On Wednesday night, during a heated discussion at the Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) Board of Directors meeting, the board president, Brooke Ashjian, equated the LGBT community to Ottoman Turks who perpetrated the Armenian Genocide.
The discussion centered on the California Healthy Youth Act, a law requiring schools to teach medically accurate sex education, including lessons on birth control, abortion, and LGBT relationships. Ashjian, who has opposed the law and has been on a warpath with the LGBT community and other city leaders who have not only criticized him but have called for his resignation, chose to defend himself by equating opposition to his views with state-sponsored campaign to annihilate an entire race.
In his remarks, Ashjian invoked his relatives, who he claimed were subjected to the genocidal policies of the Ottoman Turks. By equating a minority community to perpetrators of a crime against a minority population, he essentially made his statements absurd.
“It is sad, they like the Ottomans are trying to be the thought police,” Ashjian said on Wednesday reading from a two-page statement he wrote. “They are trying to make people of faith second-class citizens, as they seek to silence our voices in the public square. Just like what my grandparents and millions of other grandparents had to endure at the hands of the Ottomans before escaping to America.”
It is clear that the lessons of the Armenian Genocide have evaded Ashjian, who also seems to have forgotten the manner in which newly immigrant Armenians were treated in Fresno during the nascent years of our community there. He also seems to have forgotten that the very group he is equating to genocide perpetrators were themselves subjected to mass killings during the Holocaust.
Rev. Ara Guekguezian, the pastor of First Congregational Church of Fresno, pointed out to the Fresno Bee that it was dangerous to minimize the horrors of the Armenian Genocide, adding that the LGBT community should not be compared with Turkish officials who carried out the Armenian Genocide. If the Ottoman Turks say, ‘We are trying to silence you or marginalize you or demonize you,’ that is frightening because eventually they end up killing you,” Guekguezian told the Fresno Bee.
The 102-year fight for justice for the Armenian Genocide has called for recognition of the crime, based on a clear premise that the Genocide was, through mass murder, the ultimate violation of human rights and the usurpation of people’s basic freedom.
In Turkey, the country that continues to deny the genocide, Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament representing the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), has filed a lawsuit against the Ankara mayor who used the term “Armenian” to insult one of his opponents. Ashjian clearly has taken a page from our adversary’s playbook.
What is more repugnant in the Ashjian scenario is that he has been elected by the people of Fresno to uphold the highest standards of education in the fourth-largest school district in the state. His ignorance calls into question his qualifications for leading the public school system in that city. Fresno voters must take this into consideration at the ballot box if Ashjian seeks re-election.
(It is worth noting that others on the FUSD, as well as the school’s interim superintendent, have denounced Ashjian’s comments and have assertively advocated for inclusion and providing a safe educational environment for students in Fresno.)
Ashjian’s unrepentant attitude and egregious comments seem to mirror the current national discourse, which, especially during the past two weeks, seems to have veered off course when the president decided to equivocate when those carrying torches and Nazi flags clashed with those who opposed their flagrant breech of humanity.
Ara Khachatourian is the editor of our sister publication Asbarez News (English), where this piece first appeared on Aug. 28.
I totally agree with the stance of Brooke Ashjian in apposing the indoctrination of our Armenian schoolchildren with the LGBT crap. I wonder why does Armenian Weekly allow for such a pro-homosexual agenda article to be published in it. Or is it because…Armenian Weekly receives financial backing from organizations like the Soros foundation that are working to disseminate social, political and moral chaos in the entire world?
you are nothing but a narrow minded fool who supports censorship, even at the expense of our children’s’ mental and physical health, I am no supporter of special interest, and no you cannot be converted to homosexuality, it is simply impossible, unless you really are and want to come out…so lets please leave our ignorant insecurities aside and teach our children to be tolerant and harmonious with other citizens, let’s teach them proper sexual conduct to keep them safe from disease and unwanted pregnancies, before it becomes to late
Keep your religion out of politics.
Equating education of human sexuality with the Ottomans who perpetrated The Genocide or the Nazis who perpetrated The Holocaust is not only ignorant but also dangerous (as it diminishes the threat posed by the actual thought police: The religious right).
Shame on Ashjian for this weak attempt at trying to brand himself and his cause as victim.
I am appalled at Ashjian’s comments ! The Armenian community and their leaders should cry out for Ashjian’s resignation and make sure that he does not speak for Armenians in Fresno and at large .
I am also appalled! The intolerance and prejudice are disturbing enough, and have absolutely no place on a school board. But then to equate a law requiring medically accurate instruction to the atrocities of the Ottoman Empire is beyond belief. We have worked long and hard for genocide recognition– to make this sort of comparison is disrespectful to the sufferings of our ancestors. I am embarrassed to hear this from a fellow Armenian and agree with the call for resignation.
if you have strong religious beliefs, then send your children to a private school, in public arenas, all citizens have equal rights and representations, let’s all remember that the stone age of the apes is over, at least for the modern world… if you want to live in a primitive society, oppressed by archaic religious non-sense, I hear Senegal, and most of the muslim world is an ideal place for you to move…
bon voyage, yerthas barov, chveradarnalu npatakov