BEVERLY HILLS, CA–On April 24, 2009, millions of Armenians had their hearts broken by a leader who they believed represented change and hope.
President Barak Obama disappointed his Armenian American supporters by neglecting to keep his campaign promise to honor and recognize the Armenian genocide of 1915 as a true genocide. Instead, he washed his hands of the situation by pushing the responsibility to the Turkish and Armenian government and shamelessly skirting away from an issue that truly holds in its core all of morality. While the disappointment was sever, the perseverance and determination of the Armenian American people did not deter.
On Wednesday May 27, hundreds gathered around the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California to remind the President of his broken promise as he hosted a Democratic Party fundraiser. Joining them were hundreds of other activists demonstrating for gay rights and an end to the war in Iraq and torture.
Organized by the Armenian Youth Federation and the “Shant” Student Association, the demonstration sought to urge Obama to honor his campaign promises to an Armenian American Community disappointed with at the Presidents failure to properly characterize the Genocide.
We are gathered here to remind the President of his campaign promise to properly and justly recognize the Armenian genocide, said Arek Santikian, a spokesperson for the AYF.We heard about his visit to Los Angeles about three days ago and mobilized as many people as we could even though it was short notice and a difficult time of the day.
As the Armenian Americans gathered and chanted “94 years no more tears” and “Obama, keep your promise,” their loomed a genuine sadness amongst all of them who had firmly believed this yearand this presidentwould have seen an end to the Turkish gag-rule on Americas position on this fundamental human rights issue.
This dissatisfaction, however, has not taken away from the hope and faith instilled within the hearts and minds of every Armenian-Americana feeling so deep rooted that expecting anything other than absolute fortitude and resilience would go against all that they stand for.
We know he is hearing our voices and will eventually do the right thing, Santikian said.
And President Obama did hear the voices. In a speech given that same day at the Democratic fundraiser, he said to his audience that one of the protestors said, Obama, keep your promise, to which he responded, I thought thats fair. I dont know which promise he was talking about.
If Obama genuinely wants to listen to the people and live up to the example he himself set, then we should hold him accountable for not following through on his word. With a comment such as that, it is up to every single Armenian American to make sure the President knows exactly who was chanting “Obama, keep your promise!” and why.
For Meher Aboolian, a young demonstrator who made the drive from Glendale to West Los Angeles, this issue is a fight for truth. I want to see the end of denial within the country of which I am a citizen, he said.
Interestingly, Armenian-Americans were not the only ones demonstrating against Obamas failure to keep his promieses. Susan Adelman, a mother protesting for the anti-war organization Code Pink, said that there is an encompassing lack of major promises not being kept. Whether were here to protest against war or the recognition of a genocide, we stand here as reminders of what we believed in when he was campaigning and how closely to our hearts we held these issues.
Another demonstrator, Marcy Winograd also supported the Armenian-American communitys concerns regarding the denial of the Genocide. Winograd plans on running against South Bay Congresswoman Jane Harman in the June 2010 election. Harman is an infamous Genocide denier who, after signing on as a cosponsor to the Genocide Resolution in 2007, lobbied her colleagues to pull their support from the legislation.
Speaking to Asbarez, Winograd expressed sincere concern and dedication to the cause for Genocide Recognition. When asked how she felt about President Obamas failure to recognize the crime, she said, I believe that the lack of recognition is a sign of making invisible your citizens and as a public official who is responsible for the people, it shows a sign of irresponsibility.
While the anti war protesters held up their signs and gathered to call for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Armenians, as they always have in the past, brought voices, spirit and valiancy to the collage of activists demonstrating across from the President.