nations united against it and brought it down. The only way we will continue to be not just the most powerful nation but able to lead the most powerful alliance is if we base our foreign policy on truth and human rights instead of being misled by the idea of ignoring truth in order to gain some temporary alleged strategic advantage . . .And that is why I have cosponsored H.Res. 193 and every other resolution to recognize the first Genocide of the 20th century.

Sander Levin (D-MI): We have asked Turkey to understand, accept, and announce the reality. We in the United States have been asking that. But we have to understand that as we ask others to stand up and be counted, it is vital that the United States of America, through its government, also stand up and be counted on the Armenian Genocide. And that has not happened and those of us from Congress who are here today are saying to you, we will continue to join hands, we will continue to work, until the United States Government sets the example for the entire world and formally commemorates the Armenian Genocide.

Barney Frank (D-MA): I believe the Turkish government makes a terrible mistake in their own interest if they say that the price of cooperation with them is to deny a great moral wrong has happened. You cannot say that a lie is the price of friendship and expect to get that friendship. And while I believe in a world in which Turkey and America cooperate— certainly in that destabilized Middle East—I seek friendship, but on fair terms.

Scott Garrett (R-NJ): On the economic issues, we cannot be strong at home if we are not strong abroad. Families cannot be strong here or abroad if their economies are not strong. And that is why I am pleased to have supported this past year House legislation with regard to opening up trade agreements with Armenia and I will continue on those efforts in the future.


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
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Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 * Email.anca@anca.org
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