For Armenian Americans, Congress' recognition of their genocide is just part of the battle

Sarah Parvini, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

LOS ANGELES -- For three generations, Sophia Armen's family has fought for recognition of the massacre that drove their ancestors to the United States.

A community organizer, Armen grew up attending rallies that advocated for U.S. acknowledgment of the 1915-1923 Armenian genocide carried out by Turkey's Ottoman Empire -- the violence that her great-grandparents survived.

As a child she frequented recognition events in Los Angeles with her family and helped gather signatures for petitions. In high school, she and her friends sent letters to their representatives with pictures of their families. In college, she organized events with other communities through the Armenian Student Association.

Picking at a tray of manti at an Armenian shop in Tujunga one recent afternoon, Armen lamented that many still see the fight for recognition as a passing annual event that only affects a small ethnic enclave in Glendale.

"This only gets attention once a year, on April 24, but it is honestly an everyday thing we are always working on," she said.

So when the time came this year to once again press Congress to formally recognize the epic slaughter -- a move the legislative branch repeatedly had shied from making -- the 28-year-old was ready to push. The House on Oct. 29 voted 405-11 to designate the killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians as genocide. Yet the Senate resolution had stalled three times before coming to a vote.


But on Thursday, the measure recognizing the mass slaughter as a genocide was approved unanimously by the Senate, a rebuke both to President Donald Trump, who had sought its delay, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had lobbied the White House to block the designation.

Erdogan, in an Oval Office visit last month, warned of dire consequences for the Washington-Ankara relationship if the "genocide" term were to be formalized. The Senate resolution declared it U.S. policy "to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance" and "reject efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide."

"With this action, the Senate joins the House and its overwhelming vote upholding the proud American record of recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide," said Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. "The Congress of the United States of America has spoken."

The move, Ardouny said, "sends a strong message to the world that the U.S. stands on the side of human rights."


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