WASHINGTON — When Annie Simonian Totah fights for Armenian Genocide recognition on Capitol Hill, the dispiriting thought of her parents in an orphanage takes centerstage.
The daughter of Genocide survivors, Totah has made it one of her life’s missions to obtain worldwide recognition for the first human rights exodus of the 20th century, which claimed the lives of close to 1.5 million Armenians during the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
It is with that determination and passion in mind that she has dedicated 40 years of her life for advocacy work and philanthropic missions. In recognition of this milestone, Totah will be honored by the Armenian Assembly of America on Tuesday, September 25, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Washington, DC.
Among a wall of family portraits in Totah’s sprawling home in Potomac, Md., are photos of familiar faces, from a succession of royalty to presidents to world leaders. Her house has served as more than a residence for her four children and now her grandchildren — it has also been the site of countless fundraisers for political, humanitarian, medical, cultural and social causes, where many esteemed figures are invited, from Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran to Hillary Clinton, on whose campaign for President Totah served, along with Congressional leaders and heads of major non-profit organizations.
While she has become well-known over four decades of service to Washington, D.C., her heart remains with Armenians and bolstering the homeland. When Armenia emerged as an independent nation, Totah took spirited action and organized groups of Diasporans to set sail with them toward the homeland under the banner of the Armenian Assembly of America; for many it was the first time they would step foot on Armenia’s soil. While she had supported her homeland from afar, since her days as a tenacious youngster in Beirut, Lebanon, to her relentless advocacy work in Washington, she sought to connect Diasporans with a free and independent Armenia, recognizing the importance of building that integral relationship early on.
“My goal on these missions was to connect Armenian-Americans with their homeland and to help them see first-hand what is happening in the country and give them the chance to do their share to help,” she said.