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Armenian National Institute Website Now Includes 795 Official Records Affirming the Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Institute (ANI) has completed a massive expansion of its widely-consulted website containing extensive information on the Armenian Genocide. The 2019 resolutions adopted by the U.S. House and Senate expressly “encourage education and public understanding of the facts of the Armenian Genocide, including the United States role in the humanitarian relief effort, and the relevance of the Armenian Genocide to modern-day crimes against humanity.’ President Joe Biden’s April 24, 2021, remembrance day statement called for a “world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are able to pursue their lives in dignity and security.”

The Affirmation section of the ANI website, that contains a collection of official documents pertaining to the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, was thoroughly updated. The Affirmation records are now organized in 14 distinct categories covering resolutions, laws, and declarations by federal level governments, U.S. presidential statements, statements by heads of states, international organizations, religious organizations, official reports, public petitions, and other relevant documents.

Eighty-six new records were added to the Affirmation page, especially updating the sections on ‘Resolutions, Laws, and Declarations,’ ‘State and Provincial Governments,’ and ‘Municipal Governments.’

With strong community support promoting instruction in human rights and genocide prevention, state educational curricula are now mandated in some 10 states across the United States, including Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Connecticut, Michigan, Rhode Island, Illinois, California, New York, and New Jersey. The relevant pieces of legislation are all accessible under ‘Curriculum Mandates.’

As for the 31 countries that formally acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, they include: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Paraguay, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Vatican City, Venezuela, United States, and Uruguay.

In all, the ANI website presently holds 795 affirmation records from around the world.

The ANI collection of affirmation records was developed with the collaborative support of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute (AGMI) in Yerevan. A new cooperation agreement reached between AGMI and ANI allowed for extensive research in the AGMI holdings in order to reverify and update the records posted on the ANI website. The agreement was signed in Yerevan by AGMI Director Dr. Harutyun Marutyan and ANI Chairman Van Z. Krikorian on August 5, 2021. AGMI in Armenia and ANI in the United States have become two important depositories of official affirmation records, AGMI holding an international collection, and ANI holding a considerable American collection of original documents.

Robert Arzoumanian, who joined ANI as assistant to the director, conducted the research at AGMI where additional records were identified that have been mounted on the ANI website for easy access by the public. Arzoumanian, a Brown University graduate, interned at ANI and in Congressman Frank Pallone’s office in 2016 and returned the following year as the Armenian Assembly’s summer intern program coordinator. He also has experience working with Armenia-based media. Arzoumanian undertook the challenge of standardizing the presentation of the full scope of international records identified by ANI in order to facilitate their usage by an international audience.

Since its founding in 1997, the Armenian National Institute has been working closely with AGMI, and over the years has supported several conferences and joint projects. Continuing this long-standing cooperation with AGMI, ANI sent a video message on April 16, 2021, welcoming the release by the museum of the volumes prepared by Ara Ketibian and Father Vahan Ohanian titled, “Armenian Genocide: Prelude and Aftermath as Reported in the U.S. Press, The Washington Post (1890-1922),” to which ANI Director Dr. Rouben Adalian contributed an introduction.

Earlier in 2021, AGMI also released the fourth edition of Dr. Adalian’s essay, “Remembering and Understanding the Armenian Genocide,” which AGMI originally issued in 1995.

In 2021, ANI also continued to expand its online presence by launching the Arabic version of the popular ANI website. The announcement was issued in Arabic as well. Soon after its launch on April 17, the site was being consulted in countries ranging from Lebanon to United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Qatar, Oman and Morocco.

The Arabic-language site represents the third translated edition of the ANI website. The Spanish-language edition appeared in 2020 and the Turkish version in 2017. In light of U.S. President Biden’s affirmation and general media coverage, interest remains high on the subject of the Armenian Genocide. Following the disruptions associated with the shutdown precipitated by the pandemic, with the reopening of educational institutions, a large number of visitors are returning to the ANI website, which registered 4 million hits in 2021.

The process of international recognition remains an ongoing concern for Armenian communities around the world. Efforts are presently under way in England, Israel, and Australia. In 2021, Latvia formally adopted recognition on May 6. Dr. Adalian, along with Dr. Ronald Suny and Armenia’s Ambassador to the Baltic states Tigran Mktchyan, was invited on April 20, to testify in front of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Latvian Parliament that was considering the resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Founded in 1997, the Armenian National Institute (ANI) is a 501(c)(3) educational charity based in Washington, D.C., and is dedicated to the study, research, and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. The ANI website can be consulted in English, Turkish, Spanish, and Arabic. ANI also maintains the online Armenian Genocide Museum of America (AGMA).

Armenian American Community Mourns the Loss of Three Titans

This past April, as Armenian Americans across the country were working hard and eagerly waiting to see if President Biden would recognize the Armenian Genocide in his first April 24th remembrance day statement, the community was also mourning the loss of three extraordinary men who would leave the their mark on the world in a way that makes all of us proud to be both Armenian and American.

In the beginning of April, the news broke that long time philanthropist and American homebuilder Hirair Hovnanian had passed away at his residence in Yerevan, Armenia, where he had retired after an impressive and successful life and career.

Anna Hovnanian & Hirair Hovnanian

A bold, daring and caring individual, a visionary leader, the founder and benefactor of many charities, and devoted longtime Chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America’s Board, Hirair Hovnanian leaves behind a remarkable legacy. Hirair was an amazing leader and mentor, always ready to roll up his sleeves and tackle any challenge. Hirair’s integrity, passion, dedication, commitment, work ethic, and love of his people, were extraordinary.

A successful businessman, whose generosity extended to causes around the world, Hirair felt energized by the independence of Armenia, and did everything in his power to assist the newly independent Republic. He demonstrated his commitment to Armenia by resettling in his homeland where his philanthropy extended beyond precedent. Hirair responded immediately to the 1988 earthquake and embarked upon the recovery and rebuilding of the devastated areas. A builder and developer by profession, he knew exactly the type of assistance required and established a building parts manufacturing plant to accelerate the reconstruction process. His generous contributions in support of educational and religious institutions in Armenia and the diaspora are legion.

At the helm of the Assembly, he helped shape non-partisan advocacy, creating an example of a united voice for Armenian Americans in Washington, D.C., and strongly believed in the unique role of American leadership in advancing democracy and human rights. He lent every measure of support within his means towards the affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, including the establishment of the Armenian National Institute. He welcomed Armenian Assembly interns to his home every summer and embraced the next generation with his infectious enthusiasm for all things Armenian. Through his boundless generosity, he touched the lives of countless citizens in Armenia and Artsakh to whom he exemplified the best of the Armenian diaspora.

“We are all saddened by this great loss and remain immensely grateful to Hirair for his unparalleled legacy. He was the champion of every cause that benefited the Armenian people, and he never hesitated to lead from the front with unwavering dedication and commitment. May he rest in peace,” read a statement from the Armenian Assembly.

Ambassador Set Charles Momjian, a former trustee and board member of the Armenian Assembly, passed away on Monday, April 12, 2021 in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.

“He was born in Atlantic City on April 9, 1930 to Julia and Charles Momjian, both orphaned refugees from the Armenian genocide who were raised by American missionaries. The two parents were born in Malatya in the Ottoman Empire. Charles died at an early age and the family, which included younger brother Albert, had a difficult time during the Depression era,” the Armenian Mirror-Spectator reported.

After enrolling in the U.S. Army, Set Momjian led a prolific career in marketing and advertising at the Ford Motor Company. He went on to become a special advisor to U.S. presidents, and, per President Jimmy Carter’s appointment, served as a U.S. representative to the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador. Momjian was also appointed as a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Momjian’s impactful commitment to the Assembly and Armenian causes on Capitol Hill is still relevant today. His longtime friendship with President Joe Biden was cultivated during train rides he shared in the 1980s with the Delaware Senator, who was then Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and marshaled through committee approval of an Armenian Genocide resolution, which Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) brought to the Senate Floor in 1990.

“The Assembly appreciates the Momjian family’s dedication, including Set Charles Momjian’s brother Albert’s many years of service as the Assembly’s Solicitor, a role which Albert’s son, Mark Momjian, currently holds. The Assembly extends its condolences to Set Charles Momjian’s family and loved ones,” an announcement from the Assembly stated. Momjian was also active with the AGBU and the Knights of Vartan.

Dr. Vartan Gregoain

Three days later, on Thursday, April 15th, the world mourned the loss of Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation, and one of the most famous Armenians in American history.

Dr. Gregorian was invaluable in the Armenian American community’s efforts to educate the public about the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of its denial. He led the way for others who followed in his footsteps in academia, administrative leadership at top universities, and as a world leader of philanthropy and education. His life’s work, much to long to list in a single column, took him to incredible places across the globe and led to his service in prestigious posts, such as the “Savior of The New York Public Library,” as the New York Times catalogued, as well as President of Brown University, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, to name but a few.

“This is a painful loss for all Armenians, the United States, and the world. His achievements will stand the test of time, and the spirit in which he delivered those achievements will always be valued. May he rest in peace,” a statement from the Armenian Assembly read.

U.S. Indicts Turkey’s Halkbank for Illegal Transfer of Billions of Dollars to Iran

By Harut Sassounian

Halkbank, whose majority shareholder is the Turkish government, pleaded not guilty in New York on March 31, 2020, to criminal charges that it helped Iran illicitly transfer tens of billions in dollars and gold, wrote Aykan Erdemir and Philip Kowalski in an essay published on April 3 by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute based in Washington, D.C.

On October 15, 2019, the Federal Southern District Court of New York accused Halkbank of “fraud, money-laundering and sanctions offenses,” alleging that Halkbank and its executives aided Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab in a “multi-billion dollar scheme to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran.”

Initially, Halkbank refused to appear in court “claiming that the criminal charges are beyond the U.S. court’s jurisdiction,” Erdemir and Kowalski wrote. However, when “prosecutors proposed escalating contempt fines which could have totaled $1.8 billion after eight weeks,” the bank agreed to respond to the court charges.

Originally, the Turkish and Iranian officials had concocted a scheme to exchange gas for gold to circumvent the U.S. sanctions, by claiming that the gold was headed not to Iranian government entities but to Iran’s “private sector.” Erdemir and Kowalski stated that “the scheme ultimately yielded the Iranian regime some $13 billion in Turkish gold between 2012 and 2013. Once the U.S. Congress introduced legislation to close the ‘golden loophole’ in 2013, Iran used Turkish front companies to issue invoices for fake transactions of food and medicine that fall under the humanitarian exception to U.S. sanctions. In one infamous case of over-invoicing, a Turkey-based luxury yacht company used Halkbank to sell nearly 5.2 tons of brown sugar to Iran’s Bank Pasargad at the price of approximately $240 per pound.”

This scheme was first exposed in December 2013 by Turkish investigators who implicated then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, several of his ministers and other senior officials, including Halkbank’s managers. Erdogan shut down the probe by firing the police officials, prosecutors and judges!

The scandal resurfaced in March 2016 when Iranian-Turkish ring-leader Reza Zarrab was arrested in Miami after he flew to Florida to visit Disney World with his family.

In March 2017, U.S. authorities arrested Halkbank Deputy CEO Mehmet Hakan Atilla upon his arrival in New York. Zarrab pleaded guilty and agreed to testify in court against Atilla. Zarrab confessed that he had bribed senior Turkish ministers and top Halkbank executives. He even implicated Erdogan in the corruption scheme, stating that Erdogan had personally approved the illegal actions.

“Halkbank’s Atilla received a 32-month prison sentence in May 2018, a significantly shorter one than prosecutors had originally sought,” according to Erdemir and Kowalsky. “After Atilla’s return to Turkey, Erdogan rewarded the convicted sanctions buster by appointing him CEO of the Istanbul stock exchange, following the president’s established pattern of rewarding other senior accomplices of Zarrab with cushy appointments.”

Erdogan personally appealed to Pres. Trump and other senior officials to block the court case of Halkbank, claiming that US courts have no right to try Turkish citizens. The Courthouse News Service reported that “One of Zarrab’s shell companies, Royal Holding A.S., listed its address as a 35th floor unit in Trump Towers Istanbul. Before pleading guilty to money laundering, sanctions evasions and bribery, Zarrab retained Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to lead a campaign of shadow diplomacy that echoed the one in Ukraine. Shuttling between Turkey’s capital of Ankara and the White House, Giuliani met with Erdogan, Trump, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and other senior U.S. and Turkish officials in an attempt to negotiate a prisoner swap. The New York Times reported that Tillerson resisted the White House pressure for a deal that would have effectively killed the Zarrab case.”

Erdogan’s and Giuliani’s efforts succeeded in stalling the prosecution for almost two years, but ultimately failed when the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York went forward with the charges last October.”

Senator Ron Wyden, the Senate Finance Committee’s top Democrat, told Courthouse News Service: “It sure looked like Donald Trump was doing the bidding of Erdogan and Giuliani, and there were real questions about whether this was about getting Halkbank off the hook, even though there were allegations that they were orchestrating the largest sanctions evasion scheme in history.”

During President Trump’s Senate impeachment inquiry earlier in 2020, Senators Wyden, Robert Menendez and Sherrod Brown asked a joint question which was read aloud in the Senate by Chief Justice John Roberts: “Has the president engaged in a pattern of conduct in which he places his personal and political interests on top of the national security interests of the United States?”

Wyden told Courthouse News Service: “Donald Trump has significant financial interest in Turkey,” referring to Trump Towers Istanbul. “We read regularly that his family has forged personal relationships with important Turkish officials. And so, you have to ask — which is what is part of our inquiry — whether the Trump policy toward Turkey is in a significant way colored by his personal and political interests and not the national security of the country.” If Halkbank is found guilty of violating U.S. sanctions, the court could impose a hefty penalty, regardless of Tump’s wishes.