Multi-Platimum Rock Band System of a Down Ask House Speaker Dennis Hastert to ‘Do the Right Thing’ in Support of Armenian Genocide Legislation Band Rallies Their Fans With Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) in Front of Hastert’s Batavia, IL Office Tuesday, September 27th at Noon.
Band are In Chicago in Advance Of Their Friday Evening Concert at Chicago’s Allstate Arena
Los Angeles, CA – September 23, 2005 – System of a Down, one of rock’s most daring and innovative bands, have just announced that they – along with their fans, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA; www.anca.org), Axis of Justice (www.axisofjustice.org) and the Armenian Youth Federation – will visit the Batavia office of Rep. Dennis Hastert on Tuesday, September 27 (Noon) to ask Speaker Hastert to ‘do the right thing’ and keep his commitment to hold a vote on the pending Armenian Genocide legislation. If passed, the legislation will officially recognize Turkey’s destruction of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923. and the Armenian Youth Federation The band have invited their fans to join with them in this effort by attending the rally and have set up a system by which fans can directly email Speaker Hastert on the issue.*
System of a Down’s four band members – Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian and John Dolmayan – are of Armenian descent and have made awareness of the genocide, and genocide around the world, a central message of the band. All have lost family members to the Armenian Genocide.
On September 15, the House International Relations Committee overwhelmingly approved legislation recognizing the Armenian Genocide, despite objections from both Turkey and the Bush Administration. Despite his previous public support for the measure in 2000, Speaker Hastert has twice prevented the Armenian Genocide legislation from coming to a full vote in the House. Today the fate of this human rights issue rests in the Speaker’s hands.
He has two choices: either allow a vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution, giving the 435 Members of the U.S. House a chance to cast their ballots on this human rights measure or, delay, defer, and ultimately defeat the Armenian Genocide Resolution by refusing to bring the measure to a vote of the full U.S. House. The rally is in support of a fair and full vote in the House of Representatives, ending U.S. denial of this crime and opening the doors to justice – to the restoration, reparation, and restitution owed to the victims of genocide.
“Dennis do the right thing” stated Serj Tankian, “I just visited my 97 year old grandfather, my only link to the far past, and promised him that I would go and try to talk to Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, and make sure that he takes this opportunity to bring up the Armenian Genocide Resolution to the floor of the House of Representatives. This is a personal issue to me and System.”
The System of a Down/ANCA rally will take place at the offices of Rep. Dennis Hastert – 27 North River Street, Batavia, Illinois (about an hour from downtown Chicago). The rally is scheduled for 12Noon-2:00 PM on Tuesday, September 27. The Armenian community, activists, and the band’s fans from across the greater Chicago area are expected to attend the rally.
Members of System of a Down and Aram Suren Hamparian, Executive Director of ANCA, are available to discuss the rally and pending legislation on Tuesday, 9/27 and Friday, 9/30, the day of their concert at Chicago’s Allstate Arena.
About System Of A Down:
Six months after their album Mesmerize debuted at number one on Billboard’s Top 200 album charts, the quartet returns with Hypnotize on November 22, part two of a promised two-album set. The American/Columbia recording artists are nominated for an American Music Award in the “Favorite Artist” in Alternative category and are currently on a North American headlining tour through October 12. For more information, visit the band’s website: http://www.systemofadown.com
Background on the issue:
On September 15th of 2005, the International Relations Committee overwhelmingly approved legislation properly recognizing this crime against humanity. During the course of a three-hour meeting, 21
Representatives on this 50-member panel spoke in favor of H.Res.316 and H.Con.Res195, which were adopted by bipartisan majorities of 40 to 7 and 35 to 11, respectively. Clearly, just as in 2000, legislation
recognizing the Armenian Genocide enjoys the support of a large Congressional majority.
In October of 2000, Speaker Hastert withdrew the Armenian Genocide Resolution from consideration only moments before it was to reach to House floor.
Following his withdrawal of this measure, he issued a statement affirming his personal support for the Armenian Genocide Resolution, stressing that the Resolution enjoyed the support of a bi-partisan
Congressional majority, and pledging to bring this legislation back to the House floor.
The Speaker has, in the past, taken positive actions on the Armenian Genocide issue:
1) Remarks on the House floor, on April 19, 1994, marking the 79th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide: “Over a million Armenians were exiled and eventually murdered by the Ottoman Turks beginning on April 24, 1915. As a result of this genocide, the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire was effectively eliminated through a carefully executed government plan.”
2) His vote, on June 5th of 1996, for the Radanovich Amendment, to cut U.S. aid to Turkey until it ceases denying the Armenian Genocide. This measure was adopted on the House floor by a bipartisan majority of 268 to 153.
Interview with Serj Tankian
By: Sean Payne
Shortly before Serj Tankian was to begin a rally in front of House Speaker, Dennis Hastert’s office, Sean Payne of Chicago Music Guide caught up with him for a few words about why he’s here and explained to us why this is so important to him.
Serj: Hey Sean
Sean: Hey man, what’s goin on?
Serj: Nothings going on.
Sean: Alright. Thanks a lot for doing this, it means a lot to me. I’ve been a fan and admirer for a long time.
Serj: No problem.
Sean: I promise I won’t keep you long, I know it’s a busy day for you
Serj: I do appreciate it
Sean: First of all, just for the people that are going to be reading this interview, ya know, don’t know the background of what you’re fighting for today and everything with Armenian genocide and everything. Do you want to just explain the history and what’s gotten you to this point; fighting for the recognition of it?
Serj: Just to put it in a short way, during World War I, Turkey committed a grave atrocity genocide against people of Armenian heritage. Under the government, the Armenians were a minority at the time and that was 90 years ago and it was the first genocide of the 20th century. The world court incriminated a lot of the perpetrators however as politics and economics changed things around later in the century, it never really became a crime against humanity. Although all of the western world and most countries archives’ reflect the atrocities that occurred, there are still some countries that have an official denial. What that does is encourages Turkey to continue it’s denial campaign that they’ve gotten away with because of their power as a NATO ally and all of these things in the west and so there’s resolution that came about in the International Relations Committee it passed overwhelmingly for the recognition in the Armenian genocide and now it’s up to the speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert to bring it up to the floor of the house for a vote. He’s had the opportunity a number of times in the past to do so and hasn’t taken it up for whatever reason, political or otherwise. So, we’re there today to encourage him to do so.
Sean: Alright, great man. If this is too personal, please feel free not to discuss it but I read on your site that you and some of your other band members that your families have been personally affected; some of your older relatives and everything. Is there anything you can say about that really quick?
Serj: I can’t begin to tell you how my family was personally affected by it because my grandparents are survivors of genocide…
Sean: yeah, wow
Serj: …and we wouldn’t be around if they hadn’t survived; if it wasn’t for the good people in the orphanage that had helped take care of them and nurture them and keep them alive, we wouldn’t be here. So, it’s more than being affected by it, my existence is because the genocide was not complete
Serj: If you think about it and you know there’s many horrible stories that can be told that I’ve heard from my own grandfather about his life and sure John and the rest of the guys have heard about their grandparents and stuff
Sean: Wow. I can’t even imagine how much of a personal issue this is for you
Serj: Yeah, it is a personal issue, I mean, people always talk about us doing political things and we are I mean, to a certain degree a political or socially inclined band in some ways although we do many other things with our art. But this is a personal issue for me.
Sean: Yeah. What do you plan to say today?
Serj: I’m not really sure.
Sean: Just kinda let the moment kinda carry you?
Serj: Yeah, basically.
Sean: That’s cool man.
Serj: We have a statement that we drafted to give to Hastert’s office that you can get a copy from our office.
Sean: OK, great. I was reading an article in the Chicago Tribune that was talking about a seminar or some kind of court in Turkey; hearings on some of the Armenian deaths and one of the things that really kinda shocked me but also just made me sick was that a lot of Turkish people were there and they were pelting some of the Armenian people or the activists with eggs and rotten tomatoes and stuff. What do you think fuels that kind of behavior? Do you think it’s lack of information? Ignorance? Or what?
Serj: Nationalism (in some ways) can always be turned to fascism in some cases. I think what fuels it is the lack of education on the topic in Turkey. A lot of people have been told growing up that the genocide never existed in Turkey because it’s kinda like new speak; you can revise history if you don’t have international recognition and put down that it never existed or change the story around to reflect the other way and spend millions of dollars on dis-information and scholars around the world trying to rewrite history. So a lot of people don’t even know that it’s occurred, in fact, they’ve been told that it hasn’t occurred; that Turkish people were killed by Armenian rebels and other stuff.
Serj: and so they’re coming from a place of their own knowledge which they think is true and then here’s this conference in Turkey goin on trying to reveal the truth of what’s really happened with archives, independent scholars, associations, etc. and they’re pissed off.
Serj: So, that’s what’s goin on.
Sean: OK. Are there any other organizations you’d want to mention really quick?
Serj: Armenian National Committee of America (www.anca.org). They’ve been really helpful with all of this with us and they have a pretty comprehensive website explaining about some of the actions that people can take send web faxes and what-not to the speakers office and their own congress people to get them… encourage them to vote on this resolution. Hopefully it will come out on the House floor and congressmen will be able to vote on it.
Sean: If the worst does happen and this bill does not go to the floor or even if it does go to the floor, where do you go from there?
Serj: One step at a time man. It’s something… any type of truth that hasn’t come out or any type of injustice that needs to be overturned is something that needs to be looked at because it really defines who we are as being on this planet.
Sean: Definitely, that’s one of the reasons I admire all you guys so much because you’re one of the only bands out there that really sticks up for what you believe in and it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot left, ya know?
Sean: How do you feel about that when you look around; do you ever feel like you’re out there alone?
Sean: That’s good. Do you have any advice with getting re-elected and him kinda doing whatever he wants to do, do you have advice for people who maybe feel like they can’t make a difference?
Serj: This is only part of the truth; what we’re living today. So your whole truth is in your heart and that’s what you gotta go with so you have to
help create that truth, that reality, that future. No matter what’s going on in the present, don’t be disappointed, just create it, otherwise you only have yourself to blame…right?
Sean: Right. Alright man.
Serj: OK dude.
Sean: Good luck and is there anything more you wanted to say before we close out this interview?
Sean: OK man. It really means a lot to me and it was nice talking to you
Serj: Likewise. Thanks brother.
Be sure to visit System of a Down’s website at: www.systemofadown.com