DENVER, Colorado—Just days after the Texas committee on International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs heard a resolution on the Armenian Genocide, and hundreds gathered at the Colorado Capitol Khachkar to commemorate the 102nd anniversary of the Genocide on April 26, the Colorado State Legislature unanimously passed joint resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide and calling on the federal government to do the same. All the while, led by ANCA-WR executive director Elen Asatryan, board member Sako Berberian, and Denver-based community development coordinator Simon Maghakyan, community members young and old from across the Centennial state started the day with early morning meetings with CO Senate President and Senate President Pro-Tempore to discuss Armenian-American priorities during the 2017 ANCA-WR Advocacy Day. After a moving commemoration and unanimous passage of resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide in Senate then House chambers, meetings continued throughout the day with focal points of discussion with officials centered around US-Armenia relations, the Armenian Genocide, as well as statewide issues impacting the Colorado Armenian communities from public transportation and education to housing.
“Our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude goes out to the fierce leadership of the CO House of Representatives and Senate, all the Colorado legislators who stood in solidarity to commemorate the 100+2 Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and our vibrant Armenian-American community who once again demonstrated their determination to fight for our cause and make our community’s voice heard. As we move forward with our initiatives and priorities, we know Colorado has both an educated legislature on our issues and an emboldened grassroots ready to take our cause to the next level,” stated ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan. “With many possible political shifts that will occur in the 2018 Colorado statewide elections, we call on our community to register to vote today, become active on the campaign trails of our friends, and take our collective voice from the streets and the halls of the state capitol to the ballot box to elect candidates that will faithfully represent our community’s growing needs,” added Asatryan.
The highlight of the day was the moving presentation and unanimous adoption of a joint resolution in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. Since 2002, Colorado’s House and Senate have commemorated the Armenian Genocide through a joint resolution, which led to the authorization of the Colorado State Capitol Khachkar, unveiled on April 24, 2015. SJR 42 was first read at length in both legislative chambers, after which the resolution’s bipartisan sponsors and many others made moving remarks on the importance of recognizing the Armenian Genocide and the continued human rights violations and arrests of intelligentsia and journalists that occur in Turkey today under the dictatorship of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Announcements on the House floor included The Promise film showing in theaters everywhere, directed by the legendary Terry George with an a-list cast which include Christian Bale, Angela Safarian, Oscar Issac and others.
Senators Rhonda Fields and Beth Martinez Humenik introduced the resolution on the Senate side, with follow-up remarks by Senators John Kefalas, Tim Neville, Dan Kagan, and Andy Kerr. Representatives Cole Wist and Paul Rosenthal carried the torch for justice in the House, and are long-time proponents of genocide awareness. The full text of the resolution is available on the State of Colorado’s official website. The Senate and House’s video is available on the state’s official YouTube channel.
“In 1915 there were two million Armenians living in the Ottoman empire and by 1922 that number was three hundred eighty eight thousand. Today, we commemorate what I think is the forgotten Genocide in our history…we must remain ever vigilant in not just remembering but acting. I ask that each of you remember that these horrors, can happen again if we fail to act and act with vigilance.” stated Assistant Minority Leader of the Colorado House of Representatives Cole Wist as he presented the resolution.
“If you look at Turkey today, with the rise of authoritarianism both there and in the region. With Turkey emerging after a failed coup attempt last year, its leadership having arrested thousands of journalists, judges, professors, almost all of whom are absolutely one hundred percent innocent. And if you silence the intelligentsia you silence the people who can actually do something against your government. It’s easier to control a population. And that’s what turkey is doing today,” said Representative Paul Rosenthal in his remarks as he introduced the joint resolution alongside Representative Wist.
Immediately before the resolution was heard on the Senate floor, ANCA-WR’s Asatryan presented Senate President Grantham with the ANCA-Western Region pin. In addition to Asatryan, Berberian, and Maghakyan, many of the attendees were also introduced on the Senate and House floors, including co-founders of Armenians of Colorado (AOC) Pearl Safarian and Anahid Katchian, AOC Board President Sona Hedeshian and Board member Narek Poghosyan, founder of the Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness and Action Roz Duman; as well as several other community leaders and activists, including Kim Christianian, Dr. Garo Chalian, Karina Thompson, and Nick Portnoy.
To learn more about the ANCA-Western Region and its local chapters visit www.ancawr.org or follow the organization on social media at facebook.com/ANCAWesternRegion, Instagram and Twitter @ANCA_WR. To get involved locally submit a form online at ancawr.org/take-action
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.