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Armenian Assembly Calls for Public Congressional Hearings on Turkish Interference in America’s Democratic Institutions

Reiterates Call for Members of Congress to Withdraw from the Turkish Caucus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amid reports that Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be filing new indictments after probing a potential quid pro quo scheme, whereby then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn would be paid $15 million to secretly carry out Turkey’s bidding, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) calls for thorough public Congressional hearings to fully expose these matters. Flynn was already paid $530,000 last year for work the Justice Department says benefited the government of Turkey, and did not register as a foreign agent at the time.

The Assembly has repeatedly highlighted Turkey’s attempts to gain surreptitious influence over U.S. officials and media to the detriment of U.S. national security, and has urged investigations therein. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Member, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), in a June 2017 op-ed in The Hill titled “Did Turkey’s payments to Michael Flynn delay our military operations against ISIS?” stated that “questions regarding Turkey, however, reveal most clearly how personal considerations may have overridden our national interests.” In addition, the Assembly has also highlighted Azerbaijan’s attempts to undermine western democratic values and institutions through the billions it has spent in the “Laundromat scheme” to buy silence. Investigations are now bearing fruit. The Assembly has also urged with some success those Representatives who joined the Turkish and Azeri Caucuses to withdraw.

In Florida, Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) sit on the Armenian Caucus. Ros-Lehtinen, who will retire in 2018, is also on the Turkish Caucus, as are Reps. Dennis Ross (R-FL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), and Ted Yolo (R-FL). Hastings is the only Florida Representative on the Azerbaijan Caucus.

“The latest news regarding secret payments to Michael Flynn to carry out Turkey’s bidding are just the tip of the iceberg,” stated Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian. “Illegal Turkish and Azerbaijani money has been flowing into D.C. and we have an obligation to immediately stop these corrupting practices. Beyond thorough investigations and indictments, exposure through public hearings and legislative reform to increase reporting and penalties are necessary to stop officials who can be bought by the Erdogans and Aliyevs of the world from hijacking the American government,” they added. “Members ought not to associate themselves with such corrupt and authoritarian regimes. Given Turkey’s treatment of Christians, dangerously rogue behavior, denial of the Armenian Genocide and support for Azerbaijan’s ISIS-style beheadings and other attacks, it is well past time for Members of Congress to withdraw their membership from the Turkish and Azeri Congressional Caucuses.”


Exclusive Interview: Mark Samuelian, Candidate for Miami Beach Commission

By Taniel Koushakjian
Florida Armenians Editor

MIAMI BEACH, FL – Next week, Mark Samuelian could be the first Armenian American elected official in Miami-Dade County. He is a candidate for Miami Beach City Commission, Group II. It is a non-partisan race, and Election Day is Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

Originally from Dedham, Massachusetts, Samuelian bought his first home in Miami Beach in 2003. He has been active in various civic and community-based organizations. In an effort to familiarize Florida’s Armenian American community with Mr. Samuelian, reached out to him and he graciously agreed to talk to us about his Armenian American heritage, academic and business background, local community service, how he became a national chess master, and his campaign for Miami Beach City Commission.

Taniel Koushakjian (TK): Thank you, Mr. Samuelian for talking to us today.

Mark Samuelian (MS): Thank you, Taniel, I’m happy to speak with you.

TK: When I saw your first campaign video advertisement, where you asked people on the streets of Miami Beach to pronounce your name, I literally laughed out loud. Of course, practically every Armenian American has had his or her name mispronounced, but I think it’s fair to say you have it easy compared with some of us. So let’s begin there. Where is your family from and when did they arrive in the United States?

MS: I’m a a third generation Armenian American. My grandparents are from Sivas and Malatya, and they survived the Armenian Genocide before immigrating to the United States. Several family members were killed in 1915. One of my grandmothers went through Ellis Island, and my grandfather, Margos Derderian, served in the U.S. Army in World War I.

TK: You have quite an impressive resume and professional background. You graduated cum laude from Georgia Tech and received your degree in Industrial Engineering. You also earned your MBA from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s top business schools. You’re also a seasoned executive, with three decades of engineering and business management experience. How has this education and professional career influenced you and prepared you for a life in public service?

MS: While some of the most urgent and serious issues our City faces have to do with flood risk, the City Commission currently holds no engineers. My industrial engineering degree will prove to be an invaluable tool in dealing with some of our most pressing issues. Whether it’s a more climate change resilient city, or better preparing the City to withstand the devastating effects of a Hurricane like Irma, or confronting out of control development that could weaken our city’s character, or developing meaningful traffic solutions, I am committed to the principle of making “Miami Beach Strong.”

TK: You also served as the President of Miami Beach United, a resident friendly community organization, and you have advocated aggressively on behalf of Miami Beach homeowners. Tell us about your work in this regard?

MS: Community participation is essential to sound, responsible government. I highly support and will proactively encourage greater civic engagement. I want the people to have a greater voice. Toward that end, being accessible to residents is extremely important to me. As a commissioner I intend to make my office as available and accessible as is reasonably possible. I also plan on being out in the community by attending Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club meetings, and regularly attending neighborhood meetings. I will also be available consistently and frequently to the press.

TK: This is your second campaign for Miami Beach City Commission, having lost in the 2015 election by just 77 votes. However, everyone I talked to said that you ran an impressive, outsider campaign and earned the respect of Miami Beach residents and other elected officials in the process. How did that race prepare you for this campaign and what advise would you give to young Armenian Americans who are thinking about a career in public service?

MS: I believe you should never give up. I am proud that in this campaign I once again qualified for the ballot with nearly 1,300 certified petition signatures because my campaign has been structured around door-to-door access to residents. This allowed me to interact on a personal level, and to better understand their concerns.

TK: Lastly, I have to ask you about being a national chess master. Please tell our readers about that experience. What does chess means to you? Also, if you were ever matched up against Levon Aronian, who do you think would win?

MS: I learned how to play chess from my older brother, when I was 5 years old visiting family in Coral Gables. I took to the game immediately, and it has been an important part of my life ever since. I was the state high school chess champion back in Massachusetts. Being able to excel at something outside of school is thrilling, and for me chess was that thing. I later found out that I was one of five people in Massachusetts’ history to become a national chess master while in high school. When I was at Georgia Tech, we were in the top 10 every year. Later, I got into speed chess, and wrote about it’s effect on me in a column for Atlantic Magazine. Today, I’m ranked in the top 1% in the world in speed chess in my category.

Chess has brought me many things including analytical thinking, discipline, personal responsibility, and patience.

It would be a privilege to play against Levon Aronian, no matter the outcome.

TK: Thank you, Mr. Samuelian, for taking the time to speak with us and best of luck on Election Day.

MS: Thank you for the opportunity to speak about my campaign. I encourage everyone to stay engaged and get involved, whether it’s in this election cycle or future ones because an active community is what makes us stronger as a city.

Every Armenian American has a similar, yet unique story. Whether we’re talking about his life accomplishments, family history, passion for public service, or the things that bring joy to his life, getting to know Mark Samuelian was truly inspiring. We encourage everyone living in Miami-Dade County to vote on November 7th. By this time next week, we may very well have the first Armenian American elected official in Miami-Dade County.

To learn more about the Mark Samuelian for Miami Beach Commission campaign, you can visit his website here.

For election night results, follow us on Twitter @FLArmenians, or check our Facebook Page, on Tuesday, November 7. Polls close at 7:00pm.

Armenian Genocide Documentary ‘Intent to Destroy’ to Premier at Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival

The Grigorian Family Trust and the Florida Armenian Genocide Commemoration, Inc. will host the Florida premier of the Armenian Genocide documentary ‘Intent to Destroy’ at the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) on Wednesday, November 15, at 6:00pm at Savor Cinema.

According to Deadline, “Abramorama and Gathr Films have acquired North American theatrical rights to the Joe Berlinger documentary ‘Intent to Destroy,’ a film-within-a film that centers on the Armenian genocide of 1915 and was a critical favorite at this year’s Tribeca and Hot Docs film festivals. Abramorama will release the film theatrically on Nov. 10 in New York and Los Angeles followed by select cities nationwide. Gathr Films will then expand the release with one-night-only event screenings through its crowd-sourced theatrical distribution platform Theatrical On Demand.”

According to IndieWire, “The Armenian Genocide claimed the lives of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire from 1915-1917, but the truth about the horrors was suppressed because of America’s diplomatic relationship with Turkey. Even as recently as 2016, when filmmaker Terry George set out to make a narrative feature about the tragedy, the Oscar Isaac-starring ‘The Promise,’ he fielded threats from the Turkish government. Academy Award-nominated director Joe Berlinger was on set to capture the challenges — both artistic and political — in making a movie about the Genocide. In the first trailer for this unflinching documentary, ‘Intent to Destroy: Death, Denial, and Depiction,’ Berlinger weaves interviews with filmmakers and historians into his fascinating behind the scenes footage.”

WATCH THE TRAILER: “Intent to Destroy: Death, Denial, and Depiction”

The highly anticipated documentary ‘Intent to Destroy’ includes behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the film ‘The Promise,’ as well as exclusive interviews with filmmakers, historians, actors, and genocide survivors. The documentary also features new music written and produced by award-winning Armenian American musician Serj Tankian of the rock band ‘System of a Down.’

The Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival premier reception includes live Armenian music by Dick Barsamian on Oud, as well as food and refreshments.

Tickets to the FLIFF premier are $12 and can be purchased online by clicking below.