Around 200 people gathered in front of the Intercontinental Hotel in Los Angeles Monday evening to protest the L.A. World Affairs Council’s (LAWAC) decision to host the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Ali Babacan.
Mr. Babacan was due to speak on Turkey’s economic and foreign policy, including United States-Turkey business relations and future economic investment in the region.
The protest, organized by the Armenian Youth Federation, denounced the event, condemning LAWAC for hosting a “representative of the government responsible for the 1st genocide of the 20th century and the continued occupation of Western Armenia and over one third of Cyprus.”
“The Council would certainly not invite any of the following officials nor their representatives to speak: Jean Kambanda of Rwanda, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Pol Pot of Cambodia, or Heinrich Himmler of Nazi Germany; Mr. Babacan is a representative of such a genocidal regime,” states an event page for the protest.
Genocide and the denial of it are not Armenian, Jewish, Rwandan issues but humanitarian ones, and the organizers of the protest hoped to bring attention to the consequences of undermining these concerns.
“This fact that a representative from the government of Turkey is being given platform in L.A., from which to spread false propaganda about all the amazing ways in which Turkey is a shining example of democracy in order to win the hearts and dollars of potential investors should be an outrage for us all–not just for Armenians, but all American citizens and all people who believe in democratic values,” said the Executive Director of the Armenian Youth Federation Western Region, Stepan Keshishian, in an interview.
“The economic environment in Turkey is founded on an unethical, immoral, and savage history, which the government actively fights to deny. Turkish foreign and economic policy today is based on these same lies,” he added.
The Los Angeles World Affairs Council is a large network of local councils, which hosts numerous events with high-level politicians, academics and policymakers.
“We have speakers from all spectrums of contentious issues and as a non-partisan organization, we don’t endorse the viewpoints of the speakers we host,” said the President of LAWAC, Terry McCarthy, in a telephone conversation.