WASHINGTON, D.C. – Working vigorously through the month of April, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) held 50 meetings with congressional offices discussing key issues of concern, including reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide, U.S. assistance to Armenia and Artsakh, as well as Christian and other minority communities at risk in the Middle East.
As a result of these efforts, the Assembly welcomed Representatives Charlie Crist (D-FL), Steve King (R-IA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and Steve Knight (R-CA) as the newest Members to join the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, bringing the total to 122 Members.
“I’m proud to join the Armenian Caucus, working in a bipartisan manner to strengthen the U.S.-Armenian relationship – a vital strategic partnership,” stated Rep. Crist.
After meeting with the Assembly, he co-signed this year’s letter to President Donald Trump to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide. Last year, Congressman Crist co-signed a letter to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to arrest, prosecute, and jail members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail who attacked peaceful protesters outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C.
Congressman Crist is one of four Members of Congress from Florida who sit on the Armenian Caucus. He represents the 13th congressional district of Florida, on the Gulf Coast from Clearwater down to St. Petersburg, which is home to St. Hagop Armenian Church.
Today, the White House released the following statement from President Donald J. Trump:
Today we commemorate the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century, when one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. We recall the horrific events of 1915 and grieve for the lives lost and the many who suffered.
We also take this moment to recognize the courage of those individuals who sought to end the violence, and those who contributed to aiding survivors and rebuilding communities, including the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, who sought to end the violence and later raised funds through the Near East Relief to help the Armenian people. We note with deep respect the resilience of the Armenian people, so many of whom built new lives in the United States and have made countless contributions to our country.
As we honor the memory of those who suffered, we also reflect on our commitment to ensure that such atrocities are not repeated. We underscore the importance of acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past as a necessary step towards creating a more tolerant future.
On this solemn day, we stand with the Armenian people throughout the world in honoring the memory of those lost and commit to work together to build a better future.
“It is a sad day when an American President cannot speak the truth about a proud chapter in American history, where, thanks to America’s unprecedented humanitarian relief effort, thousands and thousands of survivors of the Armenian Genocide were saved in what Ambassador Henry Morgenthau described as a ‘campaign of race extermination,'” stated Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “U.S. credibility on human rights and genocide prevention will be better served when we unequivocally affirm the Armenian Genocide. A genocide denied is an injustice to all,” Ardouny concluded.
* Updated at 3:38pm with the Armenian Assembly of America response.
On Monday, April 23, 2018, the newly installed Prime Minister of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, resigned amid 10 days of rallies and protests in Yerevan calling for his resignation. The peaceful protests were led by opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan of the Civic Contract Party, who was arrested the night before, along with 2 other Members of Parliament. All three were released hours before Sargsyan’s resignation. Below is Serzh Sargsyan’s statement:
I am addressing all citizens of the Republic of Armenia,
The elderly and my dearest youth,
Men and women,
I am addressing those who stood on the streets day and night with “Reject Serzh” calls and those who were reaching their offices with difficulty and carrying out their duty without complaining,
I am addressing those who were following the live broadcast for days and those who were ensuring public order for day and night mainly,
I am addressing our courageous soldiers and officers who are standing at the border, I am addressing my brothers in arms,
I am addressing my fellow party-men, all political forces and politicians,
I am addressing you for the last time as leader of the country.
Nikol Pashinyan was right. I was wrong. The situation has several solutions, but I will not take any of them. That is not mine. I am leaving office of the country’s leader, of Prime Minister.
The street movement is against my tenure. I am fulfilling your demand.
I wish peace, harmony and reasoning for our country. Thank you.”
Following his resignation, Deputy Prime Minister Karen Karaptyan was sworn in as Prime Minister.
“On behalf of the U.S. government and people I want to praise the Armenian people for peacefully and worthily conducting their protest during the past week”, U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills told reporters as he visited the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial on April 24.
The “Reject Serzh” movement began on March 31 in Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city. Pashinyan and about a dozen activists began a march from Gyumri to Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. Along the way, the crowds grew. Days after reaching Yerevan, the crowds reached over 100,000 people, mostly young people who rejected the Putin-model of government that is sweeping across the region.
In the days before Sargsyan’s resignation, about 250 activists were arrested along with Pashinyan, and things looked like they were about to boil over. During the 2008 protests in Armenia, 10 people were killed and hundreds arrested. However, this time was different – not a single shot was fired. There were some reports of violence, but nothing on the scale of previous protest movements. In fact, some members of the Armenian military and police joined the protesters. In the end, Sargsyan heard the calls of the people and stepped aside.