07/20/10 - Remarks submitted for the Congressional Record - Madam Speaker, tonight I join my colleagues on the House floor to remember the 36th anniversary of Turkey?s illegal occupation of Cyprus.
On July 20th 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus in violation of international law and at great cost to the citizens of Cyprus. Turkish troops established a heavily-armed force which occupied the northern part of Cyprus and continues to occupy close to 37 percent of Cyprus? territory. The invasion forced nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriots to flee their homes?making one-third of the Cypriot population refugees in their own country.
Today, Turkey continues to illegally occupy northern Cyprus with a force of 43,000 troops. This unbelievable number of troops amounts to almost one Turkish soldier for every two Turkish Cypriots. This military occupation flies in defiance of international pressure to achieve a peaceful settlement.
Beyond the military occupation of northern Cyprus it is important to consider the mass colonization which has resulted in 160,000 Turkish mainland settlers illegally living on property owned by Greek Cypriots or even U.S. citizens. Once again this illegal colonization comes despite international pressure on Turkey to take action to stop the illegal occupation and ensure the return of properties to their rightful owners.
In fact, since 1974 more than 75 resolutions have been adopted by the U.N. Security Council and more than 13 by the U.N. General Assembly calling for a withdrawal of Turkish troops and the return of refugees to their rightful homes. However, the Turkish government continues to remain defiant, plainly ignoring these calls to withdraw.
In recent months we have continued to see Turkey pursue policies that not only hurt its relations with nations that should serve as true democratic allies, but also policies that hurt regional relations and stability. I have been an outspoken opponent of Turkey?s irresponsible regional relations, which in many ways negatively affect the U.S. Whether it is the illegal blockade on its border with Armenia, the failure to take proper recourse to investigate a domestic group that incited a deadly incident with Israeli troops, their continued violations of Greek airspace or their illegal occupation of northern Cyprus, Turkey disrespects international law and regional partners of the United States.
There comes a time when the United States must say enough is enough and take principled steps to prevent further destabilizing actions. As a member of the Hellenic Caucus, I have long advocated for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from northern Cyprus and called on Turkey to support a settlement that comes from the Cypriots themselves.
The United States must do its part to foster a united Cyprus. It is in the best interest of the United States, and I believe all involved parties to ensure that the goal is a reunified Cyprus where Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots live together in peace and security. A successful settlement effort must build on the work towards a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality that represents U.N. Security Council resolutions. In the end, Cyprus must have a single sovereignty and single citizenship which all Cypriots can enjoy.
Now is the time for Turkey to show that they are willing to take a sincere approach to allowing a peaceful resolution to the dispute. The leadership in Ankara must show that the will and support behind a peaceful settlement is in the best interest of Turkey and that it is fully supported. Without such a signal by the government of Turkey, a final settlement will continue to dwindle as Turkish settlers pursue the policies of their home nation.
t is now thirty-six years since the illegal Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of Cyprus. However, the resolve has never been greater to ensure that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike benefit from a united nation that affords them the stability and security that all citizens deserve. The Government of the Republic of Cyprus has shown their willingness to work constructively with the Cypriots towards a reunified island. It is time for Turkey to do the same.
Last Congress, I introduced the bipartisan American Owned Property in Occupied Cyprus Claims Act. Through this legislation, Americans who are being denied access to their property and even their ancestral homes will finally be able to seek restitution. I am currently working with different stakeholders to strengthen this bill before reintroduction.
Madam Speaker, as we remember the 36th Anniversary of Turkey?s illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus, I remain hopeful a united Cyprus can become a reality. However, the United States can not be complacent in this goal.
03/10 - VOA interview with Pallone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYvFDlFcxMo.
02/26/10 - Remarks submitted for the Congressional Record - Madam Speaker, this Sunday will mark the anniversary of the tragic massacres that took place against Azerbaijani citizens of Armenian heritage in February of 1988, in the town of Sumgait, Azerbaijan. This 3-day rampage, carried out by Azerbaijani nationals, left dozens of Armenians dead, a majority of whom were set on fire alive after being beaten and tortured. Hundreds of innocent people received injuries of different severity and became physically impaired. Women, among them minors, were abused. More than 200 apartments were robbed, dozens of cars were destroyed and burned, dozens of art and crafts studios, shops and kiosks were demolished, and thousands of people became refugees.
Madam Speaker, these crimes were never adequately prosecuted by the Government of Azerbaijan, and most of its organizers and executors were simply set free, many of whom are presently members of the Azeri Parliament. Despite the attempt by the Government of Azerbaijan to cover up these crimes, enough brave witnesses came forward to give an accurate account of the offenses.
The Sumgait massacres are just another in a long line of Azerbaijan's aggressions against the Armenian people. The events in Sumgait were preceded by a wave of anti-Armenian rallies that shook the city in February 1988. Almost the entire territory of the city, with a population of 250,000, became an arena for mass violence against its Armenian population.
The attacks also marked the beginning of a larger campaign of ethnic cleansing targeting the Armenian people, culminating in the war launched against the people of Nagorno Karabakh. The war claimed nearly 30,000 lives and left over one million refugees in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The continued hostilities in Azerbaijan and the military aggression against the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh in 1992 through 1994 led to the disappearance of a 450,000-strong Armenian community in Azerbaijan within a span of just a few years. As this April marks the 95th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we also pause to remember the crimes committed in Sumgait and the pogroms conducted against the Armenian people in Azerbaijan.
Madam Speaker, this anniversary reminds us yet again of the historical injustice the Armenian people have faced, unfortunately, throughout their history. As we join with the Armenian people and all people of goodwill in remembering these atrocities, I strongly urge Azerbaijan and Turkey to cease their blockade and aggressive posture against the Armenian people and work to achieve a lasting peace. It is time for the United States to do all that it can and to use its geopolitical influence to send a message that ethnically charged genocides, illegal blockades of sovereign nations and the constant harassment of the Armenian people will not be tolerated.
12/10/09 - Met with Chairman of Armenian National Assembly Foreign Relations Committee, Armen Rustamyan.
04/23/09 - Remarks submitted for the Congressional Record - Madam Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the 94th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide . It is morally imperative that we remember this atrocity and collectively demand reaffirmation of this crime against humanity.
For thousands of years, the Armenian people have been known for their perseverance in the face of great challenges. Today we honor the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide . We pay our respects to the Armenian people for their strength to overcome adversity.
It is a somber day as we reflect on the victims of the Armenian Genocide , the continued denial by the Turkish government, and our own government's inaction in using the word genocide to describe these events.
There is an absurdity about Turkey's inability to recognize its own past and something deeply disturbing about our government's complacency in this misrepresentation of history.
The Armenian Genocide is the first genocide of the twentieth century. Between 1915 and 1923, 1.5 million Armenians were systematically and deliberately killed by the Ottoman Turks.
Our own National Archives and writings from the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, display how the Ottoman government specifically decided to target the Armenians, move them towards what is the modern day Syrian Desert, and butcher men, women, and children.
It is a disturbing history, but one that needs to be retold, remembered, and reaffirmed to ensure its legacy and rightfully honor its victims and survivors.
We have stood by for too long as the Turkish government manipulates the issue of the Armenian Genocide . We have watched them pay millions of dollars to Turkish lobbyists to mislead and even threaten members of Congress. We have watched the Turkish government bring scholars and writers to court for insulting Turkishness just for writing the words Armenian Genocide . And two years ago we watched in profound disbelief when Hrant Dink was assassinated in Istanbul.
It is enough.
Armenian Genocide Recognition is not only important for Armenians, it is important for us as Americans. If we are going to live up to the standards we set for ourselves and continue to lead the world in affirming human rights everywhere, we need to stand up and recognize the Armenian Genocide .
To not do so sends a message that we are complicit in Turkey's denial. By not affirming the Armenian Genocide , we fail as Americans to take a stand against all genocides and we fail to end genocide denial.
We can reverse this path and officially speak the truth. We as Americans and as an entire international community must recognize the Armenian Genocide so that we can renew our commitment to prevent such atrocities from occurring again.
I am hopeful that the U.S. Government can stand behind our statements and our promises.
03/26/09 - Remarks submitted for the Congressional Record - Madam Speaker, recently, the New York Times reported on a recently published book The Remaining Documents of Talat Pasha by Turkish author Murat Bardakci. The book details Pasha?s methodical reordering of the disappearance of nearly 1 million Armenians in a 2-year period. Pasha served as interior minister to the Ottoman Empire and helped orchestrate the Armenian Genocide. Like the Nazis, Pasha kept detailed population figures of the Ottoman Empire?s Christian ethnic minority, the Armenians.
Before 1915, 1.2 million Armenians lived in what today is modern Turkey. By 1917, the number was down to 284,000 Armenians. Bardakci received these original lists of population figures from Pasha?s wife, Hayriye Talat, in 1983. However, he waited to include them in his book until he felt Turkey was ready to receive them.
As the New York Times reported in November of 1920, Talat Pasha used to say, ?the only way to dispose of the Armenia question is to kill the Armenians. As Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau made many courageous efforts to stop the ethnic cleansing of the Armenians, as well as alert Americans to the genocide that was taking place. Morgenthau, who dealt with Talat in Istanbul, believed strongly that Pasha was fully responsible for the killings of the Armenians.
These figures in Bardakci?s book provide further evidence that those who masterminded the genocide against the Armenians were obsessed with exterminating all the Armenian people. Talat Pasha?s meticulous figures bring to mind the Nazis who kept records of 17 million victims, including the Jews who were exterminated during the holocaust. In aggregate, the Nazis kept 50 million pages of documents now available for the families of those who lost loved ones, scholars, and the public.
Unfortunately, Bardakci does not believe that the Armenian Genocide took place. Like his government, he is an outspoken denier. However, he believes that Turkish people should be exposed to historical documents. Bardakci is correct that Turkey needs documents. This week?s Times article astutely notes the chilling silence that swept over Turkey in response to these figures. Turkey needs to come to terms with its past.
It is with sadness that it may take the figures of the man who orchestrated the genocide to convince the Turkish government and the Turkish people that 90 years ago the Ottoman Empire committed genocide against the Armenians. I am hopeful that Turkey will soon unclench its hold on its people?s memory and openly discuss the Armenian genocide; instead of using words like ?alleged? or funding a multi-million dollar lobby in the United States to distort fact.
It has taken a while, but Americans look back constantly on our own history. We question why we enslaved millions of Africans. We question why we slaughtered millions of Native Americans. We discuss it in our schools. We reflect on our history. Doing this helps our nation deal with its past and enables us to learn and heal.
Not only does Turkey deny the Armenian Genocide, it asks Americans to deny it as well. It asks the United States Congress not to honor the victims of the genocide. The Armenian Diaspora exists today because of the genocide. Why should Armenian American voices be silenced? Why are the voices of those who want to end the vicious cycle of genocide being hushed? Why do we allow ourselves year after year to be threatened by Turkey?
These are our constituents who lost loved ones in the Genocide. We must honor their memory and not be bullied by Turkey.
02/13/09 - Remarks delivered on the House floor - On Saturday, February 7, The Washington Post reported that a Turkish Islamic-oriented human rights group, the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples, known as Mazlum-Der, initiated a probe to investigate if war crimes and genocide were committed by Israel during the recent Gaza conflict.
I was startled to read that Mazlum-Der plans to investigate 19 Israelis, including Prime Minister Olmert, President Peres, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, for orchestrating genocide. For a Nation that for 94 years has practiced widespread genocide denial of the killing of 1.5 million Armenians, hypocrisy runs deep today in Ankara.
Last week, I expressed my concerns regarding Turkey's recent rash of anti-Semitism, but this probe is going too far. Israel did not commit genocide, but this has not stopped Ankara's chief prosecutor from launching this war crimes probe.
The probe out of Turkey will investigate Israel's actions in the Gaza conflict to see if they amount to 'genocide, torture and crimes against humanity.' If the prosecutor finds evidence against the Israeli leaders, under Turkish law, they can be detained if they enter Turkey.
The absurdity of this probe and of the fact that Turkey is issuing that it must be exposed. Israel did not commit genocide. Israel was not attempting to eliminate the Palestinian people. Israel was protecting itself from the hundreds of bombs Hamas has been shooting into its cities.
Mazlum-Der has no ground to stand on, and Turkey has no ground to stand on. Neither this NGO nor the Turkish Government has ever attempted to discuss the truth of the Armenian genocide, nor has Turkey or Mazlum-Der taken action against the present genocide that continues to rage in Darfur.
While Israelis are defending themselves against constant attacks from Hamas, Mazlum-Der insists this is genocide. How can this organization accuse Israel of committing genocide when it has yet to categorize the thousands of killings in Darfur as genocide?
The Turkish people need to step back and question their skewed understanding of genocide. Look in the mirror. Look at your own history. Come to terms with the fact that 1.5 million Armenians died and that, when contemporary genocides, like Darfur, take place, they should be denounced.
Instead of denouncing it, Turkey's relationship with Sudan is strong. Last year, Turkish President Abdullah Gul warmly welcomed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to Ankara. Yet al-Bashir continues to preside over a genocidal regime responsible for the deaths of 300,000 Sudanese people in the Darfur region of the country.
Today, 2.7 million Darfuris have lost their homes since the conflict and now live in internally displaced persons' camps. While all of this happens, President Gul of Turkey has said that the situation in Darfur adds up to a 'humanitarian tragedy' caused by economic difficulties.
Now, this watering down of state-sponsored government killing is an affront to the thousands who have perished in Darfur. Yet a Turkish organization is investigating genocide in Israel? What hypocrisy.
President Gul greeted the Sudanese leader with a military guard of honor only bestowed on Turkey's closest allies. While the international community fiercely works to contain al-Bashir's government, Turkey embraces it. Both governments have a long history of genocide denial.
Mr. Speaker, the Republic of Turkey has had 94 years to recognize the Armenian genocide perpetrated on their soil in 1915. Like the Sudanese Government, the Turkish Government's state-sponsored ethnic cleansing of the Armenians in the early 20th century left 1.5 million Armenians tortured, murdered and displaced. Yet, to this day, the Republic of Turkey continues to deny the slaughter of the Armenians - instead, launching an absurd investigation into Israel.
If Turkey and its NGOs want to take a stand against genocide, they should not be pointing at Israel, nor should Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan be threatening Israel with comments like these:
'Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents.'
Well, if Turkey wants to move closer to the West, it should practice some self-reflection on its own history regarding the Armenian genocide and help to end the genocide in Darfur.
02/04/09 - Remarks delivered on the House floor - Madam Speaker, for many years, Turkey and Israel have shared a strong relationship diplomatically, militarily, and culturally. This affiliation has been showcased as an example that a secular, western leaning Muslim country can be an ally to Israel.
While many in the West have placed Turkey on a do-no wrong pedestal despite years of discriminating against the country's ethnic Christians, this past January revealed growing anti-Semitism in Turkey from top officials to protesters in the streets.
Israel's Gaza offensive was launched in response to the hundreds of rockets that the terrorist organization Hamas fired at Israel's cities over the past year. Instead of defending Israel's actions of self defense, Turkey chose not to stand by their ally.
What came next was a wave of anti-Semitism that swept across Turkey. Propaganda posters were plastered and graffiti sprayed on Istanbul's walls calling for death to Israel. Even Jewish owned shops in Turkey have been targeted. These actions against the Jewish people cannot be minimized, and the West cannot stand for it.
On January 4th, thousands of protesters gathered in Istanbul's streets chanting, 'Death to Israel, we are all Palestinians.' One day later, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in regards to Israel's actions in Gaza, 'Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents.'
The events that transpired during last week's Davos World Economic Forum further distanced Turkey from Israel. While Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke frankly about his nation's 'aim for peace, not war,' Prime Minister Erdogan refuted President Peres' comments and chided the audience for applauding his remarks. After being cut short by the moderator, the Prime Minister walked off the stage.
As protesters hurl eggs outside the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, Prime Minister Erdogan is on record questioning if it is appropriate for Israel to have a U.N. seat. Erdogan has also steered his diplomatic team to meet with Iran, Syria, and Sudan to discuss ending the conflict in Gaza, while Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia were gathering in Kuwait. Instead of discussing the issue with other moderate Muslim nations, Turkish leaders chose to meet with hardliner Iran and the Genocide wielding Sudanese government.
I am deeply concerned by this shift away from the West and the out right anti-Semitism that is rippling through Turkey's streets. For a nation that prides itself on its friendship with the Jews, these actions are a step backwards and have the potential to harm ties between the two nations, and harm Turkey's relationship with the West.
All of these moves from Ankara may just be pandering to the nationalistic, anti-Israel, anti-minority voters of Turkey, but regardless of Prime Minister Erdogan intentions, the results are dangerous and engender hate. What's more is that they move Turkey away from it's secular, moderate stance as a bridge between the West and other Muslim nations.
For years I have asked that Turkey end its constant discrimination against Christian minorities, specifically Armenians and Greeks. Now with anti-Semitism spreading through the country, I call on Turkey's leadership to take concrete steps towards ending this destructive intolerance against minorities. Only these efforts will help to reestablish normal ties with Israel.
01/22/09 - Remarks delivered on the House floor - Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the memory of Hrant Dink, a beloved journalist, activist, and a man of conscience. Two years ago, on January 19, 2007, Mr. Dink was assassinated in front of his office building in Istanbul.
As a Turkish Armenian, he worked tirelessly to unite the Armenians and the Turks. Serving as the editor-in-chief of Agos, Turkey's only bilingual Armenian and Turkish newspaper, Hrant Dink was a leader. When it came to the Armenian Genocide, he rejected the Turkish government's subversion of history. Instead of accepting state denial of the Armenian Genocide, he advocated for truth and battled Turkey's strangling grip on freedom of speech.
For these convictions, Hrant Dink was tried for insulting Turkishness under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. For these convictions, Hrant Dink was brutally assassinated.
Two years later, Turkey's citizens who speak honestly about the Armenian Genocide still face potential prosecution and imprisonment for publically denigrating the Turkish Nation or Turkish Republic. This ultra-nationalism hijacks history at the expense of freedom of speech, stifling discussions by the Turkish people.
Two years later, the investigation into Hrant Dink's murder is in disarray, corruption in the judicial and police system runs deep, and Turkey's moral authority is weakened. The many involved in Hrant Dink's killing, from members of the gendarmerie to extremist nationalists, have been charged or imprisoned for their actions, but it has become apparent that Istanbul and Trabzon's security departments had information that Hrant Dink would be killed, but failed in their duty to protect him. Turkey should act swiftly to bring justice to the memory of Hrant Dink.
This hate and denial produces an environment of fear. This environment produces extreme nationalist organizations that manipulate young men to kill in the name of the Turkish Republic. The law enforcement community was tainted by officers who portrayed Hrant Dink's assassin as a proud Turkish citizen, placing a Turkish flag in his hand and flashing photographs to celebrate a murder.
Now, more than ever, Turkey must shun this behavior and embrace the lessons that Hrant Dink taught-the need for reconciliation between the different realities in Turkey.
There are those on the extreme fringe who stone Armenian Churches and in the midst of soccer matches chant in jubilation the name of Hrant Dink's killer. These individuals may be extreme, but the Turkish government fosters their existence through laws like Article 301.
But there also exists the people in Turkey who see past government intimidation and chant 'We are all Armenian, we are all Hrants,' as they gather in thousands upon thousands to celebrate his life.
On the wake of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on Genocide, thousands of Turkish intellectuals signed on to a letter apologizing to the Armenian people for the genocide. This promising show of empathy amongst the Turkish people is welcome.
The apology states, 'My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenian were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers and sisters. I apologize to them.'
Unfortunately, the Turkish state remains set on its same path to impede reconciliation. A probe launched by a Turkish state prosecutor will investigate the apology campaign to decide if it violated Article 301. As the judicial system continues to assault freedom of speech, elected officials also hamper progress. Recently, Parliamentarian Canan Aritman employed racism against Armenians. Angered by President Abdullah Gul's response to the campaign, she suggested that 'Abdullah Gul should be the president of the whole Turkish nation, not of his ethnic origin.' She then encouraged fellow parliamentarians to 'investigate the ethnic origin of the president's mother.'
On behalf of Hrant Dink's memory, I call on Turkey to come to terms with its own history and shed the shackles of suppression. In honor of Hrant Dink these actions would be an apt call to conscience.