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ANCA – Genocide Postcard Campaign

Mitchell Peters
Staff Writer

In yet another attempt to encourage the U.S. government to recognize the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has initiated a grassroots campaign that involves using postcards to “Help end the cycle of Genocide.”

pg.-5-Postcard-1The postcards, which display six horrifying pictures of genocide, are being sent to the offices of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, in an effort to bring House Resolution 193 (H.Res.193) to the House floor for a vote as soon as possible according to the ANCA. Frist and Hastert were not available for comment.

“If the House and Senate leadership does not bring this resolution to the floor before Congress goes out of session at the end of this year,” said Hygo Ohannessian, Chairwoman of the ANCA in Central California, “the resolution will die.”

The postcard campaign is nothing new to the ANCA according to Ohannessian. In the past, they have sent postcards to lawmakers to bring specific issues to their attention.

The current campaign is in response to H.Res.193, a genocide prevention measure that was introduced in April of 2003 by Representatives George Radanovich and Adam Schiff and Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Joe Knollenberg and Frank Pallone. The measure was adopted unanimously by the Judiciary Committee and has been cosponsored by 110 Representatives and endorsed by a coalition of more than 100 organizations.

The resolution cites the importance of remembering past crimes against humanity, including the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, and the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, in an effort to stop future atrocities says the ANCA.

“We must make sure that we apply the lessons of past genocide to prevent future crimes against humanity,” Radanovich said in a letter encouraging a vote on the resolution. “Clearly, the struggle against genocide is not over.”

The measure, says Radanovich, commemorates the fifteenth anniversary of the U.S. implementation of the Genocide Convention and reinforces our nation’s dedication to the landmark human rights treaty. Approved in the shadow of the Holocaust, he said, the Convention stands today as the international community’s best hope for the realization of the noble aim of eradicating forever the crime of genocide.

With the financial support and creative input of the Armenian-American rock band, System Of A Down, the ANCA was able to distribute approximately 100,000 postcards throughout the U.S. to anyone who cares about human rights said Ardashes Kassakhian, Director of Government Relations for the ANCA-Western Region.

“The response has been tremendous,” Kassakhian said. “We are going to get it passed.”

In Fresno, Calif., members of the ANCA went to various Armenian churches and distributed the cards to their members during fellowship hour. In order to make sure the cards got mailed, signatures were obtained and the postcards were mailed for the parishoners. “The ANCA in Central California has mailed close to 1,700 postcards to Washington D.C.” according to Ohannessian.

Although the hopes for passing this resolution are high, it is not the first time recognition of the Armenian Genocide has been attempted. Lena Kaimian, Director of the Armenian Assembly Western Office, feels the prospects for the current House and Senate resolutions are daunting.

During the 101st Congress (1989-1990), the Armenian Assembly worked with former Senator Bob Dole, and again with Rep. James Rogan during the 106th Congress (1999-2000) in hopes of getting the U.S. government to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Both attempts failed.

“The administration has been abundantly clear and consistent that it does not want such resolutions scheduled for votes,” Kaimian said. “The Majority House and Senate Congressional leadership continue to accede to the Administration’s demands.”

The reason for this, said California State University, Fresno, Armenian Studies professor Barlow Der Mugrdechian, is because (U.S.) recognition of the Armenian Genocide would directly affect Turkish and American relations. The resolutions have an effect says Der Mugrdechian, because when they do pass, Turkey always responds with a threat.

Despite the discouraging past of the issue, Kaimian says the Armenian Assembly will continue to press for the universal reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide.

For more information on the ANCA postcard campaign for the H.Res.193 Genocide resolution, you can visit their website at www.anca.org. E-mail requests for postcards can be sent to anca@anca.org. A free WebFax can also be sent to Members of Congress through the Web site.