|Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) addressing participants at the ANCA – Africa Action sponsored Darfur vigil.|
WASHINGTON, DC – Armenian Americans from the Greater Washington DC area joined with local student leaders and community activists this week to protest the ongoing Genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) was among speakers at the May 25th White House vigil, organized by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Rep. Pallone thanked attendees for calling attention to the situation in Darfur, Sudan, and went on to draw parallels between Armenian and Darfur genocides. “It’s very reminiscent of what happened in the case of the Armenian Genocide,” stated Rep. Pallone. “There were people that were speaking out that were not listened to. In the case of the Turks, they were out there in the fields, constantly killing people and moving people into the desert. While there were those who were speaking out [about the Armenian Genocide], the Western powers really weren’t doing anything about it. We don’t want to be in that situation again here in the United States.”
Rep. Pallone went on to praise the leadership of fellow New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) in spearheading the Darfur Accountability Act (S.495/H.R. 1424) in the Senate and House. The ANCA has joined with Africa Action and other groups in nationwide ANCA WebFax campaigns calling for the passage of the legislation. ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian updated attendees about the status of each bill and called on activists to urge House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) to work for final adoption of the measure.
During the vigil, representatives of the ANCA, Africa Action, the Armenian Youth Federation, Genocide Education Project, Armenian American activists and supporters gave impassioned remarks about the importance of continued activism to press for decisive action by the Bush Administration to end the violence in Darfur. Among the speakers joining Rep. Pallone and Nahapetian were ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian; Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian; Africa Action Executive Director Salih Booker, Director for Public Education and Mobilization Marie Clarke Brill, and Program Associate Akenji Ndumu; Genocide Education Project Education Director Sara Cohan; Armenian American activist Sylvia Parsons; and AYF member Megan Young.
Hamparian expressed concern about the U.S. Government’s inaction following a September, 2004, statement properly characterizing the killings and rapes in Darfur as “genocide”. “By using the term genocide – and not acting on our legal and moral obligations, our invocation of the term genocide is hollowed of meaning. Our commitment to the Genocide Convention is undermined. Those whose lives it was within our power to save are abandoned,” explained Hamparian.
|Africa Action Executive Director Salih Booker (center) with ANCA Exec. Dir. Aram Hamparian and CFO Chris Hekimian.|
Booker concurred and noted that “President Bush’s senior advisors have been asked, “Is the President still engaged on the issue of genocide in Darfur?” And the Presidential aides, the White House aides have said: yes, the President remains engaged on the subject of genocide, but there are other more important matters requiring his attention. We are here on the lawn of the White House to ask: What is more important than stopping genocide?”
Booker went on to thank the ANCA for providing the leadership for the Vigil, and also for providing leadership “not just today, not just over the weeks, not just being an ally, but providing leadership in this country to get people to understand what the crime of genocide is and why it’s unacceptable anywhere that it occurs on this earth.” The complete texts of Hamparian’s and Booker’s statements are provided below.
The ANCA has participated in previous Darfur vigils, protested outside the Sudanese Embassy, spoken at genocide prevention conferences, and generated support – both at the grassroots level and in Washington, DC – for Congressional legislation aimed at ending the slaughter in the Darfur region.
Up to 400,000 people have already died and more than 2,000,000 dislocated in Darfur over the past two years. Recent reports confirm that the situation on the ground is deteriorating, and the humanitarian crisis is reaching desperate proportions.
For more information about Darfur:
To send a free ANCA WebFax protesting the Darfur Genocide: http://www.anca.org
Remarks by Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), at the May 25th Armenian American White House Vigil to call for decisive U.S. action to help end the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
It has been more than eight months since the President and Secretary of State, in September of last year, concluded that genocide is taking place in Darfur.
Since that time one hundred and ten U.S. Representatives and Thirty-seven Senators have supported legislation calling for U.S. action. Editorial boards across the nation have called for U.S. leadership. A broad-based coalition of civil society groups has demanded action. Among them: the National Council of Churches, Physicians for Human Rights, American Jewish Committee, NAACP, and the United Methodist Church.
We have as a nation, a government and a people clearly defined the situation in Darfur as genocide.
In this sense, we have made a measure of progress from the days of Rwanda, when the Clinton Administration refused to call the systematic destruction of hundreds of thousands by their proper name – “Genocide.”
But in another sense – a profoundly important sense – we have retreated even further from our nation’s commitment to the universal ideals of the Genocide Convention. By using the term genocide – and not acting on our legal and moral obligations:
Our invocation of the term genocide – hollowed of meaning.
Our commitment to the Genocide Convention – undermined.
Those whose lives it was within our power to save – abandoned.
Consider, for a moment, the implications of this failure to act.
The President and the bipartisan majority of Congress; the Secretary of State; a broad cross-section of the media and civil society. They have all raised the alarm of Genocide. Yet nothing meaningful has resulted. Tens and hundreds of thousands have died – and continue to die. Yet it is business as usual at the White House.
Consider, my friends, the implications of this failure to act. Not only for Darfur, but also for America.
We work today to save lives in Darfur – to urge our government to action to end the brutality and suffering.
But we are also working to bring about change here at home. To answer the question: “Who speaks for America?”
Are we satisfied to be represented by those who offer hollow rhetoric in the face of overwhelming evidence of genocide?
Are we satisfied to be represented by those who make excuses for inaction, despite death tolls of staggering dimension?
Are we satisfied to be represented by those who accept genocide denial and the denial of justice for the worst of all crimes?
Or will we do what is needed so that we can live in a nation that – in word and deed – lives up to our commitments to the Genocide Convention?
Will we do what is needed so that our government prioritizes the crystal clear moral imperative of genocide prevention over political considerations?
Will we do what is needed to see that the great power of our nation and the moral standing of our democratic tradition are used to end forever the plague of genocide?
We can, we should, and we must do all that is within our power to demand a government that lives up our ideals, values and interests as Americans – and we can hold no higher ideal, more enduring value, or profound interest than in preventing genocide.
I really want to thank so much the Armenian National Committee of America for providing the leadership for today’s vigil. But also for providing leadership not just today, not just over the weeks, not just being an ally, but providing leadership in this country to get people to understand what the crime of genocide is and why it’s unacceptable anywhere that it occurs on this earth.
As of course you all know, we’re speaking to the White House as well and they might need some reminding, this year marks the 90th year that we commemorate the Armenian genocide, the 60th year that we commemorate the Holocaust, the 11th since the genocide in Rwanda.
Genocide is a unique crime against humanity. It is an attempt to destroy in whole or in part a community of people on the basis of their race, their religion, their ethnicity, or their nationality. It is not just a crime against the targeted group, but a crime against all of humanity. And therefore it is also the responsibility of all of humanity to stop that crime. War crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, perhaps the ultimate crime against humanity, continue to occur in our world in part because those who commit such crimes have rarely been punished. Their culpability for these crimes is often covered up, or denied, or erased from the historical record in order clean up the records not only of those who perpetrated the crime of genocide, but all those states and governments that refused to act to stop genocide.
And so along comes the next criminal regime with genocidal intent occupancied by genocidal actions and it believes that it will easily get away with these crimes. Why? Because as in 1939, Adolf Hitler went to the front to visit his commanders on the night before they launched their assault on Poland. There were over 60 general officers in the meeting, and Hitler told them that he knew that some had qualms about attacking a peaceful neighboring country, some had qualms about his plans to exterminate a people, and some worried about how the world will react. And then Hitler paused and he said, “Who, today, remembers the Armenians?” Adolf Hitler was confident that the world would remain indifferent to the plight of the people that he was planning to exterminate because the Turks had gotten away with the very same. Who remembers the Armenians? We remember the Armenians. We do. And we remember the Jews and the Gypsies and others targeted for slaughter by Hitler. And we remember the Cambodians, and the Bosnians, and the Rwandans.
And we ask ourselves, how do we honor the dead? We honor them by remembering them. And we ask ourselves, how do we honor the dead? And we answer by protecting the living. By protecting those who are struggling right now at this moment to survive a genocide and to stop a genocide.
We are here because this genocide in Darfur is continuing. The Government of Sudan’s genocidal intent and its actions are well documented, as are the consequences, which have been laid out before you already. President Bush’s senior advisors have been asked, “Is the President still engaged on the issue of genocide in Darfur?” And the Presidential aides, the White House aides have said, “Yes, the President remains engaged on the subject of genocide, but there are other more important matters requiring his attention.” We are here on the lawn of the White House to ask: What is more important than stopping genocide?
And so we are here to emphasize that what we are asking is very simple. The first priority has to be to protect the people. To protect the people who are still living, but who are vulnerable to the continuing violence. The US must provide the leadership to give a mandate of protection to an international force that can provide that protection. And such a force can stop the killing, the raping, the destruction of homes. Such a force can provide the security so that millions of people who need humanitarian relief can receive food, water, and shelter that they need for their survival. A protection force can enforce a cease-fire and create a climate where political negotiations can take place. And finally, a protection force can facilitate the return of people to their land to allow them to rebuild their lives and rebuild their homes that have been destroy because otherwise this genocide continues, unless there are those kinds of reparations and rehabilitation.
So I want to thank you for coming out today because we all say now when someone asks, “Who remembers the Armenians?” We all do, and we all remember the people in Darfur who need us to stand with them now and I am so proud that the Armenian-American community is standing so strongly with the people of Darfur, Sudan.
Thank you very much.