Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Genocide Denied Is A Genocide Repeated

The forthcoming Armenian Genocide Museum of America in Washington, DC, has produced a powerful short video with the message that a genocide denied is a genocide repeated:

The efforts to build the museum are being led by the Armenian National Institute, which has an excellent website with information about the genocide, in which the Ottoman Turks are well documented to have killed approximately 1.5 million Armenians between 1915-1920. Glendale's annual Armenian genocide commemorative event is April 24th at the Alex Theatre (04/23 update. The City of Glendale now says "there are no more tickets for the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Event on 4/24. There will be a stand-by line that evening at the Alex Theatre for tickets."). The flyer for that and other city commemorative events is below:

The Glendale News-Press also has an article with information about a number of other commemorative events this week:

(Hat tip to my friend Edlin, who is involved with outreach efforts for the new museum and sent me the video. You should also check out another non-profit she's involved in called One Armenia, which uses crowd-funding and transparent reporting to support various environmental, humanitarian and cultural projects in Armenia.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Glendale City Council Member Zareh Sinanyan Admits Responsibility For Online Comments

In response to deeply felt criticism of his hateful online comments from members of the gay and Muslim communities at his first ever city council meeting, Glendale City Council Member Zareh Sinanyan has now publicly admitted responsibility and expressed regret for those comments.

He was particularly moved by the eloquent words of Glendale High student Zehra Siddiqui, who noted that Muslim students in Glendale are often bullied for their religion, and that it's important for role models in the community to take responsibility for their actions, whether good or bad.

From Ron Kaye's column in the Glendale News-Press:

"She was the one who got to me. After she spoke all I could think about was, 'Why would I say something that would insult someone like her?' I would just hope that she would forgive me, I didn't mean those things. They were obviously made in anger. 
"I will do my best to represent her to the best of my abilities. I see her as the future of America. By my actions, I will show who I really am, that those words are not me." 
Clearly, Sinanyan will be living in a fish bowl for quite a while, at the center of tensions over the ascendance of Armenians in the political, economic and cultural life of a city that was very different a quarter century ago when his family arrived in the area. 
For him, and for Glendale, this presents a great challenge to overcome divisions and a great opportunity to move forward and build a greater city together.

I absolutely agree with the closing line. I hope Sinanyan will continue in the spirit of healing and accountability and fully defuse tensions by also apologizing for attacking others, including me, rather than immediately taking responsibility for the comments he has now admitted to writing. If he offers such an apology, I will consider the matter resolved and wish him best of luck on the council.

Sinanyan is smart and was well prepared at the community forums. We both share a sincere interest in South Glendale issues and I'm sure he can put this behind him, both for his own good, and the good of the city.

Zareh, get in touch: tropicostation@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Zareh Sinanyan Attacks, But Still Hasn't Denied Writing Hateful Comments or Apologized For Them* (04/19 Update: He Has Now Admitted Responsibility & Expressed Regret)

The Glendale municipal election is over, and Zareh Sinanyan has secured a place on the Glendale City Council. A mere 356 votes separated him from Chahe Keuroghelian, who came in fourth. Voter turnout was low, at an estimated 18.2% of registered voters.

The Burbank Blog did a write up on the election results that I highly recommend reading.

If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you’ve also read the hateful comments that every available piece of evidence shows were written by Zareh Sinanyan over a period of several years. Not because I or anyone else says so, but because the allegations are verifiable using cached versions of both the comments and Zareh’s confirmed online accounts. If you haven’t read my previous posts on the allegations, please read them now to understand why this is serious:

Neither Sinanyan, nor anyone else has provided one shred of evidence challenging his authorship of the comments. All it would have taken to fully exonerate Sinanyan was documentation from Google that his account had been hacked for the period in question. When asked directly if he wrote the comments, Sinanyan (campaign motto: "Bringing Transparency and Accountability to Glendale"), gave one of the most misleading non-denials the world has ever seen

Truly, the video must be seen to be believed:

So just to be crystal clear on this:

Sinanyan has neither denied writing the hateful comments, nor apologized for their content.

Rather than responding to the evidence against him, Sinanyan and his supporters accused anyone drawing attention to the comments of conducting a “well-funded, well-organized racist smear campaign." Sinanyan himself, on the record, at a city council meeting, claimed that an anonymous source on *my blog* claimed their goal was to “take the Armenian community in general down.” This is 100% factually untrue. It was a cynical lie, meant to bully me and others who would demand an explanation into silence, close ranks within the Armenian community, and polarize Glendale along ethnic lines. I cannot find words to express my disgust.

The attacks directed at Councilmember Laura Friedman were far worse. For example, in an Armenian-language interview on Horizon TV posted on his official campaign Facebook page, Sinanyan compared Friedman to a Turk who doesn't care about Armenians* (minute 24):

SINANYAN: "And do you know what is unfortunate, maybe she has a small group of people with Armenian names, who aren't really true Armenians, they give her political legitimacy. In other words, you know when you meet some Turks and the first thing a Turk will say to an Armenian - and this is a really well known thing - is you're Armenian? I have many Armenian friends. And this is like Laura Friedman."

In Glendale, saying something like that is inflammatory and inexcusable. It should be denounced in the strongest possible terms by any organization or political candidate with a shred of decency**. The only reason these shameful tactics continue is because members of the community who should know better - most appallingly, The Glendale Teacher’s Association - remained silent.

So where does that leave us? It leaves me embarrassed for Glendale by what can only be explained by either tacit acceptance of bigotry or ignorance, enabled by low turnout. Local elections have a far bigger impact on day to day life than national elections, and proportionally, your vote is thousands of times more important to the outcome. Yet hardly anyone pays attention. Sinanyan was voted for by approximately 4% of Glendale's population. If you're catching up on this now and stayed home during the election, you deserve some of the blame.

Sinanyan will be sworn in at the City Council Reorganization meeting on April 15th.

Until Sinanyan takes responsibility for his actions and apologizes for both the comments*** and the cynical, divisive response to a scandal of his own making, the community must continue to demand an explanation from Sinanyan for his behavior. 



* I had this translated by two different Armenian-speaking friends to verify the context and accuracy of the translation.

** Here’s a challenge for my Armenian-speaking readers: if you see anyone involved with Glendale politics saying something hateful in Armenian language media, record the TV program or save the article and send it to me with a summary in English. I will have an Armenian speaker verify the accuracy of the content and, if it is offensive, will post the original media together with an English language transcript so that the community at large can judge for themselves. Alternately, if you see a non-Armenian candidate using racially charged or discriminatory rhetoric towards Armenians and have a recording or a quote in English language media, send me that too. There should be one standard for hateful racial rhetoric in Glendale, not an English-language standard and an Armenian-language standard. Such rhetoric should be universally condemned.

*** Or provides actual exonerating evidence!