House Foreign Affairs Committee Recognizes Armenian Genocide

In a razor thin  vote of 23-22, the US House House Foreign Affairs Committee formally recognized the genocide of ethnic Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago. Turkey recalled it’s ambassador for consultation. The measure may be brought before the full House floor in a matter of weeks.

This issue has been highly contentious for decades, with swift condemnations from the Turkish government every time is has been brought up in the past. The Foreign Affairs Committee approved another genocide measure in 2007 with the new Democratic Congress, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador as well. Worried that diplomatic reprisals such as denying US access to Turkish air bases used in Iraqi operations could follow, President Bush put immense pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who capitulated and refused to bring the measure for a full vote on the House floor.

Despite pledging to recognize the Armenian deaths as a genocide during the campaign, President Obama has discouraged the resolution as well, claiming that it has the potential to hurt relations not only between the US and Turkey, but between Turkey and Armenia itself. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also against the measure, instead supporting a Swiss effort to resolve the historical dispute.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) agreed, “I do not minimize the horror that took place, [but] now is not the time for this committee of the American Congress to take up the measure that is now before us.”

Edward Nalbandian , Armenia’s foreign minister, disagreed. “This is another proof of the devotion of the American people to universal human values and is an important step toward the prevention of the crimes against humanity.”

The Armenian National Committee of America added “Turkey doesn’t get a vote or a veto in the U.S. Congress.”

Wikipedia states: [the Armenian Genocide] was the deliberate and systematic destruction (genocide) of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I. It was characterized by the use of massacres, and the use of deportations involving forced marches under conditions designed to lead to the death of the deportees, with the total number of Armenian deaths generally held to have been between one and one-and-a-half million. Other ethnic groups were similarly attacked by the Empire during this period, including Assyrians and Greeks, and some scholars consider those events to be part of the same policy of extermination.

An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915-1923.

Many historians contend that the lack of world outrage at the actions of the Ottoman Turks in and after WWI towards ethnic minorities, particularly the Armenians paved the way for the Jewish Holocaust in WWII.

“Who remembers the Armenian genocide today?”
-Adolf Hitler

The Armenians remember. Every April 24, Armenians worldwide observe a day for those killed.

The House vote took place in front of several Armenian Genocide Survivors, including Charlotte Kechejian (98 years old), Yeretzgeen Sirarpi Khoyan (105), and Onorik Eminian (97), as well as leaders in the Armenian international community.


The full text of the resolution of HR252 as read by House Foreign Affairs committee chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) is:

Turkey is a vital and, in most respects, a loyal ally of the United States in a volatile region. We have also been a loyal ally to Turkey, and should continue to be so. Be that as it may, nothing justifies Turkey’s turning a blind eye to the reality of the Armenian Genocide. It is regrettable, for example, that Turkey’s Nobel-Prize-winning novelist, Orhan Pamuk, was essentially hounded out of his native country for speaking out on this subject. Now I don’t pretend to be a professional historian. I haven’t scoured the archives in Istanbul looking for original documents.

But the vast majority of experts – the vast majority – academics, authorities in international law, and others who have looked at this issue for years, agree that the tragic massacres of the Armenians constitute genocide.

In a letter to members of congress two years ago, the International Association of Genocide Scholars stated the following, and I quote:

“The historical record on the Armenian Genocide is unambiguous and documented by overwhelming evidence. It is proven by foreign office records of the United States, France, Great Britain, Russia, and perhaps most importantly, of Turkey’s World War I allies, Germany and Austria-Hungary, as well as by the records of the Ottoman Courts-Martial of 1918-1920, and by decades of scholarship.”

“As crimes of genocide continue to plague the world, Turkey’s policy of denying the Armenian Genocide gives license to those who perpetrate genocide everywhere.”

The Genocide Scholars urged the House to pass a resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide because, they said, it would constitute – and I quote again — “recognition of a historical turning point in the twentieth century, the event that inaugurated the era of modern genocide. In spite of its importance, the Armenian Genocide has gone unrecognized until recently, and warrants a symbolic act of moral commemoration.”

Professor Yehuda Bauer, a highly respected scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has written that the Armenian Genocide is, in his words, “the closest parallel to the Holocaust.”

In a 1985 report, a subcommission of the UN Commission on Human Rights found that the massacres of the Armenians qualified as genocide.

And Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer who coined the word “genocide” and drafted the international genocide convention, told an interviewer that, quote “I became interested in genocide because it happened to the Armenians.”

Nearly two dozen other countries – including France, Canada, Russia, Switzerland and Chile – have formally recognized the Armenian Genocide. So has the European Parliament.

As the world leader in promoting human rights, the United States has a moral responsibility to join them.

The Turks say passing this resolution could have terrible consequences for our bilateral relationship, and indeed perhaps there will be some consequences. But I believe that Turkey values its relations with the United States at least as much as we value our relations with Turkey.

And I believe the Turks, however deep their dismay today, fundamentally agree that the U.S.-Turkish alliance is simply too important to get sidetracked by a non-binding resolution passed by the House of Representatives.

At some point, every nation must come to terms with its own history. And that is all we ask of Turkey.

Germany has accepted responsibility for the Holocaust. South Africa set up a Truth Commission to look at Apartheid. And here at home, we continue to grapple with the legacies of slavery and our horrendous treatment of Native Americans.

It is now time for Turkey to accept the reality of the Armenian Genocide.

This will most likely be a difficult and painful process for the Turkish people, but at the end of the day, it will strengthen Turkish democracy and put the U.S.-Turkey relationship on a better footing.

I urge my colleagues to support this important resolution.

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