Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Turkey Sanctions

Condemns Turkey’s Military Invasion of Syria

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch (R-ID) and Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) applauds the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and its approval with a vote of 18-4 of U.S. sanctions against Turkey for its military invasion of northeast Syria. The next step is approval by the full Senate.

The legislation on Turkish sanctions, S.2641, was introduced by SFRC Chairman James Risch (R-ID) and Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ), along with Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Doug Jones (D-AL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and John Barrasso (R-WY).

“Turkey’s support of ISIS and its attacks on ethnic and religious minorities are unforgivable. The killing last month in which ISIS militants took great pride of an Armenian priest traveling to Deir el-Zor in northern Syria to visit the Armenian Catholic Church is beyond reprehensible. As we have previously expressed, Turkey needs to stop supporting terrorism and should be immediately removed from NATO,” stated Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian.

“We commend Chairman Risch and Ranking Member Menendez for this much-needed measure,” they added, as just today a New York Times headline stated: “Turkey and Russia Judged Bigger Risk Than ISIS for U.S. Troops in Syria.”

“Turkey’s actions over the past year are truly beyond the pale,” Ranking Member Menendez said on Twitter. “This bill makes clear to Turkey that its behavior with respect to Syria is unacceptable, and its purchase of the S400 system is untenable.”

Armenian Assembly of America Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez in the Capitol moments after the vote on the Turkish Sanctions bill

The legislation states that “Turkey’s military invasion of Northeast Syria is an unacceptable and unnecessary escalation of tensions with the potential to cause a severe humanitarian crisis” as well as “undo the collective gains made in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).” It also calls for sanctions against Turkish government officials and Turkish Armed Forces who are responsible or complicit in “a violation of the law of armed conflict” or “a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights.”

As a member of NATO, “Turkey is treaty bound to safeguard the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law,” according to the legislation, and “should be united with other NATO allies in efforts for collective defense and the preservation of peace and security.”

Instead, Turkey’s actions continue to undermine the alliance and destabilize the region as outlined in a recent bipartisan letter led by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), wherein the lawmakers wrote: “President Erdogan’s decision to invade northern Syria on October 9 has had disastrous consequences for U.S. national security, has led to deep divisions in the NATO alliance, and caused a humanitarian crisis on the ground.”

Last week during the NATO summit, Turkish forces killed 8 children in Tal Rifaat in northern Syria, with reports of more casualties while Turkish President Erdogan ignored the concerns from the NATO alliance, and threatened to veto NATO’s defense plan for the Baltics. Erdogan demanded that NATO member states endorse his own false claim that Syrian Kurdish fighters on Turkey’s borders are terrorists, a definition that the U.S. Pentagon rejected.

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

###

NR# 2019-078

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Armenian National Institute Exhibit Featuring YMCA Achievements to Save Victims of the Armenian Genocide Shared Across Southern California

LOS ANGELES, CA – With coverage on local television stations, the Armenian National Institute (ANI) exhibit, highlighting the accomplishments of a pair of YMCA volunteers who were in Armenia in 1918, continues to receive wide attention. Marking its Western United States premiere, the exhibit was on display at the West Gallery on the campus of California State University Northridge (CSUN) from October 26 through November 7 and is presently featured on the premises of the YMCA of Glendale.

News reports on the exhibition were covered by community journalist Gabriela Milian for ABC7 Los Angeles (KABC) and by Maria Cozette for Horizon TV who interviewed Armenian Assembly of America Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan and ANI Director Dr. Rouben Adalian, who curated the exhibition, in addition to other media coverage.

Ambassador Dr. Armen Baibourtian (center) standing with audience at opening ceremonies

The exhibition explains the role of the YMCA and American relief work during the first republic of Armenia (1918-1920) and focuses on John Elder and James O. Arroll who arrived in Yerevan in January 1918 to open a YMCA center. Neither Elder nor Arroll had anticipated being stranded as the only Americans left in the country’s capital city, with all communication to the outside world cut off when the front line faltered. World War I was still raging at the time and Allied forces were in retreat on the Caucasus front. The November 11, 1918 Armistice that ended World War I was many months away. By the time they left Yerevan in August 1919, Elder and Arroll had become responsible for the entire operation set up by U.S.-based charities, which earned them tribute from future U.S. President Herbert Hoover, who, at that time, headed the United States Food Administration.

Participating in the opening ceremonies on October 26 were representatives of the co-sponsoring organizations, including Ms. Jane Stanton and Mr. Lionnel Zaragoza of the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, CSUN Office of Government & Community Relations and its Interim Director Mr. Rafael De La Rosa, the CSUN Armenian Studies Program and its Director Dr. Vahram Shemmassian, the CSUN Armenian Student Association (ASA), as well as special guests Ambassador Dr. Armen Baibourtian, the Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles, Ms. Mary Chakerian who serves as a Field Representative for Congressman Brad Sherman, and Ms. Nikki Perez who serves as a Field Representative for California State Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-45).

Organizers, co-sponsors, special guests, and student volunteers at the CSUN exhibit

Armenian Assembly of America Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan served as the Master of Ceremonies and introduced a distinguished group of speakers. Dr. Vahram Shemmassian, Professor of Armenian Studies at CSUN, headed the lineup of speakers. He welcomed the audience to the school and introduced the university’s plans with the recently announced $2.1 million gift dedicated to the Armenian Studies Program.

“This exhibit once again demonstrated American humanitarianism in its finest, as well as the close bonds between the American and Armenian peoples that exist until today. Armenians in the United States have contributed to this great nation in many areas including, but not limited to, science, literature, sports, arts and culture, politics and so on. In turn, the Armenian nation will forever be indebted to the American people for their altruism and benevolence shown in times of great catastrophes and tribulations,” stated Dr. Shemmassian.

Armenian Assembly of America Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan and CSUN Armenian Studies Program Director Professor Vahram Shemmassian

During his remarks, Ambassador Dr. Armen Baibourtian reflected upon the historical meaning of the exhibit with his personal thoughts about the difficult days at the start of the Armenian republic as documented in the photographs and testimony of the exhibit.

“The initiative of organizing this important exhibition duly serves its purpose. By means of depicting the life and deeds of two American heroes in Armenia in 1918-1919, this photo exhibition sheds light on unknown pages of American humanitarian undertakings in Armenia and delves into the roots of Armenian-U.S. historical friendship,” stated Consul General Baibourtian.

Speaking on behalf of the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, Ms. Jane Stanton cited Elder and Arroll as exemplars of YMCA ideals and called upon viewers to appreciate the volunteer spirit that inspired them to assume so much responsibility.

Dr. Adalian greeting Jane Stanton and Lionnel Zaragoza, representing the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles

Director of the West Gallery, Mr. Jim Sweeters, welcomed the audience to the exhibit and praised CSUN ASA volunteers, who helped mount the exhibit and welcome the audience attending the opening ceremonies with refreshments and information. Concluding remarks were made by Ms. Mary Chakerian, Field Representative of Congressman Brad Sherman, who bestowed Certificates of Special Congressional Recognition upon Dr. Adalian and Dr. Shemmassian.

Dr. Adalian and Dr. Shemmassian awarded Certificates of Special Congressional Recognition on behalf of Congressman Brad Sherman by his Field Representative Mary Chakerian

Prior to the opening ceremonies, Dr. Adalian gave a brief overview of the exhibit explaining key moments captured by the photography and testimony of the two YMCA volunteers in Armenia.

“While a heroic story, all of this might have been completely forgotten had Elder and Arroll not done something else, which was to take photographs of the situation in Armenia. They effectively are the first documentarians of the rebirth of the Armenian nation and the photographs they made are of a remarkable quality and contain a wealth of information. Some of the pictures are so dramatic that no amount of words can reconstruct the scenes they depict,” explained Dr. Adalian

Maria Cozette of Horizon TV conducted an extensive interview with Dr. Adalian about the origin of the exhibit, its unique elements, the importance of the humanitarian undertaking of the YMCA volunteers, and his appreciation of the Elder family who shared the resources needed to reconstruct this forgotten piece of history.

The audience at the Western USA premiere of the YMCA Exhibit listening to Dr. Adalian

The exhibit was viewed by student groups over the course of the following two weeks. Seventh and eighth grade students from the Armenian Sisters Academy of Montrose, California visited the exhibit as part of their school program. Separately, KABC was present at the West Gallery when 10th grade students of the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School (MDS) of Canoga Park, California viewed the exhibit. In addition to interviewing Armenian Assembly Western Region Director Toumajan, a select group of AGBU MDS students were interviewed by Gabriela Milian during which they voiced their own observations about what they learned by seeing the exhibit.

A group of CSUN ASA students and Armenian Assembly volunteers at the opening of the ANI YMCA exhibit

Toumajan, who spearheaded the exhibit’s opening ceremonies, also provided guided tours of the exhibition while it was on display at the West Gallery. “On behalf of the Armenian Assembly, I extend our profound gratitude to our co-sponsors at the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles and at CSUN for their dedicated partnership. We are especially grateful to Mr. Suren Seropian, Director of Development of CSUN’s College of Humanities, for facilitating introductions to several stakeholders on the campus of CSUN, and for generously serving as an integral member of our team of co-sponsors,” stated Toumajan.

Upon the heels of the opening of the exhibit, momentous developments in Washington, D.C. soon put the U.S. House of Representatives on record affirming the Armenian Genocide. Dr. Adalian was interviewed by international media, including Voice of America Russian Service and Al-Arabiya News Channel, on this major legislative accomplishment of the Armenian American community and the importance of American policy in the context of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

The YMCA exhibit has become a critical resource for YMCA centers in America and Armenia. The exhibit also served as the bridging point of reference to the partnership agreement struck between the Glendale YMCA and Artsakh YMCA signed in early November.

Dr. Adalian with YMCA of Glendale Board Members Nora Yacoubian (3rd from left) and Lucy Varpetian, Esq. (2nd from right), special guests and exhibit co-sponsors

The exhibit is currently on display until Friday, January 17, 2020 at the YMCA of Glendale and will be traveling to other California-based centers in the new year. To view the exhibition at the YMCA of Glendale, please reserve a date and time with Ms. Arnella Putzel of the Glendale YMCA by calling (818) 696-2591 during normal business hours Monday through Friday. The YMCA of Glendale is located at: 140 North Louise Street, Glendale, CA 91206.

Organizations interested in displaying the exhibit can coordinate with the Armenian Assembly of America’s Western Region Office by calling (818) 291-6466.

YMCA of Glendale Board Members and staff with Republic of Artsakh Minister of Education, Science and Sport Narine Aghabalyan, Artsakh’s Permanent Representative in Washington, DC Robert Avetisyan, and Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan. The ANI exhibition is on display in the background.

“The exhibition titled American Relief in the First Republic of Armenia, along with all the other exhibits prepared by the Armenian National Institute, are available for free downloading in digital format. An abundance of other instructional resources is available on the ANI website (www.armenian-genocide.org). In light of the House of Representatives’ adoption of the Armenian Genocide Resolution which expressly stated that it ‘encourage[d] education and public understanding of the Armenian Genocide, including the United States role in the humanitarian relief effort,’ the Armenian National Institute calls on educators to tap the available resources for that very purpose,” stated Dr. Adalian.

Founded in 1997, the Armenian National Institute (ANI) is a 501(c)(3) educational charity based in Washington, D.C., and is dedicated to the study, research, and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.

###

NR# 2019-005

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment