Armenian Genocide Film "Aghet" Screened At Capitol Hill

22.07.2010 11:35

A standing room only crowd of legislators, staff and community
activists applauded the Capitol Hill screening of “AGHET: A GENOCIDE,”
a powerful documentary by German filmmaker Eric Friedler depicting
Ottoman Turkey’s annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915
to 1923 and calling attention to the costs of the current Turkish
government’s ongoing international campaign of genocide denial,
reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Congressional Armenian Genocide Resolution author Adam Schiff (D-CA),
who hosted screening, offered poignant opening remarks thanking film
producer Katharina Trebitsch and Friedler for his “tenacity and his
wonderful work.” He went on to note that the Turkish Embassy had, in
the days leading up to the documentary’s first-time showing on Capitol
Hill, sent him a letter objecting to the screening. The California
legislator was forceful in his rebuke of foreign pressure to block
Congressional discussion of the Armenian Genocide. “Unfortunately for
the Turkish Ambassador and his government, the infamous Section 301 of
the Turkish penal code, which makes it a crime to insult Turkishness,
does not apply here, and we are free to speak the truth and admire the
work of others like Mr. Friedler, who have stood up to the threats,
the bullying, and the intimidation,” explained Rep. Schiff.

Characterizing ‘Aghet’ as an “important movie,” Rep. Brad Sherman
(D-CA) called special attention to its focus on the dispatches of
the German government during the Genocide, highlighting the vastly
different ways the German government and the Turkish government have
dealt with their respective legacies of genocide. “One is the approach
taken by the German government, acknowledging the Holocaust and then
trying to build on that and trying to make sure that you do not see
genocides in the future,” explained Rep. Sherman. “The other extreme
we see is the actions of the Turkish government, illustrating that
genocide denial is the last step of the genocide, when after trying to
extinguish a people you try to extinguish the memory of that terrible
act. And it is also the first step in the next genocide, the one thing
that links the Armenian Genocide and Turkey on the one hand and the
Germany on the other is the fact that Adolf Hitler was famously able to
convince his cohorts that they could get away with genocide, for after
all the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman Turks, have been able to do so.”

Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), in
his remarks, noted the critical role of documentaries like “Aghet”
in educating Congress about the Armenian Genocide. “I think this is
really important because obviously we will continue to fight to get
the [Armenian] Genocide resolution passed and this is an important
part of that effort,” explained Pallone. He went on to urge continued
grassroots efforts to end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s genocide denial.

“You are out there endorsing candidates – for President, for Congress,
for Senate, whatever it is. That is what is going to make the
difference,” concluded Pallone.

The filmmaker, Eric Friedler, with modesty, noted: “I do not know if
my film ‘Aghet’ will have any impact on the way the American Congress
will deal with the issue of Armenian Genocide in future. It is more
than amazing and absolutely unusual that a German documentary might be
considered to have any meaning to a political decision-making process.

I feel very honored to be invited to Washington and that ‘Aghet’
is seen by members of the Congress.”

The screening was followed by a robust 90-minute panel discussion,
sponsored by the Armenian National Committee of America, featuring
the director, Eric Friedler, former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John
Evans, SCREAMERS Director Carla Garapedian, and Vartkes Yeghiayan,
Director of the Center for Armenian Remembrance. The discussion was
moderated by ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

“Tonight’s Capitol Hill premiere of Aghet offered Members of Congress
and their staffs an excellent opportunity to explore the costs and
consequences of Turkey’s ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide,”
said Hamparian. “We want to say a special thank you to Congressman
Schiff for hosting this historic screening and are, of course, deeply
appreciative of Eric Friedler’s compelling contribution to America’s
civic discourse on this vital subject. We are greatly pleased that
Ambassador John Evans, Carla Garapedian, and Vartkes Yeghiayan were
able to join in making the panel discussion such a success. We look
forward, in the days and weeks ahead, to this powerful film’s ongoing
impact on our nation’s progress toward full and formal condemnation
of this crime against all humanity.”

From: A. Papazian

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