Posted by andreas from dtm2-t9-1.mcbone.net (126.96.36.199) on Thursday, December 19, 2002 at 3:16AM :
In Reply to: Interesting - After protest, Armenia is off l posted by Jeff from d53-106-196.try.wideopenwest.com (188.8.131.52) on Thursday, December 19, 2002 at 2:23AM :
Tomorrow it can be you ...
California Courier Online, December 19, 2002
1 - Commentary
After Extensive Contacts and Protests,
Washington Rescinds Anti-Armenian Order
By Harut Sassounian
Armenians worldwide were shocked and incensed by the Justice Department's
decision requiring that citizens of Armenia visiting the United States be
fingerprinted and photographed by the Immigration and Naturalization
Attorney General John Ashcroft, in a notice signed on December 12, 2002,
ordered that all Armenian, Pakistani and Saudi males over the age of 15,
who entered the U.S. as non-immigrant aliens before September 30, 2002 and
who will remain in the U.S. after February 21, 2003, register with and
provide requested information to the INS between
January 13 and February 21, 2003.
The notice placed Armenian visitors not only in the same category as those
from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, it also included them in a larger list
issued earlier of suspect countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain,
Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar,
Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Since the Sept. 11, 2002 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has taken,
understandably so, extraordinary measures to ensure the security of its
citizens. A massive new federal agency with practically unlimited powers
was created, under the name of Homeland Security to prevent future attacks.
Armenians resented, however, being lumped together with a group of
countries deemed hostile or unfriendly to the U.S. Even more upsetting to
Armenians was the conspicuous absence of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia
from this blacklist, despite the fact that all three countries have had
extensive links to international terrorism. Just a few days
ago, 5 Turkish terrorists were arrested in London. Osama Bin Laden has
visited Turkey more than once. Several Turkish and Azeri terrorists were
arrested by the United States in Afghanistan during the past year. As far
as Georgia is concerned, the U.S. government has sent a contingent of its
own troops to help the Georgian military capture Al Qaeda members who
routinely use that country as a transit point for terrorist attacks.
Armenia, on the other hand, not only does not harbor any terrorist cells,
it has been the target of Afghan Mujahedeen who were hired by Azerbaijan to
fight against Nagorno Karabagh. Furthermore, Armenia has fully cooperated
with all U.S. efforts to fight international terrorism.
Armenians were naturally concerned that being included in such a nefarious
list would cause irrevocable harm to their reputation. The governments of
Azerbaijan and Turkey, which never miss an opportunity to denigrate the
Armenians, would have surely exploited the Justice Department's directive
in their anti-Armenian propaganda, even though Mr. Ashcroft did not give
any reason for Armenia's inclusion in this list. The notice simply stated
that the decision was based on "recent events" and "intelligence
information available to the Attorney General." While the official notice
bears Mr. Ashcroft's signature, since the INS falls under his jurisdiction,
knowledgeable sources have
told us that the Dept. of Homeland Security was the real instigator of this
It is regrettable, but not surprising that the Dept. of Homeland Security
is unfairly tarnishing Armenia's image. This super-agency is apparently not
accountable to anyone, except the President of the United States. It does
not seem to be too concerned with the constitutionally protected rights of
even American citizens, let alone with those of foreigners.
The Dept. of Homeland Security does not seem to be too interested in
diplomatic niceties. It did not bother to provide advance notice to the
Armenian government so that Armenian officials could properly deal with any
legitimate concerns the U.S. side may have had. The skilled diplomats at
the State Department would have handled this situation far more delicately
and professionally, if they were not kept in the dark! Not even the U.S.
Embassy in Yerevan, the entity that actually issues visas for visitors from
Armenia, was alerted about this decision.
In a matter of two days, Armenian Americans sent over 10,000 protest
letters to the White House asking that this offensive order be rescinded.
Advocacy groups contacted Members of Congress to have Armenia removed from
this list. Influential individuals made direct appeals to high-ranking U.S.
officials, while the Armenian government expressed to the State Department
its utter displeasure with the directive.
Finally, on December 16, the Bush administration realized the serious error
in judgment made by the Dept. of Homeland Security in dealing with this
matter and decided to rescind the regrettable directive. Armenian-Americans
can be proud that the combined efforts of everyone involved resulted in
this positive outcome.
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