Remembering Armenia

Remembering Armenia
By Anna G. Eshoo

San Francisco Chronicle, CA
May 27 2004

Serbia, Rwanda and the Jewish Holocaust stand as stark reminders in
the American psyche of the brutality humankind is capable of committing
against itself. But many Americans are not aware that these atrocities
were preceded by another, equally horrendous act of barbarity against
the Armenian people.

Eighty-nine years ago, in 1915, the Ottoman Empire began rounding
up hundreds of Armenian leaders and putting them to death, a process
that eventually killed 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children
through forced death marches, mass burnings, rape and starvation.
Another half million were forced into exile. It was the 20th century’s
first genocide, and it served as a prototype for future genocides. In
justifying his regime’s policies two decades later, Adolf Hitler was
heard to say “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of
the Armenians?”

Today, the 50,000 Armenian Americans in the Bay Area and others around
the world are speaking out about this tragedy. Most are the children
and grandchildren of those who survived the genocide, haunted by their
loss and determined that not only will this crime never be forgotten,
but that it never happens again.

But “never again” is a phrase that we have uttered too many times
over the past century, whether in the bleak landscape of a German
concentration camp, the killing fields of Cambodia, or the red clay
hills of Rwanda. Too often it seems, the world’s collective horror
arrives too late, its sympathy tainted by the failure to act sooner,
to act decisively. Our moral determination has seldom been matched
by our political willingness to act.

Fortunately, history is not destiny. The African nation of Sudan
is enduring violence that many believe could lead to genocide. The
international community must be firmly united in demanding that
both sides in this conflict allow full access by humanitarian aid
organizations and the United Nations to the more than 1 million people
at risk. If the killing is stopped, history shows that the Sudanese
can survive the scarring of genocide, a crime that strikes not just
a people, but a culture, language and history as well.

But the history of Armenia demonstrates that the healing process
can take generations. Today, Armenia has a democratically elected
government with strong ties to the United States. Located at the
crossroads of Europe and Asia, Armenia has the potential to make
tremendous strides in improving the quality of life for all its
citizens. But regrettably, Armenia’s economic development is hindered
by continuing conflicts with Azerbaijan and Turkey, who blockade
most of Armenia’s borders, forcing all international trade to be
delivered by air or to travel overland via Georgia and Iran. The
United States has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to the people of
Armenia and their country’s security and development. U.S. technical
and developmental assistance is an essential component of this effort
and one I’m proud to support.

Ten years ago, the world stood aside while the killers in Rwanda
implored their supporters to push on, declaring that “the graves
are not yet full.” Today, we stand with our brothers and sisters in
Armenia, Rwanda, Cambodia and Europe in our shared resolve that the
horrors of genocide not be inflicted on another generation in Sudan.
The graves are, indeed, too full. It’s our responsibility as survivors
and descendants of survivors to ensure that they are never filled

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Atherton, represents the 14th Congressional
District. Of Armenian and Assyrian descent, she is a member of the
Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.