SACRAMENTO—The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region expressed its steadfast support this week for the introduction of ACR 144, a resolution authored and introduced by California State Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield, proclaiming the month of April each year as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month in California.
“The first step to genocide prevention begins with raising awareness about human rights atrocities of the past,” said Shant Hagopian, former student instructor of 20th Century Genocides at UC Berkeley and ANCA-WR State Relations Committee member. “Moreover, the last step to genocide is its denial. This resolution stands as a deterrent for those looking to rewrite history in the future, just as the Turkish lobby has attempted to do by sending out an action alert expressing their strong opposition to ACR 144,” he added.
ACR 144 begins by stating that Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin was “motivated by the attempted extermination of the Armenian and Assyrian communities during the First World War, coined the term ‘genocide’ to describe a coordinated plan of actions aimed at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating a group itself.” Furthermore, the legislation marks the tragic anniversaries of the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide and the Rwandan Genocide by recognizing April of each year as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. Survivors of these genocides live in California and ACR 144 would offer them respect and comfort, knowing that their chosen home supports the type of recognition and education required for preventing the crime of genocide in the future.
California has a proud record of standing up against genocide. California was one of the first states to pass targeted divestment and contract prohibitions legislation against worst-offending companies doing business in Sudan. Just last year, then Assemblymember Paul Krekorian introduced Assembly Bill 961 (AB 961), which helps ensure that California taxpayer dollars are not spent on companies that profit from genocide. AB 961 identifies the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, and the genocide in Bosnia as cases for which companies must register compliance in order to be eligible to secure a contract with the state. Turkish lobbyist Bruce Fein has testified against this bill on numerous occasions. In spite of vocal Turkish lobbyist opposition to the legislation, AB 961 was voted through two committees, the Business and Professions Committee as well as the Judiciary Committee. It is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Moreover, Senate Bill 234 (SB 234) introduced by Senator Mark Wyland urges the inclusion of an oral history component to genocide education curriculum already mandated for California’s high school students. SB 234 was passed out of the Education Committee unanimously and is also currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“As the genocide in Darfur continues after eight years, it is more imperative than ever that the State of California uphold and continue to assert its leadership role in promoting peace and human rights,” said ANCA-WR Government Relations Director Lerna Shirinian.