Saturday, September 24, 2016

ANCA Disappointed with Obama’s Letter on Armenia’s Independence

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama issued a letter Wednesday congratulating Armenia on the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s Independence. The Armenian National Committee of America called the letter “largely generic” with key omission about Armenia’s current realities.
“On behalf of the United States, I congratulate you and the people of Armenia as you celebrate 25 years of independence this September 21,” said Obama in his letter.
“The United States has been a steadfast partner of Armenia from the first days of its independence. We remain committed to the promise of those early years, when Armenians proudly raised their tricolor flag for the first time since 1920. Today, we again affirm our belief that a secure, prosperous, and democratic Armenia is essential for the security for the Armenian people and for the region more broadly,” added Obama.
“We thank Armenia for its support of our shared goals, particularly its response to the Syrian refugee crisis and its contributions to global peacekeeping operations and nuclear security. We will continue to work together to help Armenia realize its full potential. I wish you and the people of Armenia all the best as you celebrate 25 years of independence,” concluded Obama’s letter.
“The letter is also notable for what it leaves out, namely any mention of the Armenian Genocide, the issue that the President so very prominently used to secure Armenian American votes in 2008, but that he quickly abandoned once elected,” the ANCA response posted on its social media sites said.
“It also does not reference the President’s signature Armenian initiative in office, the Turkish-Armenian Protocols. Looking back, it’s clear that the President, having secured Armenia’s backing for these recklessly flawed (and now demonstrably failed) accords in the first months of his first term, never held Ankara to account for walking away from its agreement to end its illegal blockade of Armenia,” added the ANCA response.
“Also, no mention of Artsakh, which, in the context of Azerbaijan’s April offensive, represents a missed opportunity to challenge Baku’s aggression and press the case for peace. This silence sends a dangerous signal to the Aliyev regime,” said the ANCA.

Tankian Launches Change.org Effort Urging Reforms in Armenia

Serj Tankian
Serj Tankian
System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian on Wednesday launched a petition onChange.org, calling for action for positive civic changes and reforms in Armenia.
“Friends (In Armenia and Worldwide) – Today marks the 25th anniversary of Armenian independence. We should take the opportunity to celebrate some of the successes of this small but beautiful nation while also tackling the troubling issues at hand,” Serj Tankian said in a Facebook post.
“Independence means little when a large segment of the public are discontent. That is why myself and a group of friends have drafted a statement of support for the people of Armenia and their call to action for positive civic changes and reforms. Please have a look at the campaign link on change.org and sign on if you agree,” Tankian said.
The chang-org petition
The chang-org petition
The petition reads:
We, as Armenians, residing in Armenia and throughout the diaspora, are collectively committed to immediate change and justice in Armenia. In the wake of yearly protests and recent upheavals during the spring and summer of 2016 that resulted in gross violations of human and civic rights,
We say
NO to systematic corruption, monopolies, judicial inequality, police brutality, partisan politics, unequal rights, national depopulation, and elections tainted by fraud, all of which have contributed to the ongoing unrest.
We say
YES to the equality of all people, the fundamental preservation and protection of human rights, direct engagement in fair and transparent elections, respect for the rule of law, fair wages, separation of powers, a free press and advocacy for the disenfranchised. We say yes to tangible, democratic change through civic engagement with the citizenry of Armenia.
As a global community of Armenians, we would like Armenia’s political leaders to embody integrity, accountability, wisdom, intelligence, diplomacy, compassion, effectiveness and visionary thinking in addressing the pressing needs of the people of Armenia, thereby securing an egalitarian, just and constructive path towards real democracy where every voice matters.
Justice Within Armenia is a coalition of concerned Armenians around the world who believe in standing in solidarity with the people of Armenia and being present as eyewitnesses and monitoring free and fair elections while actively engaging with the Armenian populace in contributing to the present and future of our nation. We need to visualize an egalitarian state worthy of the resilience of our people and achieve it. Given our unique values and character, Armenia can and should become a country of opportunity, creativity, democracy and hope in a region rife with turmoil. The alternative is unthinkable.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

25 Years on: Reclaiming Our True Independence

25 Years on: Reclaiming Our True Independence

Twenty-five years ago, Armenia declared itself independent from Soviet rule, with over 99 percent of eligible voters saying “yes” to statehood. After 70 long years, Armenia was once again a free and independent nation.
‘Because the fact remains that this is a two-way street; Armenia needs us—Diasporan Armenians—just as much as we need Armenia.’ (Photo: Araz Chiloyan)
Though most believed that prosperity and bliss would come about following Armenia’s second independence, the years immediately following 1991 would prove to be bleak and disappointing. Ongoing war with neighboring Azerbaijan; devastation following the earthquake of 1988; severe economic hardship; unchecked ownership and entrepreneurship; and an illegal blockade were just a few of the countless problems the newly formed republic faced.
The people of Armenia, who had been so optimistic at the ballot boxes, were soon losing faith in the system they had so courageously fought for and, for the first time, felt a sense of disenchantment toward the idea of independence.
Twenty-five years have since passed, and unfortunately not much has changed in Armenia’s geopolitical and socioeconomic situations—a permanent peace has not been established with Azerbaijan and Armenian servicemen continue to be killed on the Nagorno-Karabagh (NKR/Artsakh) Line of Contact; hyper-privatization has paved the way for the prosperity of only a few and a large portion of the population continues to live in poverty; Armenia remains a blockaded, land-locked country, that seems to be the victim of constant bullying by greater powers.
Though these are realities our country is faced with, they are realities we must do our best to change. And by feeling a sense of belonging to Armenia, we must actively do our best to bring about real change.
Because the fact remains that this is a two-way street; Armenia needs us—Diasporan Armenians—just as much as we need Armenia.
So it is our responsibility—the responsibility of all Armenians regardless of where we live—to engage with what is happening in this country, and actively try to be a part of its development and progress. It is the duty of all Armenians—both in the homeland and in the Diaspora—to keep faith in the idea of independence and to actively try to make Armenia a true and rightful democracy.
Only then can we expect real change. Only then can we reclaim our true independence.

The Faces of Armenia’s Future: Celebrating 25 Years of Independence

The Faces of Armenia’s Future: Celebrating 25 Years of Independence
The following photos were taken on Sept. 21, at the 25th anniversary celebrations of Armenia’s re-independence at Yerevan’s Republic Square. I decided to focus on the future of Armenia—the children.
Sept. 21 is not only the 25th anniversary of the second independence of the Republic of Armenia, but also the International Day of Peace—a celebration dedicated to world peace, and the absence of war and violence.
Following the military parade, which took place that day, thousands of children rushed Republic Square. Over the loudspeaker, the presenter wished that they grew up never knowing war and that they may never need the military hardware that was on display earlier.
May this hold true. May the future of Armenia grow up only ever knowing peace.

Members of Congress Toast to 25 Years of Armenian Independence


Members of Congress Toast to 25 Years of Armenian Independence




Armenian Embassy Celebration on Capitol Hill Draws Congressional Friends, Community Leaders
WASHINGTON—House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and the bipartisan leadership of the Congressional Armenian Caucus joined the Armenian-American leaders in toasting Armenia’s 25th anniversary of independence, at a Capitol Hill celebration hosted by the Embassy of Armenia, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Cutting the celebratory cake (Photo: ANCA)
The program featured warm toasts by legislators, congratulating Armenia on a quarter century of independence and pledging continued partnership in further developing the U.S.-Armenia relationship, supporting Artsakh’s (Nagorno-Karabagh/NKR) freedom, and ending U.S. complicity in Ankara’s denial of the Armenian Genocide.  Ambassador Grigor Hovhanissian hosted the Congressional program, offering his own inspirational words regarding the U.S.-Armenia partnership, and inviting each legislator to offer their toast to mark this historic occasion.
In his remarks, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian noted that, “when the Armenians look back up on the early years of their homeland’s reborn independence, they will surely remember and fondly recall the help of their American friends.” He went on to share the many ways in which America has assisted Armenia—from post-earthquake humanitarian aid to technical economic assistance and an aid-to trade transition that has brought unprecedented levels of U.S. investment to Armenia.
Hamparian emphasized the Armenian people’s commitment to regional peace, highlighting the commitment of both Yerevan and Stepanakert to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) peace process for Nagorno-Karabagh and the Royce-Engel proposals to strengthen the cease-fire.  He closed by emphasizing Armenia’s reciprocation of American generosity, noting the high level of Armenian participation in peacekeeping operations—from Iraq and Afghanistan to Kosovo and Lebanon, Armenia’s partnership with the United States on nuclear safety challenges, and Armenia’s leadership in addressing the Syria crisis by serving as a safe haven for at risk minorities.
A video of Hamparian’s remarks is available below.
Members of Congress joining Chairman Royce and Senator Menendez in toasting Armenia’s 25th anniversary were Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Vice-Chairs Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and David Trott (R-Mich.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).
Photos from the Capitol Hill celebration are available on the ANCA Facebook page at:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10154081494666859.1073741973.16968936858&type=1&l=97a7569701

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Pan-Turanism, not Islam, Motivated the Armenian Genocide

BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
A recently published book “Remembering for the Future: Armenia, Auschwitz, and Beyond,” edited by Michael Berenbaum, Richard Libowitz, and Marcia Sachs Littell, is a collection of scholarly papers delivered at a conference held at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, March 8-11, 2014.
In his paper, “The Armenian Genocide as Jihad,” Prof. Richard Rubenstein attributes the Armenian mass killings to Islamic fanaticism against Christians. This is an often misunderstood topic even by Armenians who proudly proclaim that they were the first nation to adopt Christianity as state religion in 301 A.D. There is a whole folklore based on the misconception that Armenians were martyred because of their faith and refusal to convert to Islam. Given the current anti-Islamic fervor in the United States and elsewhere, some people are misled by these false claims.
Prof. Rubenstein starts his paper on the wrong footing when he describes a gruesome scene from “Ravished Armenia,” a 1919 Hollywood silent film which showed several naked Armenian women nailed to wooden crosses. Believing that “the Turks” intended to send a particular anti-Armenian and anti-Christian message with such horrifying images, Prof. Rubenstein mistakenly claims that the movie “could not have been filmed without the involvement and consent of Turkish authorities.”
Prof. Rubenstein bases his assumptions of the religious motive behind the Armenian Genocide on the fact that “the Ottoman Empire was governed as a theocratic state at the apex of which stood the Sultan, both the supreme head of state and, for Sunni Muslims, the Caliph and, as such, the successor to the Prophet and supreme protector of Islam.”
The Professor insists on stipulating a religious causal factor for the Armenian Genocide, even after quoting from the eminent scholar Dr. Vahakn Dadrian, who contradicts him. According to Dadrian, the members of the Committee of Union and Progress or Ittihad who gained power in 1908 and masterminded the Armenian Genocide, were not “followers of the tenets of Islam…. While the Ittihad continued to run the State largely as a theocracy, its leaders were personally atheists and agnostics.” It is difficult to believe that a devout Muslim would murder a single human being, let alone millions!
Dr. Rubenstein emphasizes the central role of Islam in the Turkish mass killings of Armenians, even though he acknowledges that “[Ronald] Suny and other scholars have argued that the predominant motive for the murderous homogenization project was nationalism and there is no doubt that radical nationalism played a part.” Rubenstein dismisses the issue of Pan-Turkish nationalism, arguing that “the most important motivation for the monumental ‘ethnic cleansing’ projects was religious and specifically a consequence of the unchanging nature of certain aspects of Islam.”
To demonstrate that religion was a major determinant in the Turkish leaders’ designs, Prof. Rubenstein states: “on November 2, 1914, the Ottoman Empire declared war on the Entente powers, Britain, France, Russia, and their allies. On November 13, the Ottoman Sultan, in his capacity as Caliph, issued an appeal for jihad. The next day, Mustafa Hayri Bey, the Sheikh-ul-Islam, and as such the chief Sunni religious authority in the Ottoman world, issued a formal (and inflammatory) declaration of jihad ‘against infidels and enemies of Islam.’ Jihad pamphlets in Arabic were also distributed in mosques throughout the Muslim world that offered a detailed plan of operations for the assassination and extermination of all ‘unbelievers’ except those of German nationality, the Empire’s wartime ally. Killing squads and their leaders were ‘motivated by both the ideology of jihad and Pan-Turkism influenced by European nationalism.’ While the practical influence of the jihad on the masses was limited, ‘it later facilitated the government’s program of genocide against the Armenians.’”
Prof. Rubenstein misses the point that religious fervor, rather than being the cause of the Armenian Genocide, was exploited to inflame the passions of the fanatical Turkish mobs in order to provoke them against the Armenians.
Instead of religion, the primary motivation for the destruction of Armenians was their removal as an impediment to Turkification and an obstacle to the Turkish leaders’ grand scheme of establishing a Pan-Turanist empire reaching Central Asia. Even though they were Muslims, a large number of Kurds were also killed, simply because they were not Turks!
Christian Armenians had no conflict with devout Muslims and their faith. In fact, large numbers of survivors of the Armenian Genocide were sheltered by Muslims in, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Armenians remember well The Sharif of Mecca, Al-Husayn ibn Ali, who issued an edict in 1917 ordering Muslims to defend Armenian survivors of the Genocide, as they would defend their own families.
The Young Turks’ plan to eliminate Armenians from Ottoman Turkey was motivated by Pan-Turkish fanatical nationalism rather than Pan-Islamic fervor!