SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Despite heavy opposition by pro-Turkey lobbying groups, the California State Assembly voted unanimously on Jan. 29 to pass Assembly member Adrin Nazarian’s bill, AB 659, encouraging schools to use oral histories when teaching about the Armenian Genocide. AB 659 will now move on to State Senate for consideration.
“The unanimous passage of AB 659 sends a strong message that California officials cannot be bought or bullied into denying truth and justice. The ANCA WR commends Assembly members Nazarian and Achadjian for spearheading through this important genocide education legislation and looks forward to working with them in garnering similar support in the State Senate,” stated Elen Asatryan, Executive Director of the ANCA-WR.
“AB 659 has enjoyed overwhelming support from my colleagues in the Assembly,” commented Assembly member Nazarian, following the vote. “I look forward to continuing to work with the ANCA-WR to garner support from our counterparts in the Senate. The personal testimonies of Genocide survivors will give educators a powerful tool to engage students in the subject matter in ways they have never been taught before. If we expect to stop the genocides of the future, it is important that we strengthen the teaching mechanisms on past genocides,” he continued.
Joining Nazarian as co-authors AB 659 were State Senator Mark Wyland (R) and Assembly members Katcho Achadjian (R), Steve Fox (D), Mike Gatto (D), Scott Wilk (R), and Cheryl Brown (D). Other members of the State Assembly who spoke in support of the measure during the floor session today were Assembly members Tim Donnelly (R) and Diane Harkey (R).
Assembly member Achadjian, principal co-author on AB 659, worked closely with his Republican colleagues to secure broad bipartisan support for the measure, noted, “I am proud to be a principal co-author of AB 659. Part of ensuring a better world for our children includes educating them about the past. We must take the initiative to recognize such tragic acts of violence in order to prevent such events from happening again. It encourages teachers to educate our students on the Armenian Genocide.”
Earlier this month, AB 659 was unanimously adopted by the State Assembly Education and Appropriations Committees. Education Committee Chairwoman Joan Buchanan explained, “It is important for California students to understand and learn from the lessons of history, including the atrocities of genocide around the world. I am proud to support AB 659, which encourages schools to include the Armenian genocide in our history courses.”
In the weeks leading up to State Assembly consideration of the measure, the ANCA Western Region worked closely with legislators to ensure they learned of the Armenian American community’s enthusiastic support for the measure. “Grassroots efforts are critical for the success of such legislation, particularly in light of the increasingly aggressive lobbying campaigns which are being mounted by Turkey and Azerbaijan. In these times, it is especially important to activate our grassroots, because while we may be outspent by our adversaries, active participation by our community makes a difference,” added Asatryan.
Once adopted by the State Senate and signed into law by the Governor, AB 659 would encourage the incorporation of oral testimony and teacher training, such that the Genocide may be more comprehensively taught in California’s public schools.
The Genocide Education Project (GenEd), a non-profit organization based in San Francisco which has developed model resources for high school teachers regarding the Armenian Genocides, hailed the measure. “With the proper materials and training, teachers can incorporate the Armenian Genocide into their social studies curriculum in a meaningful way,” said Roxanne Makasdjian of The Genocide Education Project. “This resolution reminds education administrators across the state of California’s commitment to the inclusion of the Armenian Genocide as an essential part of its courses on world history, genocide, and human rights.”
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.