GLENDALE, CA-On Sunday February 28, the Armenian Youth Federation hosted a community forum on the Armenian Genocide Resolution led by former Armenian National Committee Western Region Chairperson Vicken Sonetz-Papazian.
The town-hall style event is the latest in a series of forums organized by the AYF to educate the public on the proposed measure.
Sonentz-Papazian described the resolution as “an important vehicle that raises the profile of human rights issues that are ongoing until today in different ways.” He also discussed the evolution of the battle to gain official recognition of the Turkey’s crime, from the introduction of the first resolution in 1975 by Rep. Tip O’Neil, when the Turkish lobby was unorganized and unable to oppose the bill’s passage, to the present day situation in which Turkey spends millions of dollars a month to ensure its failure.
This fight against US recognition is among today’s greatest ongoing violations of human rights, he explained. “The killing ended in 1923, but since that time, there has been a very insidious cover up that has taken many forms, from the eradication of archival evidence to a very systematic campaign to wipe out any trace of an Armenian existence in Western Armenia,” he said.
After speaking about the history of the resolution and the political landscape surrounding it today, Sonentz-Papazian led a discussion about ways to get involved to ensure its passage.
“My feeling is we are going to make it through committee, but where we go from there depends on all of you,” he said, presenting the audience with ways to get involved in
“What you can do, first and foremost, is contact your elected representative–and if they are a cosponsor–you need to let them know that we are not interested in moral victories but real victories. We are interested in winning on this and advancing that Armenian case,” he said.
The majority of Sunday’s participants reside in Congressman Adam Schiff’s district. Sonentz-Papazian said it was vital for everyone to let Schiff, who is the author of the bill, know that we want him to lead the bill to a victory.
Another important tactic he shared was use of social networks that extend beyond California, into Ohio, Nebraska and Idaho, where there are congressman who “don’t even know if they are going to be around come the next election.”
“The playing field is really uncertain now for congressman,” he said pointing to the recent election of a conservative male model as the new congressional representative in the largely liberal state of Massachusetts.
“Every vote now counts,” he exclaimed. “Opposition to this resolution is not absolute, there are people in the administration who see the benefits of this resolution passing. But everyone is playing politics with this issue. For that reason we need to be prepared and active.”
Sonentz-Papazian closed the forum with a strong call to action, urging the participants to never underestimate their ability to make a difference in the process. “Our strength is grassroots and this is a winning formula.”
“The Armenian youth in America has always played a vital role in the Genocide Recognition process and this year is no different” said AYF Chairman Arek Santiian. “Now more than ever, we need to rally our communities across the United States so that they may, with one voice, call upon their elected representatives to do the right thing and support the Genocide Resolution.”
Santikian, for his part, said the AYF is encouraging the Armenian Community to remain informed and engaged to ensure a swift full house floor vote of the resolution.
H.Res.252 calls upon President Obama to reflect appropriate acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. Coming to a committee vote in the Foreign Affairs committee of the House of Representatives on March 4th, supporters of the resolution remain hopeful for a strong victory
Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), with chapters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, has grown to become the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization. Inspired by the past and motivated by the needs of the future, the AYF actively strives to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of all Armenian youth. More information about the AYF can be found at: www.AYFwest.org.