Last week, Florida Armenians Managing Editor Taniel Koushakjian sat down with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan during his trip to Washington, D.C. Sargsyan travelled to the U.S. to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City where he delivered an impassioned speech about the need for international condemnation of Azerbaijan military attacks against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh that has recently claimed several lives, including three Armenian female civilians, in the last few weeks.
From New York, President Sargsyan, accompanied by Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, Presidential Chief of Staff Vigen Sargsyan, and Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Tigran Sargsyan, travelled to Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings with Armenian American community leaders. Koushakjian shared with Sargsyan activities of the Armenian community in Florida marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Koushakjian explained that Florida is one of 43 states that has acknowledged the 1915 Armenian Genocide by Ottoman Turkey, which was last proclaimed by former Governor Jeb Bush in 2006. Although Florida recognizes the Armenian Genocide, it does not have an official curriculum mandated by the state to teach the Armenian Genocide. Sargsyan inquired if the presidential candidate was aware of his strong record on the Armenian Genocide, which Koushakjian assured him was the case.
In that regard, Koushakjian talked about efforts by Florida Armenians and the Armenian Assembly of America to advance Armenian Genocide education in the Sunshine State despite lack of a state mandate. For instance, in April of this year Koushakjian presented an Armenian Genocide exhibit entitled “Iconic Images of the Armenian Genocide” at the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida (HMSWFL). In the lead up to the presentation, the Turkish Consulate in Miami wrote a threatening letter to the HMSWL objecting to the presentation and demanding it be canceled. Koushakjian explained to Sargsyan that Armenian Genocide denial exists around almost every street corner in America and that grassroots efforts promoting genocide education are vital to ensuring a future free of mass atrocities.
In addition, Koushakjian thanked Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian for his efforts to confront and assist with the Syrian refugee crisis. To date, Armenia has absorbed close to 20,000 refugees, the majority of which are the most vulnerable communities: Armenians, Assyrians, Yezidis, and other religious minorities. In addition to Armenian government efforts, Nalbandian has raised the cause of the Syrian peoples’ plight to the international community on several occasions this year alone. Koushakjian informed Nalbandian that Florida Armenians would do everything they can to inform the American public that Armenia is the last Christian safe haven in the Middle East.
In the afternoon, the Florida Armenians attended a luncheon on Capitol Hill hosted by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) and the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues in honor of President Sargsyan. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) gave remarks and introduced President Sargsyan. “For years, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has been a leading voice promoting awareness of the Holocaust and other genocides throughout history, and the Foundation has called upon all of us to have the courage to stand against such despicable brutality in the future,” stated Chairman Royce. “As the leader of a people who survived the first genocide of the twentieth century, President Sargsyan is well aware of the need for that courage. We must continue to speak the truth about the Armenian Genocide and learn its bitter lessons in order to help others who are targeted,” Royce said.
The luncheon featured remarks by special guest Robert M. Morgenthau, grandson of U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau, who received an award from IRWF Chairman Eduardo Eurnekian and co-founder Baruch Tanembaum for his efforts advancing Armenian Genocide recognition.
On Thursday, October 1, President Sargsyan concluded his visit to Washington with a presentation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
By Taniel Koushakjian
As is routine in Armenian American politics, an Armenian Genocide resolution was introduced in the US House of Representatives at the beginning of the 114th Congress. Once again leading the charge are Reps. Robert Dold (R-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). Together, they introduced H. Res. 154, aka the Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution, on March 18, 2015. This bill differs significantly from the bipartisan Armenian Genocide recognition resolution which passed committee in 2000, 2005, 2007, and 2010. As of this writing, H. Res. 154 boasts 62 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Given the significance of 2015, the Turkish government ramped up its denial campaign in the United States and sought to introduce an opposing bill in Congress. In the weeks after the introduction of H. Res. 154, Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL) circulated a letter to his House colleagues asking them to support a different resolution. Clawson’s bill, which planned to use language proposed by the newly-formed Turkish Institute for Progress (TIP), would use text from H. Res. 154, strike reference to the Armenian Genocide, and create a 100-year congressional task force aimed at bringing the Turkish and Armenian people together. “Unite us, not divide us,” a reference to the full-page advertisements that ran in The Washington Post and POLITICO, is political speak for Turkey’s latest genocide denial lobbying campaign.
Then, on April 28, 2015, H. Res. 226, a resolution calling on the President “to work toward equitable, constructive, stable, and durable Armenian-Turkish relations,” was introduced by Pete Sessions (R-TX). Sessions’ bill not only omitted reference to the Armenian Genocide, it also left out the Turkish proposal for a joint taskforce. Pete Sessions is the Chairman of the House Rules Committee, which is commonly referred to as the “Speaker’s Committee.” H. Res. 226 currently has 2 cosponsors.
Clawson has yet to introduce his Turkish denial resolution.
For House Republican leadership this scenario played right into their hands. John Boehner has voiced his objection to a congressional resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide on more than one occasion and Rep. Clawson was one of 25 congressmen to vote against Boehner for the Speakership. What Speaker John Boehner has effectively done is introduce a bill, stripping the specific language for which each opposing lobby group was advocating, rendering the issue legislatively moot, and check his Tea Party foes in the process.
Armenian Assembly of America Presents Armenian Genocide Exhibit at Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida
Turkish Consulate in Miami Attempts to Block Discussion of Armenian Genocide
NAPLES, FL – On Sunday, April 12, Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) Communications Director Taniel Koushakjian presented the ‘Iconic Images of the Armenian Genocide‘ exhibit at the Holocaust Museum and Education Center of Southwest Florida to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide which began on April 24, 1915.
With a capacity filled hall, Koushakjian discussed the systemic nature of the killings step by step, and presented the 20-panel exhibit highlighting details through the photographic evidence taken by eyewitnesses at the time, including American missionaries and German officers. The fourth in a series of digital exhibits released free of charge, ‘Iconic Images of the Armenian Genocide’ brings together as a single collection key images recording the brutal mistreatment of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Turkish Empire and the utter destruction of their historic communities.
In an outrageous move to impede a program on human rights education, the Turkish Consulate in Miami sent a letter trying to block discussion of the Armenian Genocide. “It is a disgrace that the Armenian diaspora chooses to identify itself with hatred of Turks, anti-Turkism in other words, as well as with outright dismissal of any chance of reconciliation and better relations between Turkey and Armenia,” wrote Ozgur Kivanc Altan, Consul General of the Republic of Turkey in Miami in the letter addressed to the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida. “This is disturbing, yet not surprising, as the [Armenian] diaspora sought in recent years to hijack the Holocaust in an attempt to garner support for a distorted presentation of the events of 1915,” read the Turkish complaint.
“We deeply appreciate the Holocaust Museum’s leadership in continuing the program as planned and are confident that Taniel’s presentation was well received,” said Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “Despite cynical attempts to silence the truth, the truth will prevail,” added Ardouny.
In addition to Sunday’s program, Koushakjian also gave a presentation of the Armenian Genocide on Saturday, April 11 for a group of a dozen educators from surrounding Collier, Hendry, Lee, and Monroe counties as part of a public teacher workshop on Holocaust and human rights education at the Holocaust Museum and Education Center of Southwest Florida.
Additional photographs are available on the Assembly’s Facebook Page.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
NR: # 2015-023
Photo Caption 1: Armenian Assembly Communications Director Taniel Koushakjian speaking to the audience about the Armenian Genocide.