NEW YORK – On May 21st and 22nd the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Eastern Region, Armenian Youth Federation, and Cyprus Action Network teamed up with the music rock band “VIZA” to educate and activate concert-goers about current efforts to end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and end Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus. The organizations joined VIZA at concerts in New York City and Philadelphia, and had an opportunity to reach out and mobilize a primarily young crowd.
“Art and music have a history of being at the forefront of social change,” said K’noup, lead singer of VIZA. “We’re always looking forward to working with organizations that are making positive social change. The groups joining us on our East Coast tour work on issues that the band members hold a deep connection to – with myself being Greek and five of them Armenian.”
The ANCA Eastern Region gathered signatures around the Armenian Genocide Resolution in the Senate. “By reaching out to people outside of our standard methods we continue to see that Armenian Genocide recognition is something that all Americans care about – it is not just an Armenian issue as some claim.” said Garo Manjikian, Eastern Region Director of the ANCA. “The signatures we gathered will be sent to Senators who have not yet cosponsored the Senate Armenian Genocide Resolution.” The list includes Pennsylvania Senators Arlen Spector and Robert Casey Jr. and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Spearheaded by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and John Ensign (R-NV), S.Res.316 currently has 17 cosponsors.
“It was a rewarding experience to join the ANCA table at the VIZA concert, not only to enjoy the unique musical experience of this Greek and Armenian band and meet the many Greek and Armenian VIZA fans, but also to support the cause – recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the issue of Turkey’s impunity and continued aggression to its neighbors,” said Nikoloas Taneris, Founder of Cyprus Action Network of America (CANA).
CANA gathered petition signatures calling for the arrest of Turkish settler Kenan Akin, who is wanted by the Cypriot police and has an Interpol warrant for his arrest. Akin murdered young Greek-Cypriot demonstrator Solomos Solomou who was attempting to take down the Turkish flag from a flagpole during a peaceful anti-occupation demonstration. “The effort to bring him to justice is especially symbolic of what our people are going through. Akin has been an official political ‘candidate’ as recently as last year in the illegal Turkish-military-occupation regime that is recognized only by Turkey. Not only has he escaped justice, he has publicly gloated over the killing in recent interviews.”
Long time activist and former Executive Director of Armenian National Committee of America, Western Region, Andrew Kzirian plays the oud (traditional Armenian instrument) for VIZA. Kzirian has been instrumental in bringing activism into the band’s mission. “I feel that music and artistic expression is a fresh and appealing medium for educating our youth, some of whom will inevitably serve as our leaders of tomorrow,” said Kzirian. “It is an effective supplement to more conventional approaches to societal change and a valuable way to educate the audience about what is going on the world.”
Public support for Armenian Genocide Recognition continues to grow through all parts of the country. Just recently the Armenian National Committee of Georgia, led by the Agasarkisian family, passed two Armenian Genocide Resolutions in the state legislature. Last week the Armenian National Committee of Massachusetts announced that the local coalition of anti-genocide activists surpassed their goal of 10,000 signatures on their online petition at change.org.
Picture – Garo Manjikian, ANCA Eastern Region Director and Nikoloas Taneris, founder of CANA at VIZA concert in Knitting Factory, New York