Washington, D.C.– U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today issued the following statement regarding the State Department’s determination that ISIS has been committing genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East:
“I am heartened by the Obama’s Administration’s genocide determination — a determination which has been a long time in the making — regarding the atrocities committed by ISIS against religious minorities, specifically Christians and Yezidis, in Iraq and Syria. That it took so long for the administration to arrive at this conclusion, in the face of unspeakable human suffering, defies explanation.
“ISIS has been engaged in a systematic effort to destroy ancient faith communities, including Christians and Yezidis, in Iraq and Syria.
“Yezidi men have been slaughtered, while women and children have been taken captive and subjected to unspeakable sexual violence. Already, mass graves, believed to be filled with Yezidi victims, have been unearthed. The Yezidis are hardly alone in their suffering, as Christians have also been targeted by ISIS. We will never forget the haunting image of the red letter ‘N’ for ‘Nazarene’ smattered across the homes and businesses of the Christians in the Nineveh Plain. Clergy have been kidnapped and assassinated; entire villages have been taken hostage; men have been executed for refusing to convert; ancient houses of worship have been decimated or repurposed into places of torture or weapons storage facilities; children have been ripped from their parents’ arms; and women have been raped. The human toll is vast, and so is ISIS’ historical and cultural assault on the people of these lands. ISIS has engaged in a systematic and thorough campaign intended to annihilate any vestige of Christian presence from the lands they now occupy.
“Determinations of genocide should be reserved for only the most grievous crimes against a people, and this is without question such a time. At long last the United States is no longer silent in the face of this evil, but it would be travesty if we were to mistakenly take solace in this designation, if the designation did not then yield some sort of action. It is time for U.S. assistance to be better targeted to help these persecuted communities and to ensure that they are not lost in the human chaos left in the wake of Syria’s devastation and Iraq’s instability. We also need to redouble our efforts to end Assad’s brutal assault on the Syrian people of all religious backgrounds and sects. Only once Bashar al-Assad has been removed will we be able to make real progress in eliminating the scourge that is ISIS and ensuring that the sort of genocidal policies the administration finally recognized today are a thing of the past.”
Rubio has characterized the Islamic State atrocities against religious minorities as genocide since 2014. Rubio was also an original cosponsor of S. Res. 340, Senate legislation finding that ISIS has engaged in genocide.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This summer, the Knights and Daughters of Vartan gathered in our nation’s capital for the 2015 National Grand Convocation. The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, celebration of the victory of sanctification of our martyrs by the Armenian Mother Church, and a call to service leadership to our community, were the major themes throughout the convocation. The five-day event was held at the prestigious Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. Over 200 Armenian Americans representing 20 lodges and 17 chapters from across the United States convened for a series of business meetings, workshops, and various activities including tours of the monuments and visits with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
“It has been 40 years since the Grand Convocation was held in Washington DC. This event revitalizes our spirits in a year that stands out as landmark year for all Armenians. The issues facing the Republic of Armenia and our diaspora have changed since the 20th century. This convocation is our most important step for keeping pace with these changes,” stated 2015 Grand Convocation Chairman Jake Bournazian.
The convocation began on Wednesday, July 15, where a group of Knights and Daughters visited Members of Congress to discuss issues of concern to the Armenian American community. Later, members took an afternoon tour of Washington, DC and visited various sights such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House, and Capitol Hill. Later that evening, guests convened for a casual welcome reception hosted by Grand Commander Steven Kradjian and Grand Matron Lisa Kradjian, thus kick-starting the convocation.
On Thursday, the Knights and Daughters held an all-day program of workshops dedicated to strengthening the Armenian Diaspora, our homeland, and the organization. In keeping with this year’s Grand Convocation theme, a series of visual panels from various collections of the Armenian National Institute’s Armenian Genocide exhibits were on display at every event.
In the evening, members convened for a private dinner with keynote remarks delivered by Armenian Caucus founder and co-chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). Pallone shared his experiences in fighting for Armenian Genocide recognition and his numerous trips to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Congressman Pallone thanked the Knights and Daughters for their service to the Armenian American community and dedication to the homeland. Following dinner, members danced the night away to American swing and pop music with a live performance by the Terry Lee Ryan Band.
On Friday, July 16, the Knights and Daughters held their annual convocation business meetings for 2015-2016. On Friday night, hundreds of Knights and Daughters gathered for a formal dinner and an evening of Armenian dancing. Taniel Koushakjian delivered remarks and reflections on the Armenian Genocide centennial, the activities of Armenians around the world, and the emotions that Armenians have carried for the last one hundred years. Koushakjian recognized those Knights and Daughters that played significant roles in organizing local centennial commemorations, as well as honorable guests in attendance Nagorno Karabakh Representative to the United States Mr. Robert Avetisyan, Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, and Armenian National Committee Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
During the Friday night dinner, Koushakjian presented two letters of support addressed to the Knights and Daughters of Vartan from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and presidential nominee Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Following dinner, members and guests listened and danced to the sounds of Armenian music performed live by the Artsakh Band of Philadelphia.
The 2015 National Grand Convocation concluded with another full day of business meetings on Saturday, July 18. On Saturday night, the Knights and Daughters of Vartan held a Grand Banquet dedicated to honoring the memory and sacrifice of our ancestors who perished in the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. Young vocalists Sareen Nairi Balian, Caroline Coleman, and Maya McGuire sang the American National anthem, followed by the Armenian National anthem performed by Balian. Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan of St. Mary Armenian Church in Washington, D.C. gave the invocation and benediction.
Serving as Grand Banquet Master of Ceremonies Taniel Koushakjian delivered introductory remarks and acknowledged honorable guests in attendance Hrachia Tashchian, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the United States, Karen Israelyan, First Secretary of the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the United States, and Mrs. Rita Balian, recipient of the 2007 Knights of Vartan Person of the Year award, the first woman ever to receive the award. Following dinner, guests were entertained by the sounds of classical Armenian music performed by acclaimed musicians, violinist Christine Kharazian and pianist Frank Conlon.
Grand Lieutenant Commander Hunan Arshakian, who chairs the Knights scholarship committee, publicly announced the 2015 Knights of Vartan Awards and National Scholarship recipients. Six students from across the U.S. were selected to receive the $1,000 award at this year’s convocation, namely: Toros Bardakjian, Schoolcraft College; Daniel Donabedian, Harvard University; Melissa Donofrio, Montclair State University; Deana Dulgerian, Georgetown University Law Center; Troy Farsakian, Marquette University; and Logan Serabian, Providence College.
Delivering keynote remarks at the Grand Banquet were National Grand Commander Steven Kradjian and outgoing Grand Matron Lisa Kradjian. “Our continuing mission to defend and safeguard our Armenian people, our Armenian Church and our Armenian culture takes many forms and demands boldness. In the words of Ghandi, we as determined spirits fired by unquenchable faith in our mission, can alter the course of history. We are now writing the history of the second century of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan,” stated Steven Kradjian. “It is a history that demands boldness. Choose how you will make your mark in that written history of the boldness of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan. I pledge to you to use every effort to lead us in that boldness this year, and I hope that you will all join me.”
Standing side-by-side, Steven and Lisa Kradjian presented the 2015 Knights of Vartan Man of the Year and Daughters of Vartan Woman of the Year awards, offered jointly to the 1.5 million saints who perished in the Armenian Genocide. This year’s award takes the form of a large (3’ x 4’) oil painting on canvas – Ascension of Saints of the Armenian Genocide – commissioned from artist Samvel Marutyan by the Knights of Vartan Grand Council – that will be delivered later in the Fall as a gift to His Holiness Karekin II at Holy Etchmiadzin in recognition of the victory of the Saints of the Armenian Genocide. Steven and Lisa Kradjian were joined by the Knights and Daughters Grand Council officers in displaying an authentic signed replica of the painting to the audience, which will be housed at St. Mary Armenian Church in Washington, D.C.
Following the award ceremony, outgoing Daughters of Vartan Grand Matron Lisa Kradjian introduced incoming Grand Matron Sona Manuelian. In her farewell remarks, Kradjian stated, “We in the Knights and Daughters accomplish more when we collaborate together for the greater good. Because the best relationships and causes and “memberships” never end. Because the things that matter most – our God, our mission and values, and our relationships – are eternal. Our Armenian ancestors taught us all of this, to live first and foremost for that which has eternal value, and we continue to live out the same truths today. The value and impact of our organization will always be luminously clear when we live with that purpose in mind.”
“When the Knights and Daughters work together as one, there is continued success. This was evident at this year’s Convocation hosted by Ani Lodge and Dikranouhi Chapter,” stated Grand Matron Sona Manuelian during her acceptance speech. “It does not take just one individual to accomplish great goals. It requires each individual member to contribute towards the achievement of any goal,” Manuelian said.
The local Washington, D.C. Ani Lodge and Dikranouhi Chapter spent over two years planning the convocation. The 2015 National Grand Convocation Committee members include: Jake Bournazian, Chair; Paul Murad, Co-Chair; Seda Gelenian, Co-Chair; Ara Avedisian; Margarite Avedisian; Louisa Bagdasarian; Malvina Brown; Natalie Grigorian; Arut Koseian; Taniel Koushakjian; Peter Melkonian; Lucy Murad; Greg Murad; Nairi Pakoyan; Marjie Satian; and Sarkis Satian.
For more information on the Knights of Vartan, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and on the Daughters of Vartan, please visit www.kofv.org.
Photo Caption 1 (L-R): Grand Convocation Chairman Jake Bournazian, Past Commander Leo Manuelian, Grand Matron Sona Manuelian, Emcee Taniel Koushakjian, Deputy Grand Commander Hunan Arshakian, Past Grand Matron Lisa Kradjian, Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan, and Grand Commander Steven Kradjian. (Photograph courtesy of Neshan H. Naltchayan Photography)
Photo Caption 2: Grand Commander Steven Kradjian delivering remarks at the Grand Banquet. (Photograph courtesy of Neshan H. Naltchayan Photography)
Photo Caption 3: Grand Matron Sona Manuelian delivering remarks at the Grand Banquet. (Photograph courtesy of Neshan H. Naltchayan Photography)