LOS ANGELES–The Armenian National Committee – Western Region, joined by members of the Los Angeles area Armenian American community, attended a special session of the Los Angeles City Council last Tuesday, where the City Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of passage of H. Res. 106, the Congressional measure affirming America’s historical record on the Armenian Genocide. The Council’s resolution was offered jointly by Councilmember Wendy Greuel and Council President Eric Garcetti.
In her remarks to the Los Angeles City Council, ANC-WR Board Member Souzi Zerounian-Khanzadian noted “This City Council resolution reminds us that it is always appropriate as individuals and representative bodies to speak out against Genocide and its cover-up.” Zerounian-Khanzadian, who served as the community spokesperson at the event was joined by Genocide survivors Hrant Zeitountzian and Ghazaros Kademian as well as ANC activist Armen Donigian.
Reverend Muron Aznikian and Father Khoren Baboshian from the Western Prelacy were also present and opened the Council session with a prayer asking for continued spiritual guidance for the Council as they deliberate on issues of concern to the City of Los Angeles.
During a thirty minute discussion of the Armenian Genocide resolution, several members of the City Council as well as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa voiced their support for swift passage of the Congressional measure.
“Some are resisting the call to recognize the Armenian Genocide on the grounds that it may upset sensitive relations with an ally in the Middle East,” said Villaraigosa, adding that “while our relationship with modern Turkey is strategically vital, our national interest will always be more fundamentally aligned with the cause of human rights.” The Mayor added, “With recent mass killings documented in Darfur and Kosovo, it remains our continuing responsibility as Americans to condemn genocide whenever and wherever it occurs… Congress must vote yes on House Bill 106.”
Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, added “The reality is that this genocide happened, 1.5 million Armenia’s were killed and people today are still suffering because of it.” Rosendahl concluded his remarks by calling on Congress to “show some backbone and courage and support this resolution.”
In a particularly magnanimous gesture toward the Armenian Genocide survivors in attendance, Councilmember Tom LeBonge asked that the survivors rise and be recognized for their continuing courage in the face of Turkish denials.
Councilmember Janice Hahn noted, “It’s always the right time to do the right thing” while her colleague, Wendy Greuel added, it’s time to stand up and say it was genocide and it was wrong.” Councilmember Greuel also encouraged those in attendance to “call their congressmen today and tell them that it does matter to remember the Armenian genocide.”
In voicing his unwavering support for the resolution, Council President Eric Garcetti stated “this entire body understands what is at stake." He added, “If we don’t do it now there will never be a right time to do it.” Also, making statemen’s in favor of the resolution were Councilmember Ed Reyes and Dennis Zine.
H.R. 106 calls upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide. It further urges the Republic of Turkey to end its decades long campaign of denial. The resolution, authored by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, was approved earlier this month by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs over the objections of President Bush, who said the action could endanger relations with Turkey, a key ally. Since the committee vote, Turkey has ferociously pursued a policy to coerce Congress to prevent the resolution from being voted on in the House of Representatives.
The ANCA is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian-American community on a broad range of issues.
Text of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s speech:
In 1896, during one of his last speeches, the legendary William Gladstone, who served three terms as Prime Minister of England, Said that a failure to stop Turkish massacres of the Armenian people would leave Europe “disgraced in the face of the world.”A century ago, crimes against the Armenian people were a widely-known and acknowledged truth. The genocide against Armenia’s reached its tragic zenith between 1915 and 1923, when an estimated 1.5 million Armenia’s were brutally killed in their historic homeland by Ottoman Turkey. Not surprisingly, the name Gladstone came to be reviled in Turkey.
While our relationship with modern Turkey is strategically vital, our national interest will always be more fundamentally aligned with the cause of human rights.
As Mayor of the city with the largest Armenian population outside of Armenia, I say it’s time to end the tradition of holocaust denial that has only deepened the pain of those whose parents and grandparents suffered the unspeakable horrors of ethnic cleansing. Before casting their deciding votes, I hope every member of Congress will keep in mind one of Mr. Gladstone’s most famous phrases, which was a favorite of Martin Luther King Jr: "Justice delayed is justice denied."
Some are resisting the call to recognize the Armenian Genocide on the grounds that it may upset sensitive relations with an ally in the Middle East and this is "not the right time" to approve such a resolution. I think we can all get behind the latter sentiment: this is not the right time to acknowledge the fact of the genocide, because we should have done so long before now.
The tragic outcome of the world’s silence and inaction in the face of the Armenian Genocide is one of the darkest chapters of the 20th Century. With recent mass killings documented in Darfur and Kosovo, it remains our continuing responsibility as Americans to condemn genocide whenever and wherever it occurs.
When we turn a blind eye to holocaust, we lend it a legitimacy that makes us all complicit.
Truth should never be subjugated to prevailing political winds. Genocide is genocide, torture is torture and truth is truth. When words to lose their meaning, when the horrors of history are buried under layers of diplomatic euphemism, we invite future tragedies.
With this resolution we have an opportunity to reclaim America’s moral leadership in the 21st century.
The whole world is watching. Congress must vote yes on House Bill 106.