UCLA: Student lobbyer takes on Congress

UCLA: Student lobbyer takes on Congress

By Nancy Su
[email protected]

UCLA student Marina Nazarbekian met with U.S. congressmen earlier
this week to lobby for U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide and
for favorable U.S. policies toward Armenia.

The exile and executions of Armenians by the Turkish government in
1915 is commemorated nationally on April 24, but the U.S. government
does not officially recognize the events as a genocide.

Many other countries have begun to recognize the event as a
genocide. On Wednesday, Canada’s House of Commons voted to adopt a
motion recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Nazarbekian, a second-year political science and international
developmental studies student attended a two-day Washington,
D.C. conference in hopes of raising support in Congress for
U.S. recognition of the genocide.

“It is a moral issue to recognize the genocide. As the most powerful
nation, you would think the United States would not be afraid of a
country like Turkey,” Nazarbekian said.

Nazarbekian helped circulate a letter to be signed by congressmen
asking President Bush to recognize the tragedy.

In a White House statement in 2001, Bush referred to the forced
deportations and executions of Armenians as one of the “great
tragedies of history,” but followed the example of many past modern
presidents – Ronald Reagan being an exception – by not referring
to a genocide.

Nazarbekian said it is important to recognize and commemorate the
event as a genocide so similar tragedies do not arise.

“It is not just an Armenian issue. It is a humanitarian issue,”
Nazarbekian said. “We’ve been through it so we know what it’s like and
we don’t want others to go through it. People realize the world does
care if you recognize these crimes so perhaps it will not happen

During the genocide in 1915, the U.S. government not only recognized
it as a genocide, it also condemned and documented the crime, said
Richard Hovannisian, a UCLA professor of modern Armenian history.

Hovannisian cited fears of offending the Turkish government, which has
repeatedly denied the term “genocide” as the reason modern
U.S. governments have not given recognition to the tragedy as a

Though Turkey recently canceled million-dollar contracts with France
after it officially recognized the genocide as a crime against
humanity, Hovannisian said the United States “should not be overly
concerned about international blackmail.”

In France, business with Turkey was “back to normal” within a few
months and the Turkish ambassador returned to France around the same
time, Hovannisian added.

“With so much Turkish dependence on American aid and support, the
scenario would be little different,” Hovannisian said.

Besides working to gain the recognition of the Armenian Genocide,
Nazarbekian used her time in Washington to lobby for U.S. aid to
Armenia and to make permanent the status of trade relations with the
country. She also lobbied for the removal of blockades set by
neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan that inflated Armenia’s
transportation costs and affected its economy.

Nazarbekian also campaigned for an increase in U.S. military
assistance to Armenia to match that given to Azerbaijan.

Relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia have been tense because of
the disputed Nagorno Karabakh region. Many Armenians fear that
granting Azerbaijan $6 million more in U.S. military assistance would
undermine negotiation efforts and promote instability in the region.