WASHINGTON—On Aug. 5, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter Jr. joined with the Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness and Action (CCGAA) at a press conference proclaiming August 5 as “Genocide Awareness Day” in the state, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We’re here today to raise awareness that genocide is a real thing where real people are affected in traumatic ways and because as part of the fraternity of man or in solidarity with our fellow human beings around the globe, we say we can’t tolerate it, that it should not be part of our world in the twenty first century,” said Ritter. “The first recognized genocide of the 20th century took place in Armenia, with the slaughter of more than a million Armenians, and we have seen it again and again since. It is imperative that we recognize what has happened, so we can ensure it will not happen again.”
The genocide awareness event was organized by the CCGAA, a group founded by local activist Roz Duman and committed to bringing together anti-genocide groups to educate Colorado residents about the ravages of this crime against humanity, from the Armenian Genocide to Darfur. Commenting on the ongoing efforts to secure U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide, Duman explained, “The CCGAA has, from its inception, worked within Colorado to affirm the Armenian Genocide and to promote public awareness of the facts of that event. Historians have repeatedly documented a Turkish government-orchestrated genocide perpetrated against its Armenian citizens. Three quarters of the entire population of Armenians perished in waves of killing from 1895 to 1923 in their historic homeland. The consequence to the world was the decimation of a rich and ancient Christian culture.”
“We salute the efforts of Governor Ritter, the Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness and Action, and Colorado’s exceptionally vibrant Armenian community for their ongoing commitment to ending the cycle of genocide through education and action,” said ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian. “From standing up against the denial of the Armenian Genocide to divestment from the genocidal regime in Sudan, Colorado leaders have proven that each state can play a vital role in stopping genocide.”
Colorado has been at the forefront of the state-level battle in ending the cycle of genocide, with a strong record of commemorating past genocides and taking action to end the ongoing atrocities in Darfur. In 2007, Ritter signed legislation sponsored by former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff calling for state and local governments to completely divest themselves from companies that were financially involved with the Sudanese government. “Today, two years later,” Ritter said, “I’m happy to report that no public dollars from Colorado state government are invested in companies doing business with the Sudanese government.”
Colorado recognized the Armenian Genocide through gubernatorial proclamation in 1981 and has adopted Armenian Genocide legislation consistently over the past decade, thanks to the grassroots efforts of the Colorado Armenian community. Colorado Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee co-chair Ken Allikian praised Ritter’s latest effort to stop genocide. “I am very pleased that Armenians of Colorado and the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee have become partners with the Coalition, as they are doing fantastic work to raise public awareness of the insanity of genocide,” explained Allikian. “I am also proud of the State of Colorado for being the first in the nation to have such a ceremony, but they have always proven themselves as a leader in this area, having donated space for an Armenian Genocide memorial garden on the grounds of the capital in 1982 and for eight years running having passed a joint house and senate resolution proclaiming April 24 as ‘Colorado Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.’”
Over the years, the ANCA has worked closely with Armenian American activists throughout Colorado to educate elected officials and the media on a range of community concerns from Armenian Genocide recognition to self-determination for the people of Nagorno-Karabagh and building a stronger U.S.-Armenia relationship. Local initiatives, including the highly regarded “The Rocky Mountain Hye Advocates” political e-newsletter, founded by state-wide community activist Pamela Barsam Brown, have played a key role in the ongoing effort to inform the community and the Colorado Congressional delegation, alike. Barsam Brown was instrumental in coordinating press commentary from Ritter’s office, the CCGAA, and the Colorado Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee in support of the “Genocide Awareness Day” initiative.