PASADENA (Asbarez)—Hundreds of community leaders and members, scholars and activists gathered at the Pasadena Convention Center on October 6 and 7 for the 4th Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region Grassroots Conference to hear experts in law, politics, media discuss modes of advocacy in the active pursuit of the Armenian Cause.
The conference kicked off on Friday evening with an exclusive screening of the much-anticipated documentary “Architects of Denial” followed by a welcoming reception of the two-day conference that continued on Saturday, October 7 at the same location.
ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian welcomed the attendees and introduced the evening’s film as an unprecedented presentation linking the Armenian Genocide in Turkey one hundred years ago with more recent attacks on Armenians by Azerbaijan. The film was also featured in a panel discussion on the following day.
The five panels on Saturday became an interwoven narrative of the fundamentals of Hye Tahd and have audience members the opportunity to interact with panelists through question and answer sessions following their presentations.
ANCA-WR 2017 Grassroots Committee member, Nora Demirjian, Esq., introduced the second panel of the day called “Transnational Justice: The Road To Reparations,” and welcomed Armen Hovannisian, Esq. of the Armenian Bar Association to moderate the panel discussion. The panel was comprised of legal experts who presented thought-provoking premises on pursuing the Armenian Cause through the international legal system.
Hovannisian stressed the demand for restoration and reparations: “Genocide recognition, for many people, for many years, was the end game. But the playing field has changed. The goal posts now stretch way beyond acknowledgment and apology to encompass restorative justice in every respect.” Hovannisian continued, “It’s not enough anymore to seek solace in recognition and satisfaction in resolutions. We’re now prepared on our own and with friends and colleagues and comrades to use our professional skills and experience and our confidence and creativity to protect the historical truth and the legal consequences of our past.” The panel was co-sponsored by the Armenian Bar Association, which offered CLE credits to attorneys who participated.
Kate Nahapetian, the Executive Director of the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington D.C. began by introducing a project on which she has been focusing, i.e., The Property Documentation Project. Nahapetian mentioned, “We came to the realization that there is not one community organization that is collecting all the property records that still exist, and it is actually more common that not that many people have deeds or bank accounts or bonds, and we think this is something essential to collect in one community based organization. Nahapetian concluded her remarks by drawing the audience’s attention to of the importance of documentation, “The more documentation we have the stronger our hand will be in negotiating.”
Asli Bali faculty director of The Promise Institute of Human Rights at UCLA School of Law and director of the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, discussed the broad spectrum of ways in which reparations and restoration can be conceived, noting, “obviously land restitution is one. Other possibilities of course involve monetary reparations along the lines that are being pursued here in U.S. domestic courts and indeed around the world in many different fora.” Bali also highlighted the significance of genocide recognition: “There is the basic fact of confronting the past, the basic historical reckoning that still has not been provided to anybody’s satisfaction anywhere. Either officially by the Turkish state or indeed even through the civil society initiatives we have seen, nothing approximating societal reconciliation.” Bali continued, “An apology and official acknowledgment and understanding that modern day Turkey is the successor to and the beneficiary of the expropriation of land and wealth that occurred as consequence to the genocide – all of this is a part of the picture of what restorative justice and reparations would mean.”
Jessica Peake, the Assistant Director of The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law and the Director of International and Comparative Law Program at UCLA School of Law addressed the goals and accomplishments of The Promise Institute. Peake explained that the ultimate purpose of the institute is to “train our students to become the next generation of human rights leaders allowing them to develop practical skills to document and seek accountability for human rights violations while building awareness of human rights protections to communities at risk.”