SACRAMENTO – A delegation of the Armenian Council of America (ACA) participated in the annual Armenian Genocide Advocacy Day sponsored by the California Armenian Legislative Caucus on April 18 at the State Capitol, marking the 101st year of commemorating the Armenian Genocide.
Following a press conference in the morning with members of the Armenian Caucus, H.E. Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America conducted a requiem prayer ceremony on the State Assembly floor. He payed homage to the 1.5 million Armenians who perished during the Genocide and discussed the situation in Nagorno Karabagh condemning the acts of violence against the peaceful Armenian people in Artsakh by the Azeri dictatorship. He proclaimed that one day, Artsakh will be a free and sovereign state.
Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks) invited Assemblymember Katcho Achajian (R-San Luis Obispo) to introduce Assembly Joint Resolution 34 (AJR 34) which designates the year of 2016 as “State of California Year of Commemoration of the Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915–1923 and April 24, 2016, as “State of California Day of Commemoration of the 101st Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915–1923.”
AJR 34 calls upon the President of the United States and Congress to formally and consistently reaffirm the historical truth that the atrocities committed against the Armenian people constituted genocide.
Assemblymember Achadjian described the plight of the Armenian people and said that our history exemplifies resilience. Achadjian noted that AJR 34 honors the memory of those lost during the Genocide and reaffirms our commitment to our brothers and sisters in Armenia.
Celebrating the importance of Armenian Americans in the U.S. through their achievements, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) expressed his pride for representing a large Armenian American constituency. “I stand in solidarity with the Armenian community,” added Holden.
Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) spoke about Armenian women who were subjugated to shame and ridicule as they were robbed of their dignity by Turks who owned them as property after the Genocide. She emphasized that it is our duty to bring to light this often forgotten issue in Armenian history.
Sharing a personal Genocide survival story about his wife’s family who originated in Van, migrated to Russia and later settled in Iran, Assemblymember Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) urged that all textbooks in California include material discussing the Genocide. He also advocated for AB2650 which urges Calpers to divest from Turkey. He added that Armenians have not only survived, but they have thrived.
Assemblymember Gatto (D-Los Angeles) whose district represents the largest Armenian American constituency in the U.S. stated that it is a privilege to serve in the Armenian Caucus. He urged those in attendance to continue telling the stories of the survivors who are no longer with us. “The survivors have died, but the truth has not died,” added Gatto.
AJR passed unanimously 76-0 on the State Assembly floor.
Following the passage of AJR 34 on the Assembly floor, the Resolution was introduced in the State Senate by State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), where he emphasized the importance of proper recognition of the Genocide not only in the United States and other countries, but the need for the current Turkish government to stop the campaign of denial in order to prevent future atrocities that may occur in other parts of the world.
The Resolution passed the California Senate floor with a vote of 37-0.
Subsequently Senator de Leon introduced deputy Consul-General of Armenia Valeri Mkrtumyan who expressed the Republic of Armenia’s gratitude for the State of California.
The State Capitol had on display educational posters and materials on Armenian Americans in politics who have served in the past and are present, including information about early Armenian American immigrants who settled in California’s San Joaquin Valley making it one of the richest agricultural regions in the nation.