Maryland Becomes 17th State to Pass Such Legislation
ANNAPOLIS–MD–The Maryland General Assembly became the seventeenth state to pass legislation honoring victims of the Armenian Genocide. April 24 will now be known as "Maryland Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide." Following debate on Friday night–the House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly–79-11–to pass the resolution. The resolution then followed the legislative process back to the Senate–where the House version was adopted by a vote of 32-12 on Monday–April 9.
Backed by broad-based community support–the bill designates April 24 as a commemorative day to honor the memory of those families in Maryland who suffered from the Genocide in 1915-23 at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. Thousands who now live in Maryland had families who escaped the planned extermination of the Armenian people. The Genocide began with the arrest of community intellectuals in the Ottoman Turkish state capital on April 24–1915 and their executions.
In a joint statement Armenian Genocide Remembrance Committee Co-Chairs Aris Mardirossian and Annie Totah said–"We thank the Maryland General Assembly for remembering and honoring victims of the Armenian Genocide and their families throughout the State of Maryland. Today’s final vote is a strong statement that the Government of Turkey must come to terms with its past. We are proud to see Maryland join the long list of states that have already affirmed the Armenian Genocide. Only by remembering and educating the public about genocides and intolerance can we hope to prevent future crimes against humanity."
Maryland State Senator Perry Sfikas (D-46)–who has been the driving force behind the legislation–along with Senator Chris Van Hollen and Senate President Mike Miller–explained its importance for the State of Maryland. "With today’s final vote–Maryland joins the large number of states that have recognized the Armenian Genocide and in doing so honors the memory of Maryland families who have suffered from this crime at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish government," said Senator Sfikas. "This makes a strong statement against genocidal crimes and sends a message to those who would attempt to distort or deny these dark pages of history. By raising awareness of this issue we educate our public about such crimes and in so doing make us a better society."
Maryland boasts a diverse population that includes Armenian-–Greek- and Jewish-American voters–many of whose family histories record their efforts in overcoming the trauma of genocide in order to rebuild their lives in the United States. The Armenian-American community has kept its roots alive through its churches–schools–athletic and cultural organizations. With close-knit family ties and traditions–the younger generation remains connected to its heritage and history while appreciating the diversity that exists in Maryland.
"I am a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. On behalf of other survivors–I want to thank the Maryland General Assembly for remembering the suffering endured by our families," said Ashkhen Shamigian–a 97-year old resident of Montgomery County.
Similar resolutions have been passed in Alaska–California–Georgia–Illinois–Maine–Massachusetts–Michigan–New Hampshire–New Jersey–New Mexico–New York–Pennsylvania–Rhode Island–South Carolina–Virginia–and Wisconsin. Additionally–a large number of state governors have issued proclamations in honor of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. In all–a majority of states have affirmed the Armenian Genocide by way of legislation and/or proclamation. The Armenian Genocide Remembrance Committee of Maryland is a broad-based coalition of organizations including the Armenian American Democratic Leadership Council–Armenian Assembly of America–Armenian National Committee of Maryland–and the Maryland Chapters of the Armenian Relief Society–Armenian Youth Federation–Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural and Educational Association–and the National Organization of Republican Armenia’s.