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Samantha Power to Armenians: “I am very sorry”

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Editor

Yesterday, Samantha Power became the first Obama administration official to apologize to Armenian Americans for not recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

“I am very sorry that, during our time in office, we in the Obama administration did not recognize the #Armenian Genocide,” Power posted on Twitter.

In a series a tweets on April 24th, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, Power also discussed “Turkish denial” and expressed empathy for the “slaughter that wd kill 1.5 m.”

Samantha Power served on President Obama’s National Security Council from 2009-2013, and as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2013-2017.

She is the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, which focused on the U.S. response to 20th century genocides, including Armenia in 1915.

While the emphatic expression may be welcome to some, many Armenian Americans share the feeling of betrayal by Power, and President Obama, given the multiple statements and meetings they held with community members during the 2008 campaign.

“This is more insulting 2 our ppl than 8yrs of ignoring our requests.U sacrificed ur own conscience on the altar of geopolitical correctness,” FLArmenians Editor Arsine Kaloustian replied on Twitter.

The Obama administration’s moral laryngitis on the Armenian Genocide was compounded in 2015, the centennial anniversary, when Power and Vice President Joe Biden attended the international commemoration at the Washington National Cathedral.

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 07: President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power attend the Armenian Genocide Centennial (NCAGC) Ecumenical Service at Washington National Cathedral on May 7, 2015 in Washington DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for NCAGC)

Power’s re-acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide came moments after President Trump’s first statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day was released yesterday morning.

President Trump’s statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day echoed President Obama’s use of the phrase “Meds Yeghern,” and invoked language similar to President George W. Bush.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about President Trump’s omission of the word genocide during the daily press briefing. “The statement that was put out is consistent with the statements that have been put out for at least several of the past administrations,” Spicer said.

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Armenian Genocide Billboards on Display in South Florida, Massachusetts

Armenian Billboard FL 2013

By Rosario Teixeira
Executive Director, Peace of Art, Inc.

During the month of April 2013, Peace of Art, Inc., will be displaying Armenian Genocide commemorative billboards to honor the victims of the Armenian Genocide, calling for recognition and condemnation of the genocide. Peace of Art, Inc. is a nonprofit educational organization that uses the universal language of art to address human concerns and to promote peaceful solutions to conflict. In Massachusetts, the billboards will be located in Foxboro, Watertown, and Cambridge.

(Also on FLArmenians: 98th Anniversary Armenian Genocide Commemorations in Florida)

One 10′ x 30′ digital billboard is on display now on Route 1 in Foxboro, MA, 1/4 mile south of the main entrance to Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place. A second 11′ x 27′ billboard will be on display on April 1st in Watertown, on Mount Auburn Street in the heart of the Armenian community, close to the Armenian cultural centers and churches. In addition, a third 11′ x 27′ billboard will be on display on Cambridge Street, near Lechmere Station, East Cambridge. This area, with high traffic and high visibility, is the gateway between Cambridge, Boston, and Somerville.

The artist Daniel Varoujan Hejinian, president and founder of Peace of Art Inc., said that “with these billboards we are honoring the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide, calling upon the international community to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and to condemn the perpetrators. He added, “98 years have passed but the bloody hand prints of the horrible events of 1915 stained the pages of the world history, when 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives.”

AG billboard MA 2013

The 2013 billboard depicts the bloody hand prints on the words ‘Armenian Genocide’ over a black background. Since 1996, Mr. Hejinian has been calling for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In 2004 Peace of Art, Inc. began to sponsor the commemorative billboards honoring the victims and calling for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. This year’s message further calls for the condemnation of genocide.

(Also on FLArmenians: The 113th Congress, the 2014 Mid-Term Elections & the Countdown to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide)

To date, the Armenian Genocide has been recognized by over 20 countries and 43 U.S. states. However, in spite of his campaign promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide, in the last four years President Obama has failed to use the term genocide in reference to the slaughter of Armenians, which took place almost to a century ago. Once again we urge the President on his second term, to honor his first campaign promise.

The Armenian Genocide is not a matter of concern for Armenians alone but to everyone. Genocide is a crime against humanity. Without recognition and condemnation, the Armenian Genocide remains a wound that continues to bleed, under the hand prints of the culprit.

In a separate and ironically unrelated event, genocide billboards are being displayed in South Florida. Paid for by “Individuals concerned about the plight of Armenians,” and displayed in South Florida are four 14′ by 48′ Armenian Genocide commemorative billboards on heavily traveled freeways to honor the victims of the Armenian Genocide, and to thank the countries that officially have recognized the Armenian Genocide. The billboards can be seen on I-95 in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties and on the Florida Turnpike intersection with Interstate-595. Peace of Art, Inc. is not involved in the Florida Armenian Genocide billboards.

This article originally appeared on Peace of Art, Inc. and is reprinted with the permission of the author. 

CORRECTION: This story was updated Tuesday, April 23 at 2:10 pm to clarify that the Massachusetts billboards are separate and unrelated to the South Florida billboards. 

St. Hagop Armenian Church in Tampa Celebrates 100th Birthday of Founding Member Ardavast Unjian

Pinellas Park, FL – On Sunday, December 30, 2012, St. Hagop Armenian Church was filled with friends and admirers of Ardavast Unjian, to congratulate him and celebrate his milestone 100th birthday (actually the day before on the 29th). Mr. Unjian is a special founding member of St. Hagop Armenian Church and of the Armenian Suncoast Society.

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Following badarak, Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, pastor of St. Hagop Armenian Church, made his congratulatory remarks to Mr. Unjian, who was seated in the front of the church in a birthday chair with balloons. Fr. Hovnan then turned the program over to Eileen Barsamian Jennings, chairwoman of the event. She presented Mr. Unjian with a large poster board birthday card composed of 200 shiny pennies. Much to the surprise of Mr. Unjian and the congregation, Mrs. Barsamian Jennings also presented a special birthday card sent from The White House, in Washington, DC, and signed by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Parishioner Tanya Sarafian made a beautiful presentation in Armenian to Mr. Unjian of the large poster board birthday card. It was signed in English and Armenian by every possible member of St. Hagop’s. Dozens of signatures and personal messages covered both sides of the large card.

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In a contrast of ages, the youngest 4 and 5-year-old children of the Sunday School and their teachers presented the “100th Birthday Boy” with a large collage depicting aspects of Mr. Unjian’s life, including his 80th birthday party, photos of him as captain of his boat Adventure, and his photos as President of the Armenian Suncoast Society. The poster was put together by the ACYOA under the supervision of Yeretskin Anna, with photos donated by Mr. Unjian’s long-time friend, Mrs. Louise Yardumian. Mrs. Yardumian also spoke to the congregation about many of Mr. Unjian’s past accomplishments as a professional engineer.

Later in the program, Mr. Unjian was happy to present to Fr. Hovnan a large, ancient Armenian Bible that belonged to his great grandfather and had been printed in Venice in 1733 (the first Armenian Bible was printed in Amsterdam in 1666). The congregation then kissed the historic Bible before going into the narthex to enjoy a beautiful luncheon featuring a variety of delicious, home-made dishes prepared by St. Hagop’s talented and dedicated Woman’s Guild.

“Mr. Unjian enjoyed his 100th birthday celebration, and he loved seeing so many friends who had come to congratulate him,” stated Fr. Hovnan. “It is a true pleasure to know him and to have such interesting conversations with our very own centenarian. Not only is he a wonderful man, he is still very charming at 100 years of age!  What is his secret to longevity? You will have to ask him yourself,” Fr. Hovnan said.

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Photo Caption 1: Centennial Birthday Chairwoman Eileen Barsamian Jennings presents Ardavast Unjian his 100th birthday card on behalf of St. Hagop Armenian Church.

Photo Caption 2: Armenian School children and teachers present Ardavast Unjian with signed birthday wishes from parishioners of St. Hagop Armenian Church.