On April 13, Armenian Americans and their allies from across the Greater Washington, DC area rallied in front of the White House to urge President Trump to end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s Armenian Genocide denial by clearly and unequivocally condemning that crime in his annual April 24 commemorative statement.
The candlelight vigil was organized by the Washington, DC Armenian Youth Federation “Ani” Chapter, in coordination with a coalition of Armenian American groups, comprising the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Greater Washington. Two Armenian schools from Southern California - Mesrobian Armenian School and AGBU Manoogian-Demirjian School – participated in the solemn commemoration.
The program began with opening remarks from AYF and Homenetmen member Nanar Keurkunian, who continued to MC the event. “Every year we stand in this very spot - we sing our songs, read our poems, and tell the stories of our martyrs to show the world that we will never forget the lives of those who died at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish Government,” stated Keurkunian. “But we also come with a clear demand - that the United States - from the President to the Congress to state and local legislatures - adopt a permanent policy of properly condemning this crime for what it was - genocide.”
This year’s vigil also spotlighted the unprecedented U.S. humanitarian assistance efforts of Near East Relief, a Congressionally mandated campaign which, from 1916-1930, raised the equivalent of over $2.5 billion in today’s currency to assist some 137,000 orphans and over a million Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, Aramean, Chaldean and Syriac survivors of the Genocide. Throughout the program AYF members Aram Najarian, Kristine Antanesian, Sune Hamparian, Mari Tikoyan, and Galy Jackmakjian highlighted the statewide efforts of Alabama, California, Mississippi, New York, and Virginia by outlining specific cases of local organizing and charity work conducted by the American public to aid refugees. Additional states will be honored each year at subsequent vigils.
Georgetown Armenian Student Association President and AYF member Nareg Kuyumjian shared a poetic and powerful Palm Sunday-eve Armenian language message, noting, in part, that United States’ monumental Near East Relief effort stands in stark contrast to today’s White House policies. “We stand in front of a White House whose silence in the face of the Armenian Genocide, fails to acknowledge our own proud past,” stated Kuyumjian. “The time has come for the Armenian American youth to engage within the halls of power to reform the system from within,” continued Kuyumjian, issuing a call to action for greater Armenian American youth civic participation.