BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
GLENDALE–More than 1000 community members flocked to St. Mary’s Church Hall Sunday evening for a public rally organized by the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region in support of the Armenian Genocide resolution currently pending a debate and vote by the US House of Representatives.
Among the public officials who attended and spoke at the rally were Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.-24)–Rep. Edward Royce (R-Calif.-39) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.-30)–all of whom underscored the importance of passing the resolution by the House of Representatives. Also speaking at the event were State Sen. and Democratic candidate for the 27th district congressional race Adam Schiff–the Republican candidate for the 43rd State Assembly district Craig Missakian and Glendale City Councilman Rafi Manoukian.
Asbarez learned from the ANCA-WR offices that the day following the Public Rally at St. Mary’s Armenian Church–some 1200 calls were received on the Armenian Genocide Resolution by the ANCA-WR offices. Callers asked to be heard on the issue–and gave the office permission to convey their support for the resolution to House leaders.
"The ANCA-WR was overwhelmed with calls of support for the Genocide Resolution," said Alex Sardar–ANCA-WR Executive Director. "This resolution has brought out the collective power of the Armenian American community as a voting and vocal constituency–and we have signaled to political leaders that it is with great interest that we watch their treatment of this resolution. The 1.5 million strong Armenian American community in the US deman’s that this resolution be discussed and voted on for passage by the full House with no more delays."
ANCA-WR chairman of the board Berdj Karapetian welcomed the enthusiastic crowd to the rally and thanked all representatives who had worked diligently in favor of the resolution. He also emphasized the important role played by the Armenian-American community in rallying support for the resolution on Capitol Hill.
"This is a historic moment for the Armenian-American community," said Karapetian. The ANCA-WR chairman was invited by Master of Ceremonies Hovan Tashjian–who introduced the public officials who had taken time from their busy campaign schedules to attend this important gathering.
In his remarks–Rep. Sherman described the process currently underway in Congress regarding the Genocide resolution–adding that it was the responsibility of Congress to adopt this resolution to–once and for all–set the record straight about the atrocities committed against the Armenian people.
He outlined that despite testimony from Turkish parliament members–the former Turkish Ambassador to the US and other pro-Turkish interests–Congress knew full-well that the crime of Genocide against the Armenia’s was undeniable.
"US strength doesn’t just come from where we have a military base–it comes from our dedication to human rights," said Sherman who pledged his continued support for Armenian-American issues in Congress.
After briefing the gathering on his efforts on behalf of the community within the California State Senate–Schiff proceeded to update the community on his work toward ensuring the passage of the bill. He explained that in letters and phone calls to Democratic leaders in Congress–he urged them to support and move the resolution forward in the House.
Schiff asserted that this resolution was much more important than election-year politics–adding that his belief that the historical record must reflect the US recognition of the Genocide.
In a clear show that the Genocide bill enjoys bi-partisan support in Congress–Rep. Royce outlined the efforts underway by the Republican party to ensure passage of this bill. The Congressman–a long-time supporter of Armenian-American issues on Capitol Hill–added that he was encouraged to join the Armenian-American cause in Congress by former California governor George Deukmejian–who urged him to address the Genocide issue–once elected to Congress.
He also outlined the role of former Senator Bob Dole–who was one of the pioneers of Genocide resolutions on Capitol Hill.
In his remarks–Rep. Xavier Becerra also acknowledged the importance of this resolution–adding that while there may be other issues of interest to the Armenian community–such as aid to Armenia and maintaining Section 907–but–the Congressman explained–the passage of the Genocide resolution was of utmost importance and priority.
Viewing the matter from a human rights perspective–Becerra said that the Congress had a moral responsibility to pass the resolution. He also added that the public rally was the place to be for "smart politicians" who were eager to address constituent concerns and views.
Rally organizers announced that Rep. James Rogan was invited but did not attend the rally.
Also speaking at the rally were Glendale City Councilman Rafi Manoukian–who applauded the community for its grass-roots activism on the Genocide bill. He also criticized those who are attempting to equate the Genocide issue to election-year politicking.
In his remarks–Missakian said Congress should stand up and do the right thing–adding that the issue of great significance for him–given the fact that his grandparents escaped the Genocide–before settling the US.
To illustrate the pan-community effort underway in support of the Genocide bill–Armenian Assembly Western Region Executive Director Peter Abajian–discussed the imperative of continuing the community effort to urge members of Congress to vote for the resolution. He also thanked the ANCA-WR for organizing the public rally and sensitizing the community regarding the Genocide bill.
Closing remarks were made by ANCA-WR board member Steven Dadaian–Esq.–who praised the community and underscored the importance of the resolution.