FRESNO–Senator Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno) presented Senate Joint Resolution 5 to the full Senate on March 23. SJR5–which designates April 24 as the "Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide," received unanimous support from the members of the California State Senate. The joint resolution also memorializes the United States Congress to commemorate the genocidal acts committed against the Armenian people at the hands of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
Over the years–California has recognized the Armenian Genocide without opposition. However this year–there was opposition by Turks.
A little-known organization of Turkish citizens from Yolo County told committee members they should not vote for the measure because doing so would promote hatred against the Turkish people. The organization disputed that an estimated 1.5 million Armenia’s were victims of an Ottoman Empire-ordered genocide 86 years ago–and instead–called the deaths of the post-World War I era a great human tragedy that cost millions of Muslim–Greek–Turk–Arab and Kurd lives as well as Armenian ones.
It was the first time Poochigian and other lawmakers heard opposition to the annual resolution. The group’s voice of opposition mirrors a much larger one heard in Washington–DC–where a similar resolution by Rep. George Radanovich (R-Mariposa) was rejected at the request of President Bill Clinton last fall–when Turkish leaders warned that the resolution would damage US business and diplomatic relations.
"We are reminded by the testimony given today of the well-organized effort by the Republic of Turkey to deny and rewrite history. Nearly 86 years later–they remain in denial that the genocide took place. Those who have chosen a course of denial out of national pride would do themselves and their cause a favor by acknowledging that the Genocide occurred and that its perpetrators were the leaders of a predecessor regime – the now extinct Ottoman Empire. The opponents to categorically deny what the world clearly knows to be true perpetuates the pain and makes reconciliation more difficult," said Senator Poochigian.
"California is home to the largest population of Armenia’s in the United States. The Armenian citizens have enriched the state through leadership in many fields and are proud–patriotic practitioners of American citizenship. By consistently remembering and forcefully condemning the atrocities committed against the Armenia’s and honoring the survivors–as well as other victims of similar heinous conduct–we guard against repetition of such acts of genocide.
"While the Genocide took place long ago and far away–the issue of its commemoration today is more important than ever. The continued recognition of this crime against humanity is crucial to ensuring against repetition of future genocides and educating people about such despicable acts," Poochigian commented.
"This is the first step in helping families of Armenian descent know that the world will not forget. As was recognized by Senators – both Republican and Democrat–despite highly organized efforts to deny and rewrite history–the California State Senate acknowledges the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-23," Senator Poochigian proudly announced.
Poochigian–a Fresno Republican whose maternal great-grandparents were tortured and killed during the massacres of 1915-1923–refuted the assertions by the Turkish Cultural Organization of Yolo County that a powerful Armenian-American lobby in California is forcing a revision of history.
"There has been denial for many–many years," Poochigian said. "It’s really laughable to suggest that Armenian lobbying efforts are somehow nefarious. The facts are the facts–and have been such since the horrific events occurred."
He added that the generation of Turkish people who weren’t alive during the rule of the Ottoman Empire are the ones trying to rewrite history. "There is a generation taught to believe that the genocide didn’t occur. That intensifies and brings passion to the question because we don’t want the history of these people to be altered or revised through anyone’s efforts."
April 24 is the date on which Armenia’s around the world commemorate the Genocide in recognition of the day in 1915 when a group of Armenian religious–political–and intellectual leaders were arrested and murdered. The Armenian Genocide became the world’s standard of atrocity until World War II. That is when Adolph Hitler gave reassurance to his followers about his Holocaust plans when he said–"Who–after all–speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenia’s?"