By Taniel Koushakjian
Florida Armenians Managing Editor
On Thursday, October 8, former Florida Armenians Jacksonville reporter Janna Mosinyan and managing editor Taniel Koushakjian attended a reception at the Embassy of Armenia in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 24th anniversary of Armenia’s independence. Over 100 people gathered at the embassy, including government officials from the U.S., Russia, Georgia, Poland, and Kazakhstan.
The reception began with the singing of the Armenian and American national anthems. Armenian Embassy attaché Makar Melikyan welcomed guests in attendance and introduced Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States Tigran Sargsyan. Ambassador Sargsyan gave remarks and recognized special guests in attendance, such as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. State Department John Heffern, Co-Chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Ambassador James Warlick, and famous Armenian singer Nune Yesayan.
Ambassador Sargsyan explained why the 24th anniversary of Armenia’s independence is one of the most important dates in Armenia’s recent history. “The Armenian nation survived, the Armenian nation became even stronger and more united. And now, one hundred years later, I stand here in front of you all as the Ambassador of an independent Armenia to the United States and congratulate you on the occasion of the 24th Anniversary of Armenian Statehood,” Sargsyan said.
Ambassador Sargsyan went on to emphasize the continuous assistance and friendship of the United States. Following his remarks, he introduced DAS Heffern who spoke about his tenure as the United States ambassador to Armenia (2011-2014) and congratulated the Republic of Armenia on its 24th year of independence.
“It was wonderful seeing so many Armenians together, celebrating our independence day,” stated Mosinyan. “I felt proud and honored to be present during this event,” she said.
Following Heffern’s remarks, Ambassador Sargsyan presented medals of honor to two distinguished guests, Mr. Jirair Nishanian and Dr. Levon Avdoyan, on behalf of the President of Armenia. Mr. Nishanian received the Medal of Gratitude, awarded for state, economic, social, scientific-technical, and public activities, as well as for major personal contribution, many years’ devotion, and fruitful activities aimed at promoting the spheres of health, education, and culture. Dr. Levon Avdoyan, Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist at the Library of Congress, received the Medal of Movses Khorenatsi for outstanding achievements in the spheres of culture, art, literature, education, social sciences, and sports.
“I want to conclude with expressing my confidence that our cause is just and through joint and coordinated efforts we – the citizens of Armenia and our brothers and sisters from Artsakh and from the Diaspora – will succeed in overcoming all the difficulties and challenges and will further strengthen our Motherland,” Ambassador Sargsyan said.
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.