Thursday, May 25, 2017

ANCA’s Hamparian Testifies Before Congress Urging Strong Response to Erdogan-Ordered Attacks

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe: Lusik Usoyan, Founder and President of the Ezidi Relief Fund; Murat Yusa, a local businessman and protest organizer; Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America; and Ms. Ruth Wedgwood, Edward B. Burling Professor of International Law and Diplomacy, at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe: Lusik Usoyan, Founder and President of the Ezidi Relief Fund; Murat Yusa, a local businessman and protest organizer; Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America; and Ms. Ruth Wedgwood, Edward B. Burling Professor of International Law and Diplomacy, at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
“We’ve reached a moment of reckoning. Not simply about Erdogan, but ourselves. We know who he is. Now it’s time for him to understand who we are,” explained Hamparian
WASHINGTON – Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian offered powerful testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, calling for a clear and decisive U.S. response to the May 16th brutal beatings of peaceful American protesters by Turkish President Recep Tayip Erodogan’s bodyguards.
Hamparian, whose live videotape footage from the attack was shown during the hearing, explained “What [Erdogan] ordered on the streets of our capital provides a small insight – a chilling insight – into the types of violence visited every day upon the citizens of Turkey, far from our city, away from our cameras. Those are the facts. That’s where we are.”
Hamparian continued asking, “This hearing, Mr. Chairman, is about foreign policy, to be sure, but – at a more fundamental level – it’s about our shared American commitment to our First Amendment and our freedoms. The question before us is: How will we respond to Ankara exporting its intolerance and violence to our shores, his unapologetic attempts to bully Americans, as he has his own citizens?
How will we answer his arrogance?”
Among the remedies suggested by Hamparian included:
— President Trump should break his silence and condemn this attack on peaceful protesters in our nation’s capital.
— The U.S. government – including our Department of Justice – should fully investigate and criminally prosecute the attackers, demanding that Turkey issue a blanket waiver of diplomatic immunity for all involved in this assault.
— The Administration should, as Senator McCain has recommended, exercise our right to immediately expel Turkey’s Ambassador from the United States – as both an expression of our outrage and a reaffirmation of our American devotion to freedom of expression.
Hamparian welcomed the full Committee’s unanimous adoption of H.Res.354, introduced by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY), with the support of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), condemning the attacks and “calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and measures to be taken to prevent similar incidents in the future.”
He also encouraged the adoption of H.Res.220 – a bipartisan measure seeking to apply the lessons of Turkey’s genocide against Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and other Christians in order to prevent future atrocities.
Also testifying at the hearing were Lusik Usoyan, Founder and President of the Yezidi Relief Fund; Murat Yusa, a local businessman and protest organizer; and Ruth Wedgwood, Edward B. Burling Professor of International Law and Diplomacy, at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Usoyan and Yusa were victims of the brutal assault on May 16th by President Erdogan’s bodyguards.
“I believe that the individuals like Mr. Erdogan who systematically abuse his authority, by violating human right, pressing press, imprisoning second largest party’s [HDP] co-chairs and its members, committing war crimes, and strongly supporting a terrorist group like ISIS has no space in the White House of the United States of America,” explained Usoyan, who went on to outline the beating she received at the hands of pro-Erdogan henchmen. A Yezidi Kurd who grew up in Armenia, Usoyan cited Erdogan’s collusion with Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev as among reasons for the April, 2016, Azerbaijani attack against Armenia. A tearful Usoyan explained, “In the aftermath of the 4-day attack around 80 Armenian soldiers were killed and one Ezidi origin soldier was beheaded by Azeri solders. That soldier happens to be my cousin.”
“As somebody that takes pride in the fundamental American values, it was hard for me to explain to my children why I was attacked, and why Erdogan’s goons were able to escape the U.S. without any justice,” Murat Musa told Members of Congress in his moving testimony. “To ensure justice is served is not for my benefit. It is for our children and the unpredictable future that lays ahead. To hold the perpetrators accountable for their unjustifiable and brutal attacks is not for my benefit. It is to reflect the values that is engraved in the hearts of all Americans.”
Ruth Wedgwood called the attacks “a dreadful episode of violence in which protesters assembled at Sheridan Circle, in front of the residence of the Turkish ambassador, were subjected to gratuitous and outrageous beatings by persons who were apparently part of the security detail of President Erdogan. There is no excuse for this.”
Wedgwood, who has survived a terrorist attack in the past, sympathized with the victims of the Erdogan ordered beatings, stated that “to send a message now to Turkey, there needs to be fairly demonstrative, dramatic measures taken.” Describing President Erdogan as a “thug” and a “bully,” Wedgwood explained that “One can surmise that if he bullies individual people, he will bully the region. Would he be a reliable ally? No.”
"Having been allowed by U.S. Presidents - past and present - to enforce its gag-rule against honest U.S. remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government is now openly and unapologetically exporting its intolerance and violence to America," the ANCA's Hamparian told Congressional leaders.
“Having been allowed by U.S. Presidents – past and present – to enforce its gag-rule against honest U.S. remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government is now openly and unapologetically exporting its intolerance and violence to America,” the ANCA’s Hamparian told Congressional leaders.
Below is Hamparian’s testimony.
Violence Outside the Turkish Ambassador’s Residence:
The Right to Peaceful Protest
Thank you Chairman Rohrabacher and Ranking Member Meeks for this opportunity to testify about the May 16th attack by Turkish President Erdogan’s bodyguards against peaceful protesters outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence.
I participated in this peaceful protest at Sheridan Circle and was witness to this brutal assault on Americans and American values.
I personally saw unprovoked attacks by President Erdogan’s bodyguards and others against civilians protesting the Turkish government’s policies. The Turkish President’s security detail was large, clearly well-trained, and extremely violent – kicking and punching protesters even after they had fallen to the ground defenseless and, in at least one case, unconscious. I did my best to help the injured and stayed with many of them later that evening while they were being cared for at the George Washington University Hospital’s emergency room.
Live footage that I filmed for the Armenian National Committee of America Facebook page served as source video for CNN, the Associated Press, and other major media outlets. Our viral video spread news of this incident around the world and, along with excellent video and reporting by the Voice of America and others, helped place a global spotlight upon the Erdogan regime’s increasingly violent efforts to suppress dissent, both at home and now, increasingly, abroad. Your leadership in educating your Congressional colleagues and the American public about this outrage is deeply appreciated.
At the time of the incident I felt certain that it was an orchestrated attack, launched on orders from above. Video evidence I have reviewed subsequent to the violence, including a frame-by-frame analysis by the Washington Post and an audio analysis by the Daily Caller, confirm my conviction that this attack was, in fact, launched at the direction of President Erdogan.
At the time, I offered live, on-the-scene comments. While rushed and shared in a stressful setting, my words then reflect my views today:
“This is the very type of intolerance that has come to predominate in Turkey, and it is now been exported here. I was here. I saw every bit of this. I saw a group of peaceful protestors in Sheridan Circle – there is grassy area across the street from Turkish Ambassadors residence – they were protesting, exercising their Constitutional right to speak their mind, to hold signs, to share their opinion, to express their views.”
“They were rushed from across the street by a group of – a pro Erdogan crowd – broke through the police lines, attacked just literally anybody within reach, with their fists and anything else they could get a hold of, and they beat as many people as they could, they left many bloodied, many have been taken to the hospital. This is exactly the type of violence you see in Ankara and they’re exporting it here. They’re exporting it here. I’m going to repeat myself: It’s one thing for the Turkish government to do that to its own citizens, and it’s a terrible thing. It’s another thing for us, as Americans, to see that exported to the United States, and it was exported to right here to the nation’s capital. Right here, blocks from the White House!”
The fact that Erdogan would act in such a brazen and brutal manner against Americans during a high-profile visit to Washington, DC offers a chilling insight into the depths of violence his forces visit every day upon those in Turkey who – far from the media spotlight – dare to dissent against his despotic rule.
Last Tuesday’s aggression by the Turkish government at Sheridan Circle is clearly part of an escalating and very troubling pattern. Having been allowed by U.S. Presidents – past and present – to enforce its gag-rule against honest U.S. remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government is now openly and unapologetically exporting its intolerance and violence to America.
Past incidents involving violence by President Erdogan’s bodyguards include a 2011 attack on a United Nations security detail and also a March, 2016, assault on protesters and journalists outside the Brookings Institute here in Washington, DC. I took part in last year’s Brookings protest and witnessed first-hand the violence visited by President Erdogan’s security on people gathered, upon our internationally respected Embassy Row, to exercise their Constitutional rights.
President Erdogan is acting with remarkable arrogance and absolute disdain for our country, open disrespect for our police, and outright contempt for the principles that inspire and guide our democracy. The news that the Turkish Foreign Ministry has filed an official protest with U.S. Ambassador John Bass over the conduct of U.S. law enforcement offices is as outrageous as it is offensive.
By way of background, our protest in Sheridan Circle followed an early, larger demonstration held across the street from the White House in Lafayette Park. The ANCA co-hosted this protest, along with other civil society groups concerned about a broad array of Turkish violations of human rights, humanitarian standards, press freedoms, and international law.
Our Facebook event page was titled, “Protest Against The Erdogan Dictatorship,” and invited supporters to “Join supporters of human rights, religious liberty, and regional peace at a rally outside the White House (in Lafayette Park) during President Trump’s May 16th meeting with Turkish President Erdogan. Among the issues listed on this page were: Erdogan’s post-coup consolidation of authoritarian power; mass arrests of the HDP leadership; vast purge of his political opposition; arrest of record numbers of journalists; restrictions on religious freedom and worship; Wikipedia ban and social media crackdown; aggression against Kurds in Syria and Iraq; anti-American rhetoric and actions; continued military occupation of Cyprus; obstruction of justice for genocide of Armenians, Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs and Greeks, and; illegal economic blockade of Armenia.
Among those protesting alongside human rights advocates, Armenians, Kurds, Greeks, and others at Lafayette Park was a religious freedom group seeking Turkey’s release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a U.S. citizen from North Carolina who, after leading a Christian ministry in Izmir for more than two decades, has, since October of 2016, been unjustly imprisoned in Turkey on trumped up charges.
Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member, I very much appreciate the opportunity to share my testimony with you today and look forward to answering any questions.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

ARF Eastern U.S. Issues Statement on Washington D.C. Attack

Statement by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee of the Eastern United States

We strongly condemn Tuesday’s unprovoked attack by members of Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail upon peaceful demonstrators in Washington, D.C.
Erdogan’s bodyguards were involved in two other attacks on U.S. soil in 2016: during a speaking engagement at the Brookings Institute in April and at the funeral of Muhammad Ali in June. Such actions may be the norm under Erdogan’s repressive regime, but they must not be tolerated in the U.S.
These attacks also expose the failure of America’s policy of appeasement toward Turkey. By facilitating Armenian Genocide denial, by remaining silent regarding Turkey’s illegal blockade of Armenia, by disregarding its support for ISIS and al Qaida, by overlooking Turkey’s suppression of its religious and national minorities and its widening repression against its citizens-at-large, the U.S. has only emboldened the Erdogan regime to become more aggressive, both inside and outside of Turkey.
By coddling dictators such as Erdogan and allowing Turkey to export its “democratic” values by silencing its opposition through threats and violence, the U.S. administration displays weakness, encourages further incidents, and puts American citizens at risk.
We call on the U.S. government to quickly and thoroughly investigate this incident, report its findings to the public and take the necessary steps to prevent such actions from occurring again, including bringing an end to America’s failed policy of appeasement of Turkey.
Armenian Revolutionary Federation
Eastern U.S. Central Committee

Saturday, May 20, 2017

An Insult to my Turkishness: Turning a Blind Eye to the Past

Special for the Armenian Weekly 
I met my future best friend in a history class at UCLA. She was a board member of the Armenian Students Association and she educated me on the Armenian Genocide and the powerful Turkish lobby. I was initially skeptical, as this was the first time I had heard of this. But when we both rallied in the annual March for Justice, my skepticism washed away, as Turkish counter-protesters aggressively shouted at us on the street that “Mount Ararat will always be part of Turkey” and that the “the genocide is a lie.”
A screenshot from a video of the attack, captured by Voice of America’s Turkish service (Photo: Voice of America)
As an American Muslim Iranian with Persian and Turkish heritage, it is my duty to help dispel myths and historical inaccuracies that exist in my communities. My passion for advocating for Armenian issues is rooted in the Islamic values of peace, compassion, and mercy. These principles have compelled me to speak out against historical injustices.
The brutal violence that erupted in Washington, D.C. a few days ago enraged me. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security guards savagely kicked and beat up peaceful American protesters. My Turkish friends on Facebook and Turkish media claimed that the protesters deserved to be beaten, since they were affiliated with “PKK terrorists.” In fact, these protesters were American citizens practicing their First Amendment rights in their own country.
As Aram Hamparian said, “It’s one thing for there to be this kind of violence in Turkey, that’s a terrible thing. It’s far worse for that violence to be exported to America.” If these men felt comfortable brutalizing American citizens on foreign soil despite the presence of our law enforcement, imagine the potential to commit acts of violence that these same people have when they are unrestrained back in their home country. I shudder to think about how they treat their own people when they do not have the attention of the international community.
Earlier that day, U.S. President Trump claimed that it was “a great honor to welcome the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House.” The silence from the administration is deafening. Where is the outrage in his tweets? Where is the angry press statement condemning the actions of these thugs? Is he really going to allow Turkish henchmen to attack our own people on American soil without any punishment?
While he cozies up to an oppressive authoritarian who is leading the way to dictatorship, Americans are assaulted and brutalized by Erdogan’s goons…
But we cannot allow for Turkey to go unpunished.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren is absolutely correct: these henchmen need to be arrested and have their diplomatic visas revoked. President Trump and the State Department must act on Senators John McCain and Claire McCaskill’s call to throw the Turkish Ambassador out of the country. Trump has a number of options at his disposal and it is his job to ensure that this does not happen again.
The tension between these communities cannot be alleviated without first addressing the elephant in the room—the Armenian Genocide. Considering Turkey’s dark history of mistreating its minorities, Turks have the moral responsibility to condemn this recent act of barbarism. We must create a broad coalition aimed to bridge the divide between the Turkish community and Armenian, Kurdish, Greek, and Assyrian communities.
And most of all, the Turkish community must come to terms with the fact that recognizing the Armenian Genocide is not a matter of insulting Turkishness, but a matter of objective, historical fact.

“SOME PEOPLE HEAR THUNDER” at the REP, April 28-May 28 Extended

“SOME PEOPLE HEAR THUNDER” at the REP, April 28-May 28 Extended: Written by Gerson Smoger and Jeffrey Sorkin, and directed and starring Kevin McGuire, this new musical play will be presented at Capital Repertory Theatre, April 28-May 28, 2017. “Some People Hear Thunder” is a powerful love story set between 1914 and 1915 in New York City and the villages in the shadow of Mousa Ler. This uplifting tale tells the story of a young reporter, his true love in America, and Armenians fighting for dignity and survival in the face of the brutality of the Turkish deportations, all brought to life through song, dance, and beautiful storytelling. For more information about the show, Tickets and other information is also available at or by calling the box office at (518) 445-7469. When purchasing your ticket(s), mention the code “JEWELRY” to get a free chance to win a $1,000 gift card from Top Custom Jewelers, Inc, winner to be announced on May 21.

Texas Becomes 46th U.S. State to Recognize Armenian Genocide

Texas State Representative Scott Sanford, a longtime advocate for Armenian Genocide awareness, gives remarks at the ANCA-Dallas ‘Texas We Thank You’ Gala after accepting the Advocate of Justice award on April 2, 2016.
Texas State Representative Scott Sanford, a longtime advocate for Armenian Genocide awareness, gives remarks at the ANCA-Dallas ‘Texas We Thank You’ Gala after accepting the Advocate of Justice award on April 2, 2016.
AUSTIN, Texas—The Texas House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 191, titled “Recognizing the Armenian Genocide,” on Friday, thus making The Lone Star State the 46th state in the US to officially classify and commemorate the 1915-1923 annihilation of Ottoman Turkey’s indigenous Christian Armenian community as genocide.
“We are grateful to the Texas House of Representatives for standing on the right side of history by making their dynamic state the latest member of our Union to unequivocally and vociferously honor the memory of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide despite overwhelming Turkish opposition,” remarked ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian.
“This incredible victory, which achieves universal recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the Western Region’s 19 states, was possible because of the outstanding unity and activism demonstrated by the diverse Armenian community of Texas, the unflinching leadership of State Representative Scott Sanford and his fellow lawmakers, as well as the dedication and persistent work of our grassroots – ANCA-Houston and ANCA-Dallas – and staff. While many Texan Armenians and community groups were instrumental in the passage of and building ground for HR191, I would like to specifically recognize the former ANCA-Dallas founding chair Lucia Nazarian for initiating Texas’ recognition of the Armenian Genocide, as well as Focused Advocacy President Brandon Todd Aghamalian and University of Texas Austin Professor and Armenian Church of Austin representative Mihran Aroian for their leadership in bringing the Armenian community together to make this important recognition a reality,” continued Hovsepian.
The resolution, which had more than 50 original bipartisan cosponsors and passed unanimously, declares, in part, that “During World War I, the crumbling Ottoman Empire began a systematic campaign to eradicate its Armenian population, which then numbered more than two million; and… as many as 1.5 million Armenians perished and today, only 3 million live in Armenia, a country that covers no more than 10 percent of the ancient Armenian homeland, while the Armenian diaspora numbers 8 to 10 million in countries around the world, including the United States,” concluding with the resolved clause “That the House of Representatives of the 85th Texas Legislature hereby recognize the Armenian genocide.”
The recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Texas follows renewed activism in The Lone Star State, including the 2015 defeat of anti-Armenian resolutions as well as adoption of HR 1541, which recognized Texans’ contributions to the Near East Relief that saved 132,000 orphans of the Armenian Genocide. The latter humanitarian effort was recognized by ANCA-Dallas during its April 2, 2016 ‘Texas We Thank You’ Gala, at which Rep. Sanford received the ANCA-Dallas Advocate of Justice award for his long-time support for Armenian Genocide awareness.
HR 191 was introduced by Rep. Sanford on January 26, followed by a public hearing in the International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs committee on April 24, during which ANCA-WR Chief Legislative Consultant Haig Baghdassarian joined a large group of Armenian Americans as well as representatives from the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission and Houston’s Holocaust Museum in testifying in support of HR 191. Following the testimony, ANCA-WR called its online activists in Texas to action, as a result of which hundreds of letters were emailed to state legislators. Many more phone calls were made through joint efforts of the Armenian community in a strong demonstration of unity and grassroots activism.
Texas’ passage of HR 191 follows the Wyoming Governor’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide in April 2017, thus completing universal recognition in the ANCA-Western Region, which consists of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. View an interactive map of all US states’ official record on the Armenian Genocide.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

Friday, May 19, 2017


Path to screen for Armenian epic includes evading a knockoff