Vermont Legislature Unanimously Adopts Genocide Centennial Resolution

Bohjalian, Walrath lead State Capitol Commemoration Calling for Genocide Justice

MONTPELIER, Vt.—The Vermont legislature strengthened the standing of the Green Mountain State as a leader in the genocide prevention movement by unanimously adopting a concurrent resolution (H.C.R. 86) commemorating the Armenian Genocide Centennial and hosting a day-long series of events honoring the victims of this crime against humanity, reported the Armenian National Committee of America-Eastern Region (ANCA-ER).

Author Chris Bohjalian, Harvey Bazarian, Rep. Joan Georges Lenes, author Dana Walrath, Arsho Aghjayan, and ANC Vermont's Nareg Aghjayan following the unanimous adoption of the Armenian Genocide Centennial resolution by the Vermont legislature.
Author Chris Bohjalian, Harvey Bazarian, Rep. Joan Georges Lenes, author Dana Walrath, Arsho Aghjayan, and ANC Vermont’s Nareg Aghjayan following the unanimous adoption of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Resolution by the Vermont legislature.

The legislation was spearheaded on the House side by Representative Joan G. Lenes, who is a descendant of an Assyrian Genocide survivor, and Representative Adam Greshin.  Lead Senate supporters of the resolution included Senators Dick Sears, Philip Baruth, and Diane Snelling with 14 of 30 senators co-sponsoring the measure.

“It was a wonderful day of people sharing a common past—not forgetting that, yet still learning and looking forward so that we are a better people,” said Lenes following passage of the resolution.

An image of the Vermont State Legislature during consideration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Resolution.
An image of the Vermont State Legislature during consideration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Resolution.

Prior to its reading in the General Assembly, Vermont’s own Lokum Band—Jeff Davis, Peter Bingham, and Charlie Jones—played several Armenian musical pieces as part of the devotional exercises, garnering a standing ovation from legislators.  Later, Lenes introduced the Armenian community members in attendance and invited one and all to a noon presentation about the Armenian Genocide by authors Chris Bohjalian and Dana Walrath.

“I was so proud to be a Vermonter today—and I was so proud of the Vermont legislature,” said Bohjalian, whose internationally acclaimed novel on the Armenian Genocide, The Sandcastle Girls, was a New York Times bestseller. “By recognizing the Armenian Genocide, legislators gave voice to those voices that were forever stilled in Der-el-Zor and Ras-el-Ain and the Dudan Crevasse. Today, Vermont helped spread the truth of what occurred a century ago on the Anatolian plains and the Syrian desert, and helped quiet the voice of denial.”

“Today, Vermont legislators chose social justice over political exigency,” said Walrath, who recently published Like Water on Stone, a verse novel about the Armenian Genocide that is based on her grandmother’s history. “Shame, pride, and oil are not good enough reasons to deny the Armenian Genocide. Their detailed resolution honors those who suffered and those who have worked tirelessly to erase genocide from this earth. This resolution can serve as a model for other states. I am proud to be a citizen of Vermont, a small state with a big heart.”

Following the presentation, ANC Vermont activist Nareg Aghjayan joined with local community leaders in hosting a reception with Armenian delicacies for the more than 100 legislators and supporters in attendance at the commemoration.

“The few yet mighty members of the Armenian-American community in the Green Mountain State collectively thank the Vermont General Assembly in unanimously passing Resolution H.C.R. 86 commemorating the Armenian Genocide Centennial,” said Aghjayan.  “On behalf of ANC Vermont and its entire grassroots family, we warmly welcome the continued support of Vermonters on this crucial human rights issue.”

Lokum's Jeff Davis, Peter Bingham, and Charlie Jones play Armenian music during the Vermont State Legislature morning devotional, beginning with Gomidas' Kele Kele.
Lokum’s Jeff Davis, Peter Bingham, and Charlie Jones playing Armenian music during the Vermont State Legislature morning devotional, beginning with Gomidas’ ‘Kele Kele.’

ANCA Eastern Region Chairman Steve Mesrobian concurred.  “We applaud the leadership of Representatives Lenes and Greshin and Senators Sears Baruth and Snelling in ensuring the unanimous passage of this historic resolution by the Vermont legislature.  We would particularly like to thank Chris Bohjalian and Dana Walrath for educating generations about the Armenian Genocide through their presentations today and their literary works read across the U.S. and the world. The people of Vermont have spoken on this important topic through their legislative body and we call on the United States government to follow suit in recognizing the Armenian Genocide, particularly at this important juncture of our nation’s history,” said Mesrobian.

The state of Vermont first recognized the Armenian Genocide when Governor James Douglas proclaimed April 24, 2004, as “Armenian Martyrs Day” in Vermont.  Forty-three U.S. states have recognized the Armenian Genocide, with additional states considering legislation in the upcoming months.

The full text of H.C.R. 86 follows.


Complete Text of Vermont Armenian Genocide Centennial Resolution

Montpelier, Vermont
Concurrent House Resolution
H.C.R. 86

House concurrent resolution commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide

Offered by: Representatives Lenes of Shelburne and Greshin of Warren

Offered by: Senators Sears, Baruth, Balint, Benning, Campion, Collamore, Cummings, Flory, McCormack, Mullin, Pollina, Snelling, White, and Zuckerman

Whereas, from 1915 to 1923, the government of the Ottoman Empire persecuted and executed systematically an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, and

Whereas, this brutal mistreatment became known as the Armenian Genocide and, by 1923, it had resulted in the elimination of the Armenian population in Asia Minor and historic West Armenia, and

Whereas, the Armenian Genocide began on the night of April 24, 1915, when the Turkish government arrested more than 200 Armenian community leaders in Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire’s capital city, and

Whereas, most of the prominent public figures of the Armenian community were summarily executed, and

Whereas, large numbers of Armenian civilians were forcibly deported to the Syrian desert, and many died either en route, at the hands of government-aligned gangs, or from dehydration and starvation in the desert, and

Whereas, in May 1915, the Allied Powers of France, Great Britain, and Russia issued a joint statement charging the government in Constantinople with committing crimes ‘‘against humanity and civilization,” the first time a government-to-government charge of this type was issued, and

Whereas, it is estimated that, by 1918, the Ottoman Empire’s brutal treatment of Armenians had resulted in the deaths of one million persons and made hundreds of thousands of others homeless and stateless refugees, and

Whereas, Raphael Lemkin, the initial drafter of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the originator of the term “genocide,” recognized the Armenian Genocide as the type of crime the United Nations should prevent through the establishment of international standards, and

Whereas, historians cite the Armenian Genocide as a forerunner of later human massacres, including the Holocaust, the Cambodian Killing Fields, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur, and

Whereas, on April 24, 2004, Governor James Douglas issued a proclamation recognizing the Armenian Genocide on the 89th anniversary of its initiation, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly commemorates the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide, and

be it further

Resolved: That the Secretary of State be directed to send a copy of this resolution to the Armenian National Committee of Vermont.

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  1. Unlike Russia, who itself needs a complete rehabilitation of its image in the civilized world, we need more credible friends such as the great Green Mountain State of Vermont to further our cause.

    • Which so-called civilized world are you referring to ?
      Would that be the so-called ‘civilized world’ that illegally invaded Iraq and is responsible for the deaths of 100s of 1000s of Iraqi civilians ?

      Or maybe the same Neocon ‘civilized world’ that is responsible for all the death and destruction unleashed in Syria ?
      The destruction of the centuries old Armenian presence in Syria ?
      If not for Russia, the ‘civilized’ Neocon B52s would have already been carpet bombing another defenseless country.

      ‘Our’ cause ?
      Whose cause would that be ?
      Our cause is Armenian and Armenia: what cause is yours ?

  2. I wonder how many natives were murdered so the state of Vermont could exist. I also wonder if there is any official recognition of this fact labeled as genocide. Somehow I doubt it but I challenge anyone to reference a bill from the Vermont legislature that does so. I’m also curious as to how much the people of Vermont feel they should pay in reperations to the natives. Please answer these questions. In earnest Im curious.

  3. Am I wrong-was it not Russia who enslaved Armenia and called it Soviet Republic? Was it not Russia who used Armenia and other once free nations for its own benefit. Was it not Stalin who killed 8 or more times people as the hated Nazis? Was it not Russia who interfered with Georgia and Ulraine? Is it not Russia who claims the right to interfere in other nations because Russians live in a nation? Russia hardly counts as the civilized world. It was and remains an imperialistic nation.

    • ‘enslaved’ Armenia ?
      Yes: you are wrong. You have no clue about Armenia.
      You need to study – a lot – about Armenian history and specifically the period 1894-1923 before commenting about anything re Armenia.

      About Georgia:
      Neocon plant Saakashvili attacked South Ossetia and bombarded civilian targets. A war crime.
      Several Russian peacekeeping troops were killed in the sneak attack.
      Russia counterattacked.
      Where is the problem ?

      About Ukraine:
      A legally, democratically elected president was overthrown in a Neo-Nazi putsch organized by US Neocons.
      Ethnic Russians were massacred by Neo-Nazi battalions such as the Azov.
      Ethnic Russians living in E. Ukraine, the historic Novorossiya, are fighting off Neo-Nazi invaders sent by the illegal, criminal Kiev junta to ethnically cleanse them from their historic homeland.
      Where is the problem ?

      About that ‘civilized world’ thing:
      Two countries that preach everybody else about International law, US and UK, invaded Iraq – without a UN mandate.
      Meaning the invasion was illegal.
      Iraq had not attacked either US or UK.
      The dead Iraqis, as a result of the illegal invasion, are estimated to be up to one million (civilian and combatants)
      The country has been destroyed.
      So much for the ‘civilized world’.

      btw: what did Russia have to do with the Vermont AG legislation that yous brought it up ?
      Do yous have an ulterior motive maybe ? Just asking.

  4. This is the 44th State. 6 more to go. It is very encouraging and rewarding to see that State Legislators have more decency, courage and moral integrity that the Representatives/Senators in the US Congress and their leadership who still have not brought H. Res 154
    to vote.
    If this was an amendment to the U.S. Constitution , it would have been ratified. An amendment to be ratified requires three-fourth of the States, i.e. 38 of 50. We have 44 and the Congress and the President are still worried and afraid to stand to Turkey. Shame on them.
    This is a great accomplishment by all those who worked hard and were extensively involved in passing the resolution in each of the 44 States. A big BRAVO and thanks.
    This accomplishment has nothing to do with Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, or Red Indians. This is about recognition of the Armenian Genocide and what is happening in the USA today. Let’s recognize it for what it is, and not tarnish the moment with other unrelated issues.
    Vart Adjemian

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