Armenian Americans ask President Obama to honor American history embodied by the Orphan Rug

As President Obama began his visit to Glendale, California, home to over 90,000 Armenian Americans, religious and community leaders held a press conference to call on the President to stop blocking the display of an Armenian Genocide-era rug woven by orphans of that crime against humanity. The rug, which took Armenian orphans 10 months to weave and has 4,404,206 individual knots, was presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925.

Armenian National Committee of America Glendale Chapter Chairman Berdj Karapetian opened the press conference and welcomed a broad array of U.S. and Armenian print, television and online media to the community-wide forum urging concrete White House action regarding the historic rug.

“Today we pause, reflect and act,” remarked ANCA National Board member Raffi Hamparian. “We pause to remember the remarkable generosity of the American people during the Armenian Genocide. We reflect on the little orphans of the genocide who carefully wove a rug that was presented to President Coolidge. And finally, we act, by demanding that President Obama stop his Administration’s unusual policy of placing the orphan rug under quarantine. This is an exceedingly unusual way to treat a piece of American history – especially a piece of American history that speaks to our nation’s greatness in responding to a crime against all humanity,” Hamparian added.

His Eminence Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the ArmenianApostolicChurch, spoke eloquently about the integral part the Armenian Genocide orphan rug plays in American history and the need for the White House to arrange its permanent display.

His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the ArmenianApostolicChurch noted, “The rug was a gracious gesture symbolizing the friendship between the American and Armenian peoples. It is part of American history.  Keeping it locked away in storage is not only insulting to the orphaned girls who painstakingly crafted this beautiful work of art, it also represents a shameful effort to cover up, at the urging of genocide-deniers in Ankara, a truly proud chapter of American history.”

The press conference ended with participants signing a letter to President Obama welcoming him to Glendale and urging him to “permit the public display of the Armenian Genocide-era rug woven by orphans of that crime against humanity.”  The letter referenced an earlier White House statement to LA Times reporter Richard Simon, noting that displaying the rug “for only half a day in connection with a private book launch event, as proposed, would have been an inappropriate use of U.S. government property, would have required the White House to undertake the risk of transporting the rug for limited public exposure, and was not viewed as commensurate with the rug’s historical significance.”

The petitioners wrote that they were “pleased that the White House acknowledges the historical significance of this Armenian Genocide-era rug. Therefore, we urge you to permit its prominent exhibition and eventual permanent display at a location accessible to the public in Washington, D.C.”  Joining the religious and community leaders in signing the letter were Glendale Unified School School District Board of Education Vice President Nayiri Nahabedian, Glendale City College Board of Trustees Vice President Dr. Vahe Peroomian, and representatives from the Armenian Relief Society, Homenetmen Armenian Scouting and Athletic Association, All Armenian Students Association, Armenian Youth Federation, Armenian Rug Association, United Young Armenians, Armenian American Council on Aging, Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Association, among a broad array or community supporters.

“I look forward to presenting the letter to President Obama to honor American history by displaying the rug,” said Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan, who will be meeting with the President later today.

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