Genocide Awaits Recognition, Community Speaks Up

Vartanoosh Kiourktzian

Now that the Democrats will be the majority in the U.S. House and Senate, Armenians may be one step closer to having a resolution passed that gives official recognition to the genocide that killed more than a million of them in the early 20th century.

The genocide, which began in 1915 and ended after the Treaty of Lausanne in 1924, killed 1.5 million Armenians. Despite having Armenians, Western nations and an increasing number of Turkish scholars acknowledge the genocide to be an ethnic cleansing, the government of Turkey still denies it, with some officials even saying that the killing was part of World War I.

Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian and author, was one of the first Turkish scholars to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. On April 7, 2005 he came to GCC on the invitation of the Armenian Students Association and history professor Levon Marashlian. He spoke to approximately 200 students and faculty about Turkish Nationalism, the genocide, and obstacles to democratization in Turkey.
Glendale is home to one of the largest Armenian populations in the U.S. About 40 percent of the residents in Glendale are of Armenian descent. Three out of the four Glendale City Councilmen are of Armenian descent.

Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat, who represents Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena, is a strong advocate of the genocide recognition and Armenian issues.
“So let us call genocide, genocide. Let us not minimize the deliberate murder of 1.5 million people,” Schiff told the press. “Let us have a moral victory that can shine as a light to all nations.”

Although getting resolutions passed on the genocide is a bipartisan issue, Democrats have generally been much more supportive. A resolution, which is the opinion of Congress carrying no legal weight, is an important statement.

“A Democratic Congress poses new opportunities,” said ANCA-WR board member Zanku Armenian. “From a leadership standpoint, Nancy Pelosi is friendlier towards our issues.”

Pelosi, who will be the Speaker of the House for the 110th session of Congress, has recently pledged to congressional recognition of the genocide.

In a statement released to Harut Sassounian, Publisher of the California Courier, Congresswoman Pelosi stated, “I have supported legislation, including H.Res.316, that would properly acknowledge the Armenian genocide. It is imperative that the United States recognizes this atrocity and moves to renew our commitment to eliminate genocide whenever and wherever it exists. This effort enjoys strong bipartisan support in the House, and I will continue to support these efforts in the 110th Congress.”

In 2000, the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.596) earned enough votes to be brought to the floor, but Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Republican, pulled the resolution at the request of President Clinton, who cited that it would endanger the lives of Americans stationed in Turkey.
In a statement released on Oct. 19, 2000 Hastert said, “The President believes that passage of this resolution may adversely impact the situation in the Middle East and risk the lives of Americans. This is not an idle request. We all know that the situation in the Middle East is unusually tense. The cease-fire now in place between Israel and the Palestinians is fragile. The Congress, while it has a right to express its opinions on critical issues of the day, also must be cognizant of the consequences of those opinions.”
However, according to Sibel Edmonds, former FBI translator, and David Rose, investigative journalist, Hastert was allegedly taking bribes from Turkish groups and individuals.

In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now Radio, Rose said, “I think there is now considerable evidence that .some Turkish groups, some of the officials of the government, some private individuals, perhaps associated or allegedly associated with organized crime, have been making efforts to corrupt elected American officials and also appointed government officials in the United States.”

“One name that has cropped up in wiretaps, which my informants tell me Sibel Edmonds translated, is that of the Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert, as you say,” Rose added.

The ANCA currently has activists around the nation communicating the Armenian American communities’ priorities to the press, monitoring local and national media, and responding to coverage of Armenian issues. It is the most active group on the issue of the genocide.

One issue the group is dealing with is the nominee for ambassadorship to Armenia, Richard E. Hoagland. Hoagland allegedly does not sympathize with the Armenian cause.
“We feel he will be an ineffective ambassador,” said Armenian.

John Marshal Evans, Hoagland’s predecessor, was recalled from his position in May after speaking publicly about the Armenian genocide. Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat from New Jersey, put a “hold” on the nominee, which freezes the nomination until the majority of the Senate overturns it.

“We’re working to force the White House to nominate a new ambassador and to get someone who is more sensitive to Armenian issues,” said Armenian.

Having the U.S. pass legislation on the genocide “would add additional pressure on Turkey to recognize the genocide. The genocide is part of American history and congress not passing legislation is as if denying a part of history,” said Marashlian.
Some countries which have officially recognized the genocide include France, Belgium, Greece, Sweden, Russia, Italy, Canada, Lebanon, and Venezuela. France has taken recognition a step further by adopting a bill last October, which would make it a crime to deny that Armenians suffered genocide in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

After this bill overwhelmingly passed in the French National Assembly, the Turkish government threatened to cancel contracts with France as it first did when France recognized the genocide in April of 2006.
“The Turkish government is nowhere near recognizing the genocide, but they are feeling the heat,” said Marashlian.