Watertown Council Asks Obama to Seek Turkish Acknowledgment of Genocide


By Thomas C . Nash
Mirror-Spectator Staff

WATERTOWN — In anticipation of President Barack Obama’s April 24 statement on the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the Watertown Town Council asked for him to go beyond his promise to use the term “genocide” and obtain the same acknowledgement from Turkey.

Town Councilor and Governor’s Council member Marilyn Devaney, who submitted the proclamation at the council’s April 14 meeting, admitted it was a tall order but said it stemmed from her disappointment following Obama’s trip to Turkey earlier in April.

“I understand the position he’s in,” Devaney said, “but I hoped we would have given some message to the Turks, because when I heard him say it was a ‘misunderstanding’ it was so hurtful to me and the friend I have who is a survivor.”

The proclamation asks for April 24 to be observed as Armenian Martyr’s Day in Watertown and calls for Obama “to obtain from the present Turkish government, an acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide.”

Devaney said that while the Town Council has traditionally commemorated Armenian Martyr’s Day, the talks between Turkey and Armenia and Obama’s visit to Ankara warranted additional emphasis on recognition.

“I thought it was very timely for there to be a certain special message,” Devaney said, “because we are counting on President Obama to support us in getting recognition from the Turks.

“The Germans recognized what their ancestors did to the Jews and many other groups that were killed,” Devaney added, “and we’re not saying that it’s the president of the Turkish government, but it happened and you can’t rewrite history.”

The same week the Massachusetts State House passed a resolution urging the US Congress to vote on a Genocide recognition bill submitted by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in March.

Devaney said Congressional recognition, which became a politically-charged issue in 2007, may have a better chance than it had under the Clinton and Bush administrations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has expressed support for the bill.

“I’m hoping we can get a Congressional resolution passed before all of (the survivors) are gone,” Devaney said, “and I think we have the best chance this year with Speaker Pelosi.

“I still think we have to be vigilant, and my hope is we can get more Armenians involved. I know they’re burnt out, and it’s been going on too long. The [Anti-Defamation League] has been in the back room defeating the resolution, but I’m hoping 2009 will be the time.”