Drive for Genocide Recognition Broadens Focus

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In April 2006, Know Genocide, a multi-ethnic, non-partisan coalition founded to counter denial of genocide demonstrated at the Massachusetts State House on Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day in solidarity with the Armenian community. There were participants from Darfur, Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Greek and Jewish groups.

Also in April 2006, the Armenian Students Association (ASA) joined with University of Southern California (USC) Hillel and Jewish law students to jointly recognize the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. Said an ASA spokesperson, Mercedes Aline Arslanian, “The ASA decided to collaborate with USC Hillel and the Jewish Law Students Association this year to show solidarity against genocide. We share a common tragic cause, and so we decided to pool our resources and broaden our scope to educate people about all crimes against humanity, whether in Armenia, during the Holocaust or in Darfur.”

During an ANCA reception on Capital Hill this past March, the founder and executive director of the Genocide Intervention Network spoke of the importance of “recognizing Armenian Genocide as it relates to stopping current and future genocides.”

This year, Nancy Kaufman of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) was the featured speaker at the Armenian Genocide Commemoration at the Massachusetts State House. The JCRC and Kaufman were honored for their recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the wake of a campaign to highlight the Anti- Defamation League’s refusal to fully recognize the Genocide. Kaufman was later awarded a medal by the Armenian Assembly for her support of Armenian Genocide recognition.

Said Armenian Assembly Executive Director Brian Ardouny, “What you’ve seen over the last five years is a greater awareness within the broader community about genocide. What’s happening in Darfur has awakened a new commitment to the words ‘Never Again’ and Armenians are part of this movement to prevent genocide. The Assembly has also filed legislation with the Congress that asks for divestment in Darfur and Anthony Barsamian has submitted testimony in the Massachusetts legislature regarding divestment in Darfur.”

Ardouny pointed to the establishment by the Senate Judiciary Committee of a new subcommittee titled Human Rights and the Law as an advance in the recognition of genocide and human rights abuses.

“Their first hearing was about genocide and the rule of law. This new committee is groundbreaking, and we were able to submit testimony. All these atrocities, such as those in Rwanda and Darfur, have a created a groundswell of community action. For all Armenian organizations, it has been a call to take an active role as part of the Darfur Coalition, to raise awareness and do anything we can to stop genocide.”

The Armenian Assembly also took a leading role in the “Olympic Dream for Darfur” Torch Relay, which began in Darfur and will end in Beijing. The goal of the relay is to put pressure on China, Sudan’s largest trading partner, to put an end to the slaughter in Darfur. The torch passed through Armenia and was brought to Boston in spring 2007, during the visit of Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians. The torch was carried from Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Cambridge to Boston’s City Hall Plaza, where a rally involving many ethnic groups took place.

Noted Hamparian, “This year, ANCA did a whole program with the Genocide Intervention Network. We’re very involved in the Sudan. We’ve worked a lot with the Congressional Black Caucus and also with the Save Darfur Coalition and Africa Action.”

Karine Birazian, Eastern Region director of the ANCA, based in New York, “I’ve had a great deal of involvement with other ethnic groups. I’m originally from Illinois and I was instrumental in getting a mandate to teach the Genocide in Illinois. We’ve worked to build ties with the Cambodians, the Ukrainian Foundation and the Pontian Foundation. We’ve done a lot to broaden the teaching about genocide in the schools.”

Birazian lectures about genocide in the schools and works with the Armenian Youth Federation.

“What I try to teach is that as victims of a genocide, we Armenians need to be the voice for others. The Darfurians right now don’t have a voice. We need to be their voice and work in Congress for the Darfurian children, to raise awareness. We can’t change the fact that genocide has happened, but we can work for the future. We have built strong connections with the Genocide Intervention Network. We lobby with them,” she said.

Girard Ratevosian, a Massachusetts resident and activist with strong ties to the Armenian Assembly, said, “I’ve enjoyed working with the national Save Darfur Coalition and also the local branch in Massachusetts, because I believe in broadening the advocacy for the prevention of genocide. I was also involved in bringing the torch to Armenia and to Boston. It’s hard to see genocide survivors from different countries come together, but it’s also very powerful.”

He added, “I think, overall, in the Armenian community, in the Jewish community and other communities, there’s been a growing anti-genocide movement, specifically regarding Darfur. There’s been a unity about
recognizing the Armenian Genocide and other genocides. It’s a two-way street that’s very powerful. Our voices together are stronger than one voice alone.”

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