Monday, April 10, 2006
US STILL CAN'T SAY THE WORD
In 1915, the Ottoman Empire embarked on a campaign to exterminate the Armenian population through slaughter and mass deportation. It succeded in killing about 1.2 million people. More than 90 years later the US State Department still can't say the word "genocide" in regards to what happened then. The State Department officially refers to the "massacre" of Armenians under the Ottoman Turkish Empire but has never described the conflict as a deliberate attempt to eliminate an entire race of people. It doesn't want to upset a strategic ally - Turkey.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans publicly referred to the 1915 slaughter as `genocide."
A firestorm arose. Turkey, in particular, was outraged.
Unhappy lawmakers and activists contend Evans is being forced from his post because of those comments.
Sounding as if he were reciting carefully prepared talking points, Evans himself spoke delicately about his current status.
"I am still the ambassador," Evans said in a brief interview recently during a Washington visit. "I have not submitted my retirement papers."
At the same time, Evans underscored the temporary nature of any diplomatic posting.
In any event, the following is from Asbarez Armenian Daily.
Rock Band Launches Washington, DC Campaign for Armenian Genocide Recognition
LOS ANGELES -- Serj Tankian and John Dolmayan of the Grammy Award-winning band System Of A Down will travel to Washington, DC on April 24 for a three-day campaign to urge Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and other Congressional leaders to end their complicity in Turkey's ongoing denial of the Armenian genocide.
On the evening of Monday, April 24, starting at 5:00 PM, band members will join with the Armenian National Committee of America and Armenian Youth Federation in leading a grassroots demonstration outside the gates of the Turkish Embassy at 2525 Massachusetts Ave., in Northwest Washington, DC. The Turkish government, through its Embassy in Washington, spends millions of dollars each year to bully, threaten, and blackmail the US government not to recognize the Armenian genocide.
The band members will devote Tuesday, April 25 to providing interviews to the political media in Washington, and, in the evening, hosting a Congressional screening of "Screamers," a new documentary by filmmaker Carla Garapedian about the band's worldwide campaign for Armenian genocide recognition.
On Wednesday April 26, System will meet with key Members of Congress to urge them to allow a vote on legislation recognizing the Armenian genocide, and at 5:30 PM will participate in the annual Capitol Hill commemoration of the Armenian genocide. This event, now in its 11th year, is regularly attended by over 30 Members of Congress, diplomats, ethnic community leaders, human rights activists, genocide prevention advocates, and Armenian Americans from across the country.
Beginning on April 24, 1915, the Ottoman Turkish government began a centrally planned and systematically executed campaign to annihilate the Armenian people from their ancient homeland. By 1923 over 1.5 million Armenians were killed and hundreds of thousands deported, in what constituted the first genocide of the 20th century.
Congressional legislation recognizing this crime (HR 316 / HCR195 / SR320) has broad bipartisan support, but has been blocked from coming to a vote by Congressional leaders, despite the fact that, five years ago, US House Speaker Dennis Hastert promised to allow Members to vote on this human rights measure.
In September of last year, Serj Tankian and John Dolmayan from the band traveled to the Speaker's hometown of Batavia, Illinois to lead a rally urging him to allow a vote on the Armenian genocide legislation. During the rally, Tankian delivered a personal and powerfully worded message calling on the Speaker to do the right thing, and stressing that "historical truths should never be denied in a democracy--especially one with such a proud heritage of freedom."
Speaker Hastert has it in his power to accomplish one of System's goals--official US recognition of Turkey's destruction of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923. By allowing Congress to vote on this legislation, Speaker Hastert can end US denial of this crime and open the doors to justice--to the restoration, reparation, and restitution owed to the victims of genocide. By continuing to block a vote on this legislation, Hastert effectively joins in the denial of this crime against humanity, and the denial of justice to an entire nation.
The members of System Of A Down, Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, John Dolmayan, and Shavo Odadjian all personally lost family members and family history to the Armenian genocide. "Because so much of my family history was lost in the Armenian genocide," said Malakian, "my grandfather, who was very young at the time, doesn't know his true age. How many people can say they don't know how old they are?" Tankian, Dolmayan, and Odadjian all identify their grandparents' memories as the only links they have to their respective family histories, as most of their families were obliterated during the Armenian genocide.
"It's important for people to be aware of the Armenian genocide," explained Tankian, "and that those actions continue to be covered up by the Turkish government, the US State Department, Turkey's allies in the defense and oil industries, and by our present US Administration. Had the Armenian genocide been acknowledged as a crime against humanity as it was, Hitler might not have thought he could get away with the Jewish Holocaust. History does and will repeat itself, unless we stop that cycle."