Community Leaders Respond to US House, Swedish Genocide Recognition


By Andy Turpin
Mirror-Spectator Staff

WATERTOWN, Mass. — On March 5, the US House of Representa-tives Committee on Foreign Affairs adopted H. Res. 252 recognizing the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire despite intervention by both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Turkish government withdrew its ambassador to the US following the vote in protest of the decision.
On March 11 the parliament of Sweden also passed a resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide beginning in 1915 after which the government of Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Stockholm. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also cancelled his scheduled visit to Stockholm next week for a Sweden-Turkey summit in protest of the parliament’s resolution.

In state and local government, Massachusetts state Rep. Jonathan Hecht (29th Middlesex District), a longtime ally of the Armenian community and supporter of Genocide recognition by the US, issued a statement regarding the recent activity surrounding the Genocide recognition bill.

“Recognition of the Armenian Genocide is a matter of basic justice for the victims and the Armenian people. History also shows that recognizing and condemning genocide is essential to preventing future genocides. Nearly a century after those terrible events, it is long past time for governments and people everywhere to speak the truth about the Armenian Genocide,” he said.

State Rep. Peter Koutoujian (D-MA) blasted the Swedish government’s official condemnation of its own parliament’s recognition of the Genocide. “I find it offensive that a government would apologize for an action taken by its parliament. You’ve got an elected body of public officials taking a stand and you’ve got the government giving an apology,” he said. “There’s nothing I despise more than apologists for the perpetrators of genocide.”

Koutoujian expressed his disapproval of the White House and the State Department’s intervention attempts to prevent H. Res. 252 passage.
He spoke of the Obama administration’s attempts to draw connections between the results of a future Genocide recognition passage by the US and the alleged breakdown of the Protocols currently being proposed between the parliaments of Armenia and Turkey that would cease as a result.

“What I find particularly troubling is that the Protocols are being used as the excuse when they have not been formalized and there is no guarantee they will be successful.”
Koutoujian continued, “I find it offensive when people say it (US recognition of the Genocide) will ruin the Protocols — they’re not connected.”
“This is a resolution that stands for whether or not we as a people in the United States are strong enough to recognize historic truth,” he added.
Regarding the future of this year’s continued campaign to garner support for full US recognition of the Genocide and the White House’s current opposition to these efforts, Koutoujian commented, “I think this is going to be a great challenge for our resolution. For the third time in a row we [the Armenian-Americans] have elected a president that promised to stand with us in acknowledging our Genocide and on this resolution and we’ve been abandoned.”
Fr. Vasken A. Kouzouian, pastor of Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Greater Boston in Cambridge, Mass., stated his support for the Swedish parliament’s vote. “I was thrilled to read about Sweden. We’re making big strides. I think the US has a big role to play and I look forward to the day when we fully recognize the Genocide,” he said.
“Obviously we’re very happy about the Swedish parliament recognition and disappointed about the machinations behind the US resolution to try and stop it. Of course these are nothing new but disappointing nonetheless” said Archpriest Antranig Baljian of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown of the passage of the resolutions and Secretary of State Clinton and White House intervention in its opposition.
Baljian voiced his view that, “I’m very disappointed in President Obama and Secretary Clinton. It feels almost like being betrayed. The (campaign) promises (of Genocide recognition) were so concrete that we (Armenian-Americans) were really led to believe it would happen.”
But Baljian cited the Bible when he spoke about Armenian-Americans and their hopes for full Genocide recognition by the US this year saying, “One thing I mentioned in my sermon on Sunday was the parable about the widowed woman and the judge who would not hear her case. But through her persistence the judge did finally agree to hear her case and she received justice. I think that’s a symbol that we (Armenians) should be unflagging in our pursuit of justice.”
Rev. Avedis Boynerian of Armenian Memorial Church in Watertown said of both the US and Swedish resolution’s adoption that, “We as an Armenian church support the Genocide bill and look forward to its recognition.”
Looking to the future of further Genocide recognitions in other parliaments of the EU, Boynerian added, “It is always encouraging to see one European nation after another recognize the Genocide. I think Great Britain’s recognizing the Genocide will be the next major milestone.”
Senate Resolution 316 is identical in legislation to H. Res. 252 and will be presented in the coming weeks to the Senate by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and John Ensign (R-NV) and will have 10 cosponsors.
The future of the Genocide resolution’s ratification by the Senate remains to be seen, with many Armenian-American hopes and much of the US and Turkey’s vested defense contract interests caught in the balance of power.