Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thousands Protest Obama's Retreat From Pledge at Turkey's Consulate in LA

Community Urges Administration to Correct Policy on Genocide


LOS ANGELES--Over 10,000 people demonstrated at the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles on April 24, demanding an end to Turkey's ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide and voicing sharp disappointment at US President Barack Obama for breaking his campaign pledge to properly recognize the crime against humanity in his address to the Armenian-American community.

The demonstration, organized annually by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), is a symbolic focal point for the community and represents its year-long struggle to gain proper recognition and justice for the deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turkish Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923.

The protest converged with global expectations pertaining to President Obama's numerous campaign pledges to reaffirm the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide. Turkey had repeatedly threatened to retaliate against US interests in Iraq and Afghanistan in response to U.S. recognition of its crime.

This year, the United States had the best chance in a generation to help end the cycle of genocide with President Obama having been a forceful proponent of genocide recognition and prevention. “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that President,” Obama said during his campaign.

“But today, the President broke his promise to bring change to the White House on the issue of Genocide,” said one demonstrator, holding a sign that asked why Obama retreated from his pledge. “The President's failure to accurately characterize the Genocide after having spoken forcefully about ending the Genocide in Darfur will undermine his credibility when speaking about the issue of genocide.”

Many at the demonstration shared this disappointment, angered by the fact that Turkey was again able to coax the United States of America into silence.

Obama's failure to speak truth to power angered many Armenians this year, who had begun their day optimistic that he would rectify the wrongs of previous administrations, according to Avo Shanlian, who served as a monitor at the demonstration.

For decades, the government of Turkey has been engaged in a pro-active, relentless, and shameless campaign to deny the horrors it committed during the Genocide. In the last thirty years, Turkey has redoubled its efforts to erase history, leveraging high-level contacts in the defense industry; enticing support from journalists who propagate Turkey's “importance as a key ally”; and hiring professional lobby firms and such high profile former congressman as Dick Ghephardt, Bob Livingston, and Denis Hastert to bribe US representatives and leaders into staying silent.

“Turkey's threats to retaliate against us for speaking against genocide tells us more about Turkey and its own domestic problems than it does about the Armenian Genocide, which we all know to be an established fact of history,” said Saro Haroun, a spokesperson for the AYF, who spoke to reporters covering the demonstration about Turkey's annual attempts to prevent the US from reaffirming its record on the Genocide.

Another demonstrator, Ileen Izekelian, said America's stand against genocide must be driven by moral values, not political interests. Turkish officials, from the President to the Foreign Minister, had repeatedly warned President Obama to steer clear of the issue or face retaliation by Turkey. Ankara threatened to sabotage US efforts to leave Iraq and break off negotiations with Armenia over the establishment of diplomatic relations and the lifting of its illegal blockade.

Ankara has been using its talks with Yerevan to scuttle international recognition of the Armenian genocide, explained Sarkis Semerjian. “Throughout the entire process, Turkey has been placing preconditions on Armenia, demanding Yerevan drop efforts to recognize the Genocide and agree to establish a historical commission to ostensibly examine the events of 1915-1923.”

Such a commission seeks to question the veracity of the Genocide--a crime widely accepted by historians as a settled and indisputable fact.

Last Friday's protest came two days after the Armenian and Turkish Foreign Ministries issued a joint statement announcing the two governments had agreed on a “roadmap” for normalizing bilateral relations. The cryptic statement is seen as a tacit green light to Obama to not recognize the Genocide, a move most in Armenia and its worldwide diaspora have categorically condemned as a diplomatic blunder.

“Given its past practice and the obvious timing of this agreement just prior to April 24th, Turkey's motive is absolutely clear--to defer, delay, and defeat U.S. recognition of the Genocide,” exclaimed Arek Santikian, another spokesperson of the AYF.

“I am skeptical of Turkey's willingness to sincerely engage in meaningful dialogue. It's hard to believe that Turkey has in any meaningful way altered its longstanding belligerence toward Armenians, which it oppresses within its own country by making it a crime to discuss the Genocide,” he said, expressing disappointment both with Obama and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian. “The release of the statement on the eve of the 94th anniversary of the Genocide and right before Obama was expected to recognize the Genocide is a blow to Armenia, the Armenian people and worldwide efforts to end the genocide in Darfur.”

Many at the event described Obama's April 24 statement as a “retreat” from American values and a setback to the vital change he promised to bring to Washington during his campaign.

Hilton Sorkazian likened the President's handling of the situation with how the Bush administration tiptoed around the issue every April 24. George Bush repeatedly reneged on his campaign pledge to recognize the Genocide. Placating Turkish interests, Bush personally lobbied members of Congress in 2007 to prevent them from passing a resolution reaffirming the US record on the Armenian Genocide.

“Our struggle does not begin or end with one day; it does not being or end with the Turkish Consulate; and it does not begin or end with any statements by Barack Obama,” exclaimed the Chairman of the AYF, Vache Thomassian, in a speech during the protest.

Thomassian honored the memory of Ghazaros Kademian, a Genocide survivor who regularly attended the demonstration until his death earlier this year at the age of 102. “It is for Ghazaros' generation as well as our future generations that we fight [for recognition and prevention].”

"The community's struggle is built on a desire for justice for the lives that were lost, the properties that were taken and the lands that have been occupied," he continued, stressing that Turkey's assertion that Genocide recognition will stifle reconciliation with Armenia is a hoax. "No pathetic attempt to normalize relations between Armenia and Turkey can be sincere without recognizing the Genocide."

Speaking to Asbarez after the protest, Thomassian said the AYF, and the Armenian- American community, now look to Barack Obama to end the semantics by speaking truthfully on the issue by properly condemning and commemorating the crime. “We urge our President to make a speedy and public correction to his Administration's policy on the Armenian Genocide.”

Shunt Jarchafjian, a member of the AYF Central Executive who delivered a speech at the protest in Armenian, told Asbarez he expects Obama to work toward the adoption of the Armenian Genocide Resolution introduced in Congress earlier in March.

“The resolution has over a hundred co-sponsors now and the community should redouble its grassroots efforts to ensure that support for the bi-partisan legislation grows to secure its passage,” he said. "Obama missed yet another opportunity and should now give full support to congressional efforts to recognize the Genocide."


You can express your deep disappointment with President Obama and inform your Senate and House members of your concerns by sending a free ANCA WebMail right now. Sending an ANCA Webmail is easy. Just type in your name, address, and email and click Send Message.Click here to send WebFax

Monday, April 27, 2009

Article Direct Link: http://www.asbarez.com/index.html?showarticle=41912_4/28/2009_1

Monday, April 27, 2009


28.04.2009 00:11 GMT+04:00

On April 24, 2009, Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) Chairman Hirair Hovnanian, sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing profound disappointment that the President had omitted the word Genocide in his commemorative statement on the occasion of the 94th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, AAA reported to PanARMENIAN.Net.

That same afternoon, US Vice-President Joseph Biden, Jr. telephoned Chairman Hovnanian and they exchanged views on the history and status of Armenian-American community efforts to obtain affirmation by the U.S. government of the Armenian Genocide.

The full text of the letter is presented below:

"Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to express the profound disappointment of the Armenian Assembly of America and all Americans of Armenian heritage at the statement you issued marking the 94th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Your use of the phrase Mets Yeghem was an inadequate substitute for Armenian Genocide. It was a regrettable retreat from
the expressed promises you made as a candidate.

Armenians around the world applauded your forthright stance when, on January 2008, you promised, "As President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide." They were further heartened when in October 2008 you stated "I believe that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence."

Both in Turkey and in today's statement, you asserted that your view of history with regard to what happened to the Armenian population in Ottoman Turkey had not changed. Yet you clearly acquiesced to Turkish demands to avoid using the word Genocide. And in so doing, may have taken a step backwards in genocide prevention around the world. In my telephone conversation with Vice-President Biden today, we candidly discussed the history and status of efforts to obtain affirmation by the government of the Armenian Genocide. I request an opportunity to meet with you to review this problem and the concerns of the Armenian community regarding United States relations with Armenia.

As you are aware, the Armenian-American community is actively pursuing the passage of House Resolution 252 reaffirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide. As of today, 107 members of the House of Representatives have signed on as cosponsors of the resolution. We are hopeful that the legislation will reach the floor of the House promptly and that your Administration wd support its enactment.

Mr. President, I am fully aware that issues in the South Caucasus are at a sensitive stage. The governments of Armenia and Turkey are in serious negotiations to restore their bilateral relations. That process is understood to be without preconditions. It must be an effort that is distinct and separate from the issue of the Armenian Genocide.

Clearly, any agreement between Armenia and Turkey will rest on Ankara's willingness to lift its blockade of Armenia and allow the free flow of commerce and travel. Other aspects of the agreement can not be dependent on issues unrelated to the direct relationship between Armenia and Turkey. Specifically, Azerbaijan must not be allowed to hold an agreement hostage to acquiescence of its terms for the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh problem.

I assure you that the Armenian Assembly of America will always support America's values and interests. Our mission is to strive to urge close and enduring friendshp between our nation and the Republic of Armenia. I look forward to hearing from you."

Respectfully, Hirair Hovnanian Chairman, Armenian Assembly of America

Friday, April 24, 2009

Harut Sassounian breaks bad news of Obama not keeping his promise

April 24, 2009, Hollywood, CA - Harut Sassounian, the Publisher of The California Courier addresses mourners with news of President Obama not keeping his promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

As President, I Will Recognize The Armenian Genocide

PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama, Armenians and genocide


— Barack Obama was unequivocal during the campaign: As president, he would recognize the nearly century-old massacre of Armenians in Turkey as genocide.

In breaking that promise Friday, the president did the same diplomatic tiptoeing he criticized the Bush administration for doing.

Like George W. Bush before him, Obama did not want to alienate vital ally Turkey by declaring the slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians to be genocide — especially with Turkey and Armenia now exploring reconciliation.

Instead, he said he had not changed his view from the campaign, even as he declined to state it, and added: "My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts."

In a statement on the anniversary of the start of the killings in 1915 — a day when U.S. presidents typically honor the Armenian victims — Obama said: "Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire."

The statement was less than the full and frank acknowledgment he promised Jan. 19, 2008, when he vowed that as president, "I will recognize the Armenian Genocide," and repeatedly used the word.

An excerpt from that 2008 campaign statement, one of several he released on the subject:

"I also share with Armenian Americans — so many of whom are descended from genocide survivors — a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history. As a U.S. Senator, I have stood with the Armenian American community in calling for Turkey's acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide.

"Two years ago, I criticized the Secretary of State for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, after he properly used the term 'genocide' to describe Turkey's slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with Secretary (Condoleezza) Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy.

"As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide."

Scholars widely consider the events of 1915 to be the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey contends the death toll was inflated and resulted from civil war and unrest, not genocide.

Ken Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, said Obama's statement Friday "represents a retreat from his pledge and a setback to the vital change he promised to bring about in how America confronts the crime of genocide."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Statement of President Barack Obama on Armenian Remembrance Day

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release April 24, 2009

Statement of President Barack Obama on Armenian Remembrance Day

Ninety four years ago, one of the great atrocities of the 20thcentury began. Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The Meds Yeghern must live on in our memories, just as it lives on in the hearts of the Armenian people.

History, unresolved, can be a heavy weight. Just as the terrible events of 1915 remind us of the dark prospect of man’s inhumanity to man, reckoning with the past holds out the powerful promise of reconciliation. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts.

The best way to advance that goal right now is for the Armenian and Turkish people to address the facts of the past as a part of their efforts to move forward. I strongly support efforts by the Turkish and Armenian people to work through this painful history in a way that is honest, open, and constructive. To that end, there has been courageous and important dialogue among Armenians and Turks, and within Turkey itself. I also strongly support the efforts by Turkey and Armenia to normalize their bilateral relations. Under Swiss auspices, the two governments have agreed on a framework and roadmap for normalization. I commend this progress, and urge them to fulfill its promise.

Together, Armenia and Turkey can forge a relationship that is peaceful, productive and prosperous. And together, the Armenian and Turkish people will be stronger as they acknowledge their common history and recognize their common humanity.

Nothing can bring back those who were lost in the Meds Yeghern. But the contributions that Armenians have made over the last ninety-four years stand as a testament to the talent, dynamism and resilience of the Armenian people, and as the ultimate rebuke to those who tried to destroy them. The United States of America is a far richer country because of the many Americans of Armenian descent who have contributed to our society, many of whom immigrated to this country in the aftermath of 1915. Today, I stand with them and with Armenians everywhere with a sense of friendship, solidarity, and deep respect.