SACRAMENTO, CA — Despite intense opposition from Turkish lobby groups, the California State Senate unanimously passed the “Genocide Awareness Act” (SB 234) on Tuesday.
The legislation, which seeks to explicitly include an oral history component to the already mandated genocide education curriculum, would expand the perspective through which California students learn about this crime against humanity. Both the current legislation and the current curriculum directly reference the Armenian Genocide as well as several other 20th Century genocides.
“Survivor, witness and personal testimony represent powerful ways of educating California’s students about the true horrors of genocide, the ongoing cycle of mass atrocities that continue to plague our world, and – of course – the urgent need for us, as Americans, to work with each other and the international community in eradicating this crime forever,” said Aram Hamparian, ANCA Executive Director. “We value the leadership of Senator Mark Wyland and are proud that the California state Senate has remained at the vanguard of genocide education by adopting this measure.”
The Armenian National Committee of America led the Armenian American community effort to support this legislation. ANCA activists traveled to Sacramento and sent WebFaxes to their Senators earlier in the year and throughout April to raise awareness about the importance of the bill. The bill was introduced by California Senator Mark Wyland (R-northern San Diego County).
On April 29, during a hearing in the California State Senate Education Committee, Armenian American activist Harry Boghossian, a resident of San Diego County traveled to Sacramento to testify before the committee in support of the bill.
As part of his testimony, Boghossian referenced US Ambassador Henry Morgenthau noting that the Ambassador had “the willingness to record the atrocities as a credible, U.S. government document, readily available in the U.S. archives. This document serves as a legitimate itemization of the Genocide. In so doing, he kept the remembrance of the Armenian Genocide alive in the face of today’s Turkish government plot to cover up the truth and deny that the Genocide ever existed. We must never live in the denial of the truth.” (Read more about Boghossian’s testimony)
Genocide denial lobbyist Bruce Fein was dispatched from Washington, DC to testify at that same hearing in opposition to SB 234. Fein is a Board Member of the Turkish Coalition of America and active with the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund, a front organization promoting genocide denial through similar testimony and lawsuits against prominent civil rights groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center (Read more about the lawsuits). During the hearing Senator Joe Simitian was outspoken in confronting Fein’s denial the Armenian and Cambodian genocides as well as ongoing genocide in Darfur. (Read more about Fein’s efforts in Sacramento).
“Truth and our commitment to education won today. Having worked with students in the classroom on this subject I know that oral histories are fundamental in helping convey the lessons we need to learn in order to prevent genocide and punish its perpetrators,” remarked Shant Hagopian, an ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship alumnus and recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley where he also volunteered with the Genocide Education Project.
Having cleared the California State Senate, SB 234 now moves to the California State Assembly for consideration and approval. Should it be approved by both chambers Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would then have the opportunity to sign the legislation into law.