Van Nuys, CA – Members of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) met with long time friend and supporter Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA-28) on August 5, 2008 to discuss current issues relating to the Armenian American community. Congressman Berman serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HCFA).
“The Armenian American community deeply appreciates Chairman Berman’s keen awareness of and respect for human rights,” stated ANCA-WR Executive Director Andrew Kzirian. “We shall work closely with the Chairman in the future to ensure that genocide denial has no place in the United States,” he added.
During the meeting the ANCA-WR expressed their appreciation to Berman regarding the two hour hearing that he led on June 18, 2008, which included over a dozen members of Congress questioning Assistant Secretary Dan Fried on the U.S. policy of complicity in Armenian Genocide denial, Turkey’s blockade, and Azerbaijan’s escalating threats of war. The meeting set the tone for intense questioning of Fried by Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA-33) over the Armenian Genocide.
The hearing also served as prelude to a recent letter from the U.S. State Department stating that the Ottoman government was responsible for the acts of 1915. Additionally, the letter stated that a joint project of archivists would be initiated from Armenia and Turkey to study the history and preserve documents describing the Armenian Genocide as it occurred by eyewitnesses and not to study whether genocide occurred. This correspondence from the State department was sent in response to requests from US Senators Boxer and Biden over the nomination of Ambassador Yovanovitch to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia.
Attendees also shared their thoughts regarding the Turkish government’s recent infiltration of American institutions of higher education. The meeting participants discussed the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recent feature on this phenomenon. Furthermore, the Institute of Turkish Studies in Washington also was discussed as the institute’s director resigned after the Turkish Ambassador reportedly threatened to cut off funding for the program because the director acknowledged the Armenian Genocide in a book review.
Among those present at the meeting were ANCA-WR Chairman Vicken Sonentz-Papazian, ANCA-WR Board Member Avo Ovayan, ANCA-WR Executive Director Andrew Kzirian, as well as ANCA-WR Interns Amy Kaladzhyan, Shant Karnikian and Mikael Kourinian.
Berman represents northern areas of Hollywood, the eastern half of the San Fernando Valley and the city of San Fernando. In 2007, Berman served as a strong supporter of H. Res. 106, authoring a powerful dear colleague letter espousing the Armenian Genocide resolution. The letter discussed the classification of the Armenian Genocide as historically accurate by the International Association of Genocide Scholars and called for Turkey to recognize this crime against humanity. On October 10, 2007, the HCFA passed H. Res. 106 by a vote of 27-21, including supportive remarks by then-second ranking Democrat Berman.
Berman has served in the House of Representatives since 1983 representing the 28th Congressional district of California. Born in Los Angeles and educated at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Berman was a lawyer and a member of the California State Assembly from 1972-1983.
The Armenian National Committee of America is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.
Photo caption: Chairman Berman joined by ANC-WR Interns Shant Karnikian, Amy Kaladzhyan and Mikael Kourinian (from left to right).