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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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From Crimea To Kessab: Did the West Approve the Attack on Kessab?

April 3, 2014
By Hagop Koushakjian

The March 21 attack on the historic Armenian coastal town of Kessab was a shock to the Armenian nation worldwide.

Kessab seemed a peaceful, sleepy town far removed from the Syrian civil war that has been raging for the past three years. Then, early on Friday morning, the majority Christian Armenian populated town awoke to the sounds of rockets and gunfire, forcing 670 Armenian families to flee in haste to nearby Latakia, leaving behind the sick and the elderly. From what we know now, the town was attacked by Al-Qaeda related Al-Nusrah Front Islamist terrorists that crossed the Turkish border with the support and approval of the Turkish authorities. Turkey’s role was clearly evidenced by the fact that the Turkish military shot down a Syrian fighter jet that was providing air support to the regime’s forces. The downing emboldened the jihadists to carry out their raid on Kessab Armenians.

A rebel fighter checks a launcher near the village of Kessab and the border crossing with Turkey, in the northwestern province of Latakia, on March 23, 2014. Rebels seized Kessab a day later. Amr Radwan al-Homsi—AFP/Getty Images

So why was Kessab a target and why now?

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s decision on September 3, 2013 to join Russia’s Customs Union instead of the EU Eastern Partnership, after two years of negotiations, was not welcome news to the West. Then the referendum in Crimea to have that region join with Russia was assessed positively by Yerevan, hailing the self-determination right of the regions Russian majority. Then on March 27, the UN General Assembly voted 100 to 11 on a non-binding resolution declaring the Crimean referendum invalid. Armenia, considering the Karabakh factor, was among the 11 nations. In addition, the Republic of Armenia has developed close economic ties with Iran offsetting the 20-year blockades of Turkey and Azerbaijan.

All this was viewed negatively by the West, it appears, prompting US Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern to call Armenia’s UN vote “regrettable.” James Warlick, the US representative at the OSCE Minsk Group, also voiced his displeasure for Armenia’s pro-Russian stand vis-à-vis Ukraine. Taken together, this latest move on Crimea seems to have irritated the US. It is as though Armenia has crossed a red line.

On March 29 the US State Department called last week’s unprovoked attack on innocent Armenian civilians “deeply troubling.” Deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said, “we have seen some statements by groups fighting in Kessab saying they will not target civilians and will respect minorities and holy places. We expect those commitments to be upheld.” Interestingly, spokesperson Harf was careful not to use the word “terrorists” when referring to the foreign fighters that attacked Kessab. She referred to them as “groups,” downplaying the terrorist element of the attackers.

The Syrian civil war is ground zero for the latest East vs. West international proxy war and it is well known that NATO member Turkey is providing Al-Qaeda terrorists and other foreign fighters with arms, medical supplies and safe border access to Syria. Which begs the question, is the West calling the shots in Kessab while offering assurances that these jihadist butchers will respect minorities and their holy places of worship?

Kessab is located in the far northwestern part of Syria with no military strategic significance.

Which brings us back to the question, why Kessab, why now? It can easily be argued that Kessab was the price the Armenian nation had to pay for their close ties with Russia and Iran.

FLArmenians Participate in ANCA-ER 6th Annual Banquet

Mahwah, NJ – Earlier this month, Florida Armenians (FLArmenians) Editor Taniel Koushakjian joined over 300 Armenian-Americans for the Armenian National Committee Eastern Region’s (ANCA-ER) 6th annual banquet. Mrs. Nora Kzirian, a former FLArmenian, served as the evening’s Mistress of Ceremonies, as the community honored Armenian studies luminary Dr. Richard Hovannisian, and Artsakh rights champion her ladyship Baroness Caroline Cox.

Dr. Hovannisian and Taniel Koushakjian

Dr. Hovannisian and Taniel Koushakjian

National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) Director of Academic Affairs Dr. Marc Mamigonian gave a moving introduction about Professor Richard Hovannisian, this year’s ANCA Vahan Cardashian Award recipient.

Dr. Hovannisian, a professor of Armenian and Near Eastern Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), is a pioneer of Armenian studies in the United States. He has authored many books and edited and contributed to at least a dozen other works. In 1987, he was appointed the first holder of the Armenian Educational Foundation Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History at UCLA.

“I’m deeply honored and thankful to the ANCA for considering me worthy of receiving this award. Vahan Cardashian remains a champion and a symbol for the Armenian people. I feel very satisfied after my long career, and I feel rewarded that I’ve had more than a half century of wonderful experiences in the classroom teaching generations regarding Armenian history and identity,” Hovannisian said.

Ms. Virginia Davies, who sponsored FLArmenians’ participation, introduced Baroness Caroline Cox before presenting her with the ANCA Freedom Award.

Baroness Caroline Cox and Taniel Koushakjian

Baroness Caroline Cox and Taniel Koushakjian

“Speaking in the British parliament is a place to give voice to the voiceless, to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. … I would like to say thank you to the Armenian people, who in that holy land of Artsakh have formed that front line of faith and freedom for the rest of the world. We who live in freedom, we who call ourselves Christian, owe you a debt of gratitude for holding that front line for us. With all my heart, I thank you,” the Baroness said.

Baroness Cox has visited Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh 78 times to date, many of them during the war with Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, and is planning on at least two more visits in 2013. Working with the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), she helped establish the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre in Stepanakert in 1998, which has become a leader in providing care and rehabilitation for those with physical or mental disabilities.

Among the dignitaries in attendance were Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America; Very Rev. Fr. Thomas Garabedian of the Armenian Catholic Exarchate of America; His Excellency Ambassador Garen Nazarian, Permanent Representative of Armenia to the United Nations; Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Co-Chair of the Armenian Caucus; Executive Director of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, Mr. Levon Filian; Armenia Fund USA Chairman, Mr. Khoren Bandazian; and many prominent community benefactors.