WASHINGTON, DC – Over forty Senators and Representatives joined Armenians around the world this week in commemorating the 90th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, during “Special Order” remarks on the House floor and statements in the Senate made in the weeks surrounding April 24th, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Congressional Armenian Caucus co-chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) organized the April 26th House commemoration, providing Representatives with an opportunity to offer 5-minute statements in remembrance of the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Turkish Government from 1915-1923. Senators and House Members also submitted additional statements in the days surrounding April 24th.
“We want to extend our appreciation to Congressman Pallone for his leadership once again this year in hosting the Armenian Genocide Special Order on the House side,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We thank, as well, the many Representatives and Senators who offered remarks and attended commemorations – here in Washington and around the nation.”
During their statements, many Senators and Representatives spoke forcefully about the importance of ending U.S. complicity in Turkey’s continued campaign of Genocide denial, pledging their support for legislation that will come before Congress on this subject. Several called for immediate U.S. and international action to end the genocide currently taking place in Darfur, noting that Turkey’s ability to commit genocide with impunity has set a dangerous precedent for worldwide genocide prevention efforts.
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman noted, “As we speak, the Sudanese Government is taking a page out of the Turkish Government’s denial playbook and continuing the vicious cycle of genocide denial in what is happening in Darfur. If we are ever to live in a world where crimes do not go unpunished and fundamental human rights are respected and preserved, we must come to recognize the Armenian Genocide, thus allowing for proper reparations and restitutions to be made.”
Excerpts from the Senate and House floor speeches follow.
U.S. Senators (in Alphabetical Order)
Sen. Lincoln Chafee (D-RI): Mr. President, yesterday marked the 90th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. A date of great significance for many Rhode Islanders, and growing in significance for all Americans, this day not only commemorates the atrocities of the past, but also reminds us that it must not happen again. Remembering the victims is our duty to the past and to the future.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI): As we move forward, we must learn the lessons of Armenia’s genocide. We cannot be misled by the rhetorical veils of murderous leaders, thrown up to disguise the agenda at hand. We cannot respond to evidence of methodical, brutal violence by wringing our hands and waiting for some definitive proof that these events qualify as genocide. Enforcing a collective, international commitment to prevent and stop genocides from occurring is imperative. We owe the victims of the Armenian genocide this commitment.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): I am proud that the Armenian American community in my home State of California – over 500,000 strong – has taken such a leadership role in ensuring that the U.S. lives up to its values by acknowledging the crimes of the past and taking action against the crimes of the present and future. Their determination and perseverance is a testament to the human spirit and the ability to overcome injustice and build a better tomorrow.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI): Affirming the truth about the Armenian genocide has become an issue of international significance. The recurrence of genocide in the twentieth century has made the recognition of the criminal mistreatment of the Armenians by Turkey all the more a compelling obligation for the international community. It is a testament to the perseverance and determination of the Armenian people that they were able to overcome one of the most egregious acts in history. I support this important annual commemoration of a horrible chapter of history so that it is never repeated again. Congress should continue to show support for Armenia and their struggle to set the historical record straight on this tragedy.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI): I urge my colleagues to honor the memory of the 1.5 million Armenian genocide victims by recognizing that there are still those in the world who will stop at nothing to perpetuate campaigns of hate, intolerance, and unthinkable violence. We must do all we can to stop atrocities, like those in the Darfur region of Sudan, from occurring as well as continue to provide adequate recovery aid to survivors. In doing so, we will truly honor the memory of genocide victims and fulfill our responsibilities as a world leader.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI): Today, dozens of Armenian soldiers are deployed to Iraq, carrying out humanitarian operations in Karbala and al-Hilla, working as truck drivers, bomb detonators, and doctors. Armenian soldiers are also serving in Kosovo, performing peace support operations. I believe their response of helping others in need is part of the healing process. These Armenians did not allow others to be left as helpless as they were generations ago. As a Nation, we must respond to acts of oppression to ensure that victims of hatred and prejudice did not perish in vain. We must stand as witnesses to protect people from persecution for the simple reason they are different. Thus, we must be committed to properly remembering the Armenian Genocide.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV): But we must never forget the painful lessons learned from the Armenian Genocide. This week, events around my State and the Nation will recognize this important anniversary. I am grateful for the strong and active work of the Armenian-American community in Las Vegas, who will hold their annual commemoration on April 24. To the Armenian American Cultural Society of Las Vegas and to the work of Mr. John Dadaian, I say thank you for all that you have done for the people of Nevada, and Armenia.
Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD): We have a national interest in seeking that our foreign policy is grounded in the same principles on which this Nation was founded, a respect for the truth, the rule of law, and democratic institutions. Clearly, this was in part the administration’s motivation for its recognition last fall of the genocide in Darfur. In his testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee on September 9, Secretary Powell declared that “the evidence corroborates the specific intent of the perpetrators to destroy ‘a group in whole or in part.'” This begs the question: if Darfur, why not Armenia? Did the Ottomans not seek to destroy the Armenians to this same extent?
U.S. Representatives (in alphabetical order)
Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ): Only by explicitly defining genocide and ensuring that all cases of genocide throughout history are appropriately identified can we effectively deter this crime. Particularly at this time of heightened vigilance around the world, it is absolutely imperative that America take a strong stance against the most troubling of all terrorist acts, mass killings.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA): Mr. Speaker, woven deeply into the fabric of our culture, Americans stand for freedom and basic human rights for all. Let us further demonstrate our deep conviction for the ideals we hold dear in our resolute opposition to crimes against humanity and officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA): Sadly, we cannot say humanity has progressed to the point where genocide has become unthinkable. We have only to recall the “killing fields” of Cambodia, mass killings in Rwanda, “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia and Kosovo, and most recently, the unspeakable horrors in Darfur, Sudan to see that the threat of genocide persists. We must renew our commitment never to remain indifferent in the face of such assaults on innocent human beings.
Rep. Jeb Bradley (R-NH): While the U.S. record on the Armenian genocide is the most expansive in the detail of its coverage of the events of 1915 to 1918, the official records of many other countries, Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Russia corroborate the evidence gathered by U.S. diplomats. Therefore, it is important for our government to reaffirm its own record on the Armenian genocide and to assure that the relevant historical records are preserved. By keeping memories alive through history, we will prevent other instances of inhumanity from occurring.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA): Mr. Speaker, April 24th marks the anniversary of one of the most horrible tragedies of the 20th century, the genocide that was committed against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire. Over one million people were forced into exile and lost their lives during this horrible tragedy that befell the Armenian people in 1915.
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI): Now more than ever as the world is gripped by unrest and terrorism, the memory of the Genocide underscores our responsibility to help convey our cherished tradition of respect for fundamental human rights and opposition to mass slaughter. We owe it to the victims of the Genocide to acknowledge what happened and to teach our students and children about their suffering, so that we can fulfill our obligation to ensure that genocide will never happen again. Our future generation should be able to say, “I learned, I acknowledge, and I will work to prevent it from happening again.”
Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA): As a Nation that values the freedom of speech and assembly, we must admit that this event occurred, and force Turkey to do likewise. Additionally, we must ask the EU to refuse Turkey’s application to join the EU until Turkey accepts their role in the genocide against the Armenian people.
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL): The history of the Armenian Genocide must never be forgotten. As Members of Congress and people of conscience, we must work to overcome the indifference and distortions of history, and ensure that future generations know what happened.
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY): In 2003, I had the opportunity to visit Armenia and to plant a tree at the Genocide memorial. The independent country of Armenia is a living testament to honor the memories of the survivors. I believe that by failing to recognize these barbaric acts, one becomes complicit in them. Let us never forget the 1.5 million Armenians who perished in 1915 and 1916.
Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY): On this important anniversary, it is a lasting lesson to people everywhere that genocide must not only be opposed by all nations, but that it must be universally recognized as a crime against humanity–no matter where it occurs or against whom it is carried out.
Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL): I also urge the government of Turkey to: decriminalize speech within Turkey, destroy all monuments, museums and public references to the specious notion that the Armenian minority committed genocide against the majority Turks, end denial within Turkey, specifically within textbooks and reference books, officially condemn any attacks against all Turks that acknowledge the facts of history, and end the global campaign of threats against any nation that is in the process of affirming the Armenian Genocide.
Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ): The United States must never allow crimes against humanity to pass without remembrance and condemnation. As U.S. efforts to aid victims of genocide continue, it is imperative that we pay tribute to the memory of others who have suffered and to never forget the past.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY): Many attempts have also been made by the U.S. Congress to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. These attempts, however, have been scuttled by successive administrations for fear of disrupting our strategic relationship with Turkey. While I certainly value Turkey’s friendship, as a world leader, the U.S. must officially acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Not doing so sets an extremely poor example for the rest of the world and denies the victims of this horrific tragedy the proper reverence they deserve.
Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA): It is vital that we remember this dark period in history. Losing the memory of this tragic event would only perpetuate the injustice. For too long, the Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the 20th Century, has been denied the recognition that it properly deserves. As human beings, we all have a responsibility to keep events such as the Armenian Genocide at the forefront of our collective historical memory. We cannot begin to overcome the challenges of the future until we acknowledge our past mistakes.
Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL): This anniversary serves as a reminder of the horrible campaigns of genocide that occurred in the past, from the Holocaust, to Rwanda, to today’s atrocities in Darfur, Sudan. We must uphold our duties as global defenders of human rights and give the Armenian community, as the victims of the 20th Century’s first genocide, the recognition they deserve.
Rep. James Langevin (D-RI): As Americans, we must guarantee that our foreign policy reflects our values of justice, equality and responsibility. These values should apply in all of our international interactions, including those with Turkey, a NATO ally. Turkey wishes to increase its global profile through accession to organizations such as the European Union. However, if Turkey wishes to gain the world’s respect, it must earn it. It must demonstrate its commitment to peace and democracy in the region. It must reopen its borders, end its blockade of Armenia, and encourage Azerbaijan to end its aggressive rhetoric. And most importantly, it must accept responsibility for past injustices through an unconditional recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Only then can Turkey begin to come to terms with its history. Only then can Armenians seek justice from the Turkish government for the losses of so much and so many.
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI): Mr. Speaker, 90 years is far, far too long for a people to wait for an acknowledgment of the crimes committed against them. That is why I am proud to support the resolution that will be introduced in the coming days remembering the victims and honoring the survivors of the Armenian Genocide. This resolution will appropriately recognize these acts for what they were. Only with a common understanding of this dark period can we move forward and work to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY): I want to join my colleagues in renewing our pledge to the Armenian nation to ensure that Armenians around the world can live free of threats to their existence and prosperity. Azerbaijan continues to blockade Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh, denying the Armenian people the food, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance they need to lead secure lives. A key component of this pledge is maintaining high levels of assistance to Armenia. As Ranking Member of the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, I will fight to maintain funding for Armenia, which recently became eligible for special Millennium Challenge Account funds.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA): It is my firm belief that it is only by learning from and commemorating the past can we work toward a future free from racial, ethnic, and religious hate. By acknowledging the Armenian genocide and speaking out against the principles by which it was conducted, we can send a clear message: never again.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY): The parliaments of Canada, France and Switzerland have all passed resolutions affirming that the Armenian people were indeed subjected to genocide. The United States must do the same. I will not stop fighting until long overdue legislation acknowledging the Armenian Genocide finally passes.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA): The writer Milan Kundera once wrote that “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” There are those that would deny the Armenian Genocide, just as there are those that deny the reality of the Nazi Holocaust. In commemorating the Armenian Genocide, as we do this evening, we all collectively engage in that struggle of memory against forgetting. But we do this not only to remember the past, but to animate the future with a commitment to prevent such things from ever happening again, and to strive towards making a better future for the Armenian people, a people who have suffered so much.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA): But I feel more privileged to have worked with the Armenian community in Worcester to educate the community, and especially young people and college students, about not only the Armenian Genocide, but about other contemporary and even current genocides that are taking place around the world. I am especially grateful that I will be able to collaborate with them in the future on events that will focus on the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
Rep. Michael McNulty (D-NY): Mr. Speaker, I join today with many of my colleagues in remembering the victims of the Armenian Genocide. April 24th will be the 90th anniversary of this human tragedy. From 1915 to 1923, the world witnessed the first genocide of the 20th Century. This was clearly one of the world’s greatest tragedies–the deliberate and systematic Ottoman annihilation of 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children.
Rep. Martin Meehan (D-MA): The April 24th remembrance of the Armenian Genocide is also a reminder of the responsibility of all nations to stop these human tragedies from reoccurring. Today, a genocide is taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan. It has resulted in the murders of at least 70,000 innocent civilians, the internal displacement of 1.9 million, and the forced exile of 200,000. The international community must act now before Darfur reaches the scale of the Armenian Genocide.
Rep. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): In my view, all Americans must recognize that the atrocities committed from 1915 to 1923 constitute genocide. We do not use that word lightly. But the word, itself, makes a powerful statement about the horrors suffered by the Armenian people. As Samantha Powers, the leading expert on genocide said in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, “The extermination of Armenians is recognized as genocide by the consensus of scholars of genocide and Holocaust worldwide. The failure to acknowledge this trivializes a human rights crime of enormous magnitude.” Today, the people of Armenia and her diaspora are proudly seeking to rebuild their country.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ): We know even now, history in the last 100 years has witnessed more horrible episodes since the Armenian genocide. As we speak, the Sudanese Government is taking a page out of the Turkish Government’s denial playbook and continuing the vicious cycle of genocide denial in what is happening in Darfur. If we are ever to live in a world where crimes do not go unpunished and fundamental human rights are respected and preserved, we must come to recognize the Armenian genocide, thus allowing for proper reparations and restitutions to be made.
Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ): This anniversary also provides us with an opportunity to pledge that such a slaughter should never take place again. I am sickened and dismayed by the atrocities that we continue to see today in the Sudan, as well as others that we have seen in the 20th century, such as the Holocaust and the ethnic cleansing campaigns in Cambodia, Kosovo and Rwanda. All of these events should be recognized for what they are: Genocide.
Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA): As a proud member of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues and an ardent supporter of Fresno’s Armenian -American community, I wish the people of Armenia success in their efforts to bring about the lasting peace and prosperity that they deserve. I pledge to continue my ongoing efforts to sponsor initiatives that would build on our record towards an inevitable, full and irrevocable U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
Rep. Joe Schwarz (R-MI): Today, I join my colleagues from the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues in calling upon the administration and the government of Turkey to formally recognize the Armenian genocide. Its time has come.
Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL): Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and to place in the record a portion of an opinion article written by Lee Enokian.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ): The record of man’s inhumanity to man is awful enough to produce a feeling of resignation. But we must fight that tendency. We must continue to remind the world of what occurred in 1915 and keep calling on Turkey to own up. We must not restrain ourselves from speaking of the Armenian Genocide. Along with many of my colleagues, I urge President Bush to speak the truth to Ankara, which needs to come to terms with its own past.
Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN): Modern Turkey has made Armenian Genocide denial into an article of faith. Genocide denial is taught in schools, and is supported by the government. Anyone who deviates from the official line is considered a traitor. Indeed, the government of Turkey works feverishly to prevent any government from recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Recognition by the legislative bodies of France, Italy, Switzerland, and Russia has been met with harsh criticism from the Turkish government.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD): We debated for months, as systematic killings occurred in Darfur, about whether the actions there constituted acts of genocide. That is why I rise today to voice my disappointment at the administration’s continued lack of clarity when referring to the genocide that occurred during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Falling well short of a declaration, the President referred to the tragedy in his April 24 statement as a “great calamity.” Indeed, what occurred was a calamity of such dimensions that the Armenian people are still dealing with its consequences today. But genocide is more than calamity.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA): And, as we speak today, government-supported Janjaweed militias continue their systematic destruction of black Sudanese in Darfur. Thousands have been murdered, raped, and starved to death, and over one million have been displaced from their homes. The Armenian Genocide stands as a tragic precedent to the brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing currently ravaging Darfur.
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY): In these early years of the 21st century, Armenians understand the War on Terror. It is a war they have now been fighting for ninety years. A war the world community still refuses to recognize. As we gather today to pay tribute, it is time for the U.S. Congress to finally designate what we all know to be a case of genocide. While tragically it may not be last, it is time to correct the history in the minds of many and finally declare the Armenian genocide the holocaust that it was.