Fresno protest backs Armenian resolution
By Pablo Lopez, The Fresno Bee

(May 29, 2004, 5:57 AM)
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/8639204p-9510444c.html

A group of protesters picketed outside a northwest Fresno restaurant
Friday, hoping to get U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert to
commit to a resolution that recognizes the Armenian genocide.

Hastert, in town to support Republican state Sen. Roy Ashburn's
bid for Congress, never got a chance to address the issue. Once the
$250-a-plate luncheon at Pardini's was over, Hastert was rushed to
the airport so he could head to his next engagement.

The protesters, however, didn't leave empty-handed.

Afterward, Ashburn said he told Hastert that he supports the resolution
that recognizes the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands
of the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923. If elected to Congress,
Ashburn said, "I would ask Hastert to bring it to a vote."

At issue is House Resolution 193, marking the 15th anniversary of
the U.S. implementation of the United Nations Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. This landmark convention,
adopted by the U.N. in 1948, specifically identifies genocide as a
crime under international law. The resolution cites the Armenian
genocide as an example of past genocides, along with the Holocaust
and the Rwandan and Cambodian genocides.

The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the resolution
more than a year ago, but Hastert has not brought it to the House
floor for a vote, said Rich Sanikian, a member of the Armenian
National Committee, Central California, which organized the protest
at Pardini's.

"If Hastert doesn't bring this human-rights legislation to a vote
in the next six months, it will die at the end of this congressional
session," Sanikian said.

Hastert is an Illinois Republican.

About 30 people protested outside the restaurant, carrying signs
that read: "Hastert hear the cry from history" and "Hastert holds
the genocide vote hostage."

Sanikian said local leaders who support the resolution include
Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa; Fresno Mayor Alan Autry; and
Ashburn's political rival, former state Sen. Jim Costa.

Costa, a Fresno Democrat, and Ashburn are battling for the open 20th
Congressional District seat. Incumbent Cal Dooley, D-Fresno, is not
running for reelection.

The Central Valley is home to more than 60,000 Armenians, one of the
oldest ethnic groups in the area. Armenians want Turkey to recognize
the genocide and pay restitution.

The modern Turkish republic, which evolved from the Ottoman Empire,
disputes that a genocide occurred. The U.S. government has repeatedly
balked at passing a resolution because Turkey is an ally and its
location is of strategic importance to American interests abroad.

Ashburn's luncheon drew a who's-who list of civic leaders, including
state Sen. Chuck Poochigian, a Fresno Republican; Madera County
Supervisor Frank Bigelow; and Mike Reynolds, founder of the Three
Strikes repeat offender law.

News crews were not allowed inside the private party. Guests could
get photographs with Hastert for a $2,000 donation.

Afterward, Ashburn said if he is elected to Congress he could help the
Armenian cause and protect Valley interests because he will be part
of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. "I will
have committee assignments and seek a leadership role," he said. If
Costa is elected, Ashburn said, "he would be in the minority, a back
bench newcomer."

Costa said he has been an effective legislator because he has
bi-partisan support. He said he has been a long time supporter of
the genocide resolution.

The reporter can be reached at [email protected] or (559) 441-6434.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress