Harman letter angers Armenian activists

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas CityHarman, who is a co-sponsor of the resolution, was confronted Saturday at a rally for Assembly candidate Warren Furutani by young Armenian activists chanting “Hypocrite, liar, genocide denier.” The protesters plan to appear at more events where the South Bay Democrat is scheduled to speak, said Zanku Armenian, spokesman for the Armenian National Committee of America. “We will be following her around,” Armenian said, “to the point where people are not going to want to invite her because she will be radioactive.” The controversy erupted last week, after Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, scheduled a vote on the resolution in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The vote is scheduled for today. On Oct. 3, Harman sent Lantos a letter urging him to reconsider. She warned that the resolution would be “destabilizing not only to Armenian-Turkish relations but also to our efforts to create stability in the greater Middle East.” HOUSE: South Bay legislator says genocide resolution she co-sponsored could destabilize the greater Mideast. By Gene Maddaus STAFF WRITER Rep. Jane Harman is facing protests and a flood of angry phone calls after urging a House committee chairman not to allow a vote on a resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide. The issue is of utmost concern to the local Armenian community. Though more than a million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923, the U.S. government has steadfastly refused to characterize those events as a “genocide.” Turkey, a key U.S. ally in the region, has hired lobbyists to defeat similar resolutions in the past. In the letter, Harman warned Lantos that now is “the wrong time” to consider the resolution and urged him to avoid anything that would “embarrass or isolate the Turkish leadership.” She also mentioned that she had traveled to Turkey earlier this year and met with the prime minister. The Armenian groups obtained the letter, after which Harman released it on her Web site. Harman is one of the resolution’s 226 co-sponsors, a fact that especially galls the activists. “Although she was a co-sponsor, she covertly flipped her position and in a secret manner sent a letter to Tom Lantos,” said Vache Thomassian, co-chairperson of the Armenian Youth Federation. “She went all the way to the absolute opposite end and was advocating its complete dismissal.” The activists said they knew of no other representative who had publicly endorsed the measure while privately working against it. “I was infuriated that she would change her mind that way,” said Lori Khajadourian, a member of the federation’s South Bay chapter. “To us, it seems like a betrayal.” A few dozen protesters showed up Saturday at the Furutani event in Lakewood. Harman was there to support Furutani’s campaign for the 55th District Assembly seat, but her speech was interrupted by chanting. Afterwards, she met the group in the parking lot, where she argued that her objection was about timing and not about the substance of the resolution. “I am not arguing for a second about what happened in Turkey 100 years ago,” she said in a video clip that the activists posted on YouTube. “I condemn acts of – I would use the `genocide’ word, sure I would – I’m not denying it.” She also noted that her father had fled Nazi Germany. “I come from a community where there was genocide against my people, too,” she said. “The letter I sent was about the timing of the vote and not about the grievous harm that was caused to your community.” She went on to argue that the current Turkish government is playing a helpful role in the Middle East and in Darfur. The activists were not satisfied. “I don’t think a country that denies genocide should be patted on their back for what they’re doing in Darfur,” Khajadourian said. “She shouldn’t be allowing herself to be bullied by what this country might do if they pass this resolution.” Armenian said he believed Harman had been influenced by Turkey’s lobbyists, including the firms of former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt and former House Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston, a Republican. Though Harman has vowed to vote against the resolution if it comes to the floor, the activists are hoping she will change her mind. Failing that, they believe she should be voted out of office. “Her hypocrisy on this issue is morally reprehensible,” Armenian said. “By signing the letter to Lantos, she may as well have been signing her resignation letter.” Furutani’s campaign manager, Sandra Sanchez, said the protest did not derail the kickoff event. “Everything was resolved very amicably,” she said, adding that Furutani supports the resolution. gene.maddaus@dailybreeze.com160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img