ANCA Mourns Passing of Sen. Kennedy, Armenian Issues Stalwart

WATERTOWN, Mass.—The Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Massachusetts joined with citizens of the Commonwealth and Armenian Americans across the U.S. in mourning the passing of Senate icon and lifelong advocate of Armenian issues, Senator Ted Kennedy.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) with his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy(D-R.I.) speaking at the ANCA Armenian Genocide Observance on Capitol Hill on April 21, 1999.
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) with his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy(D-R.I.) speaking at the ANCA Armenian Genocide Observance on Capitol Hill on April 21, 1999.

“Since his election in 1962, Senator Kennedy has been a fighter for Armenian Genocide recognition, a supporter of an independent and prosperous Armenia, and a defender of the right to self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabagh,” said ANC of Massachusetts co-chair Dikran Kaligian. 

“We join with ANCA leaders on the national, regional, and local levels and our community in Massachusetts in honoring the life and legacy of Sen. Kennedy and extend our deepest condolences to the Kennedy family.”

“For decades, Senator Kennedy has been a champion for human rights,” said ARF Eastern U.S. Central Committee member Ari Killian. “He has always been a valuable friend and advocate of the Armenian American community. His unwavering support of issues important to the Armenian American community, specifically recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, should stand as an example to all our political leaders.”

Congressional Commemoration

Kennedy’s support for passage of Armenian Genocide legislation had been consistent, emphatic, and vocal.  As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1989, Kennedy joined with then-committee chairman, now vice president Joe Biden, and former Illinois Senator Paul Simon, in leading the fight for committee passage of a resolution thatwould mark April 24, 1990, as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Over the pronounced objections of the U.S. State Department and the Turkish government, the committee adopted S.J. 212 with a vote of 8 to 6.

Subsequently, Kennedy cosponsored successive Armenian Genocide resolutions introduced in the Senate and cosigned letters to President Bush urging him to properly characterize this crime against humanity.  He has spoken on the Senate floor numerous times commemorating the Armenian Genocide, and in 1999, joined with Armenian Americans across the U.S. at the annual ANCA Capitol Hill Observance of the Armenian Genocide. 

“As my son [Rep. Patrick Kennedy] and I were talking just a few moments ago, he reminded me that if people here in the United States had paid attention to the genocide in the early part of this century, we would not have had, perhaps, the tragedies in World War II and, if we had paid attention to that tragedy, we might not have the tragedies that we have in Kosovo,” said Kennedy at the April 21, 1999 event.

Locally, in April 2000,  Kennedy delivered the keynote address at the historic Trinity Church in Boston as part of the community’s commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

In June 2006, following the State Department firing of U.S.  Ambassador to Armenia John Evans for his recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Kennedy joined with fellow Commonwealth Senator John Kerry in calling on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to explain the State Department’s actions. 

“We believe, and the reports from our diplomats at that time, make clear that genocide accurately described these events. Henry Morgenthau, then our Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, described these actions as a “campaign of race extermination,” noted Senators Kennedy and Kerry in a June 5 letter to Secretary Rice. 

They went on to ask for “clarification as soon as possible about Ambassador Evans’ premature dismissal after 35 years of exemplary service to the United States government.”

Staunch Supporter of Armenia, Karabagh

From the early days of Nagorno-Karabagh’s calls for self-determination, Kennedy was outspoken in his support for legislation condemning Azerbaijani violence against the Armenian communities in Sumgait and Baku, Azerbaijan, and Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act provisions to block U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan until that country ends its aggression and lifts its illegal blockades of Armenia and Karabagh.

In a May 17, 1991 statement on the Senate floor, Kennedy condemned the latest round of Azerbaijani violence against Armenian civilians, noting, “Since 1988, the world has witnessed anti-Armenian pogroms in Azerbaijan during which hundreds of Armenians have been killed and over 300,000 have been forced to flee that area and seek refuge in Armenia and Russia. These latest attacks have brought new tragedy and suffering to the Armenian people.” 

He continued to note that “America has always stood for human rights and human dignity—for our citizens and for all peoples throughout the world. We must not now ignore the plight of the long-suffering Armenian people.” 

Kennedy joined with colleagues Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Bob Dole (R-Kan.) in support of S.Res.128, which condemned the “indiscriminate use of force, including the shelling of civilian areas, on Armenia’s eastern and southern borders” and called for “the end to the blockades and other uses of force and intimidation directed against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh, and calls for the withdrawal of Soviet forces newly deployed for the purpose of intimidation”

In 1999, Kennedy spoke passionately in support for maintaining Section 907 of the Freedom Support act, as opponents attempted to strike the measure during a day-long debate and successful vote led by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (R.I.), and the Massachusetts Senator.

Kennedy also joined Dole in spearheading the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act in 1994, which proposed cutting aid to countries that block the passage of humanitarian assistance to other countries in need. While referencing no country specifically, the bill was inspired by Turkey’s blockade of Armenia, instituted in 1993 and continuing to this day.

Senator Kennedy lost a valiant battle to brain cancer on Aug, 26 at the age of 77.  He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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