European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD) also known as ANC-Europe Chair Kaspar Karampetian and EU Affairs Officer Heghine Evinyan visited Berlin to personally deliver the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) 2016 Freedom Award to German Parliament Member Cem Ozdemir and the entire German Bundestag. Also delivered were congratulatory certificates of support and solidarity from various American federal, state and local elected officials and bodies, including the California State Legislature, and the County and City of Los Angeles. Ozdemir and the Bundestag were honored during the 2016 ANCA-WR Annual Gala back in October for their courage in resisting pressure from the government of Turkey to introduce and pass a resolution formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide as well as Germany’s complicity in this crime against humanity.
In her remarks introducing the award in front of a crowd of over 1,000 elected officials, supporters and activists at the Gala, ANCA-WR Board Member Souzi Zerounian-Khanzadian stated, “630. That’s the number of members of the German Bundestag. Mr. Ozdemir attained a majority of votes out of 630 members of Parliament, standing up against threats both to his government and himself, and relieving his government of the gag rule Turkey had imposed on them. The U.S. Congress is comprised of 435 members, 195 less than the Bundestag, yet the Speaker of our House of Representatives and speakers before him have cowered at the idea of bringing the Armenian Genocide to a floor vote. Our Presidents have cowered behind cheap excuses, refusing to address the issue of the Armenian Genocide.
“When the coup took place and President Erdogan used excessive force, the White House did not reprimand or comment. When Turkey provided assistance to ISIS, the U.S. still stood by Turkey. For fear of what? That the Ambassador to Turkey will be recalled? It only took 127 days before the German ambassador was returned; France and other countries have gone through the same routine,” continued Zerounian-Khanzadian.
Ozdemir, who was unable to attend the Gala due to election season back home, accepted the award and expressed appreciation for the recognition with a video message.
In his remarks, Ozdemir noted, “The fight for minority rights has been a cornerstone of my career in the past. …Since then we have seen commemorations of the Genocide and academic conferences on the subject in Turkey. What we have not seen, unfortunately, is any movement on the political level. Instead, the Turkish government is putting more and more pressure on the Turkish civil society that so bravely started the debate about the genocide. This is why we, as members of the German Bundestag, wanted no longer to wait for movement in Turkey. However, the most important motivation for us to act now was the fact that Germany was guilty too. The German Kaiserreich was the closest military ally of the Ottomans at that time. Through diplomats, through missionaries they were well informed about what was going in Turkey at that time. Yet they decided not to intervene and let over one million innocent people die.
“The resolution clearly recognizes co-responsibility of Germany, even speaking of guilt. The fact that the Bundestag almost as a whole embraced the Armenian Genocide resolution shows that Germany is ready to accept this dark chapter of its history. The award you are giving me means a lot to me. It will serve as a reminder that we need to learn from the past in order to do what’s right in the present. Unfortunately, we still live in a world full of conflicts and violence. When I think of Syria, I also think of how places like Aleppo and Deir el-Zor — one hundred years ago these were the destinations of those Armenians who survived the death marches. Now Christians and countless more people in the Middle East have to flee again. So we still have a lot of work to do to make this world a better place for all of us,” concluded Ozdemir.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.