MIAMI, FL – Earlier this month, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Boynton Beach Mayor Steven Grant joined Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other mayors from across the United States in signing a bi-partisan letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling on the U.S. to recognize the free and democratic Republic of Artsakh (formerly Nagorno-Karabakh Republic), and to condemn Azerbaijan military attacks on Artsakh and Armenia.
“As proud representatives of Armenian American communities across our country, we share their deep concerns about the violence being inflicted upon Artsakh, the growing number of civilian casualties, and the involvement of regional actors like Turkey and Iran,” the October 9, 2020 letter states. The mayors raised the “credible reports of Turkey paying Syrian mercenaries to fight in Artsakh as well as American-made F-16s sold to Turkey flying in Armenian airspace,” with the Secretary.
The letter also calls on the Secretary of State to “publicly support H.Res.1165, a bipartisan resolution introduced by Reps. Jackie Speier, Adam Schiff, and the Congressional Armenian Caucus that condemns Azerbaijan’s attack on Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and denounces Turkey’s participation and escalation of this offensive.”
The letter is significant for three reasons. 1) The letter clearly refers to Nagorno-Karabakh by its proper Armenian name, Artsakh, on two occasions, hence the signatories recognize the Armenian state’s existence which Azerbaijan denies. 2) The signatories to the letter condemn Azerbaijan for launching another war in the South Caucasus and denounce Turkey’s role in the latest provocation, an important step as some try to draw a false equivalency between Azerbaijan (the attacker) and Armenia. 3) The mayors also acknowledge the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide, the first time that a Miami mayor has ever done so. Boynton Beach first acknowledged the Armenian Genocide back in 2017.
“It was wonderful to work with Armenian American community leaders in South Florida and across the country over the last few weeks to help bring local governments forward to stand with the people of Artsakh and Armenia as they defend their ancestral homeland from Azerbaijani and Turkish terrorism,” stated FLArmenians.com Editor Taniel Koushakjian. “Thank you Mayor Suarez and Mayor Grant for your local leadership here in South Florida,” Koushakjian said.
A copy of the letter is below.
Community-Backed Bipartisan Resolution Affirms that the United States Rejects Efforts to Associate the U.S. Government with Armenian Genocide Denial
WASHINGTON, DC — Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) are calling on their House colleagues to join them in introducing an Armenian Genocide recognition resolution, bipartisan legislation aimed at establishing, as a matter of U.S. policy, 1) the rejection of Armenian Genocide denial, 2) ongoing official U.S. government recognition and remembrance of this crime, and 3) the importance of Armenian Genocide education in preventing modern-day atrocities.
The resolution’s authors are currently collecting original cosponsors for the legislation and are expected to introduce the bill in April.
“Genocide must not be denied. It must be acknowledged for what it is—a scourge on humanity,” Congressman Bilirakis told FLARMENIANS.com. “Official recognition of the Armenian Genocide would represent a courageous new chapter in American foreign policy. With the bold leadership of the current Administration, it is time for the United States to take a stand against Turkish genocide denial,” stated Bilirakis.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to U.S. Representatives by Congressmen Schiff and Bilirakis, they asked their House colleagues to “join us as a cosponsor of a resolution affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide, which recognizes and memorializes the historical fact of the Ottoman Empire’s genocidal campaign against the Armenian people, as well as the Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, and other religious minorities, from 1915 to 1923.” The letter acknowledges the life-saving U.S. humanitarian efforts during the Armenian Genocide, reminding colleagues that “Congress passed first of its kind legislation to establish the Near East Relief effort which provided millions of dollars in food and aid to survivors, including tens of thousands of orphans.”
Congressmen Bilirakis and Schiff took on Ankara’s anticipated opposition to an honest U.S. remembrance of the Armenian Genocide head-on, writing: “Let us be direct. Genocide recognition is opposed by a single entity: The government of Turkey. For decades, Turkey has deployed threats and an intense campaign of lobbying to intimidate the Congress from recognizing the genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire.” They went on to argue that: “Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide is also a source of continued regional tension, undermining the foundations of a durable peace that would be in the best interests of the United States and our national security. Official recognition of the Armenian Genocide can help open a new chapter in United States foreign policy. It is time for the United States to take a stand for the truth, and against genocide denial.”
As in year’s past, the resolution will be assigned to the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), now Chaired by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), a member of the Armenian Caucus. It is not yet clear if Chairman Engel will bring up the measure for a vote this Congress. The last time an Armenian Genocide recognition resolution passed the HFAC committee was in 2010.
The new Armenian Genocide Resolution notes that the U.S. has, as early as 1951, officially recognized the Armenian Genocide through a filing with the International Court of Justice, followed by House legislation adopted in 1975, and 1984 and President Ronald Reagan’s Proclamation in 1984.
The resolution resolves that it is the policy of the United States to:
- Commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance;
- Reject efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the U.S. Government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide; and
- Encourage education and public understanding of the facts of the Armenian Genocide, including the U.S. role in the humanitarian relief effort, and the relevance of the Armenian Genocide to modern-day crimes against humanity.
Text of the Schiff-Bilirakis “Dear Colleague” regarding the Armenian Genocide Resolution
We ask that you join us as a cosponsor of a resolution affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide, which recognizes and memorializes the historical fact of the Ottoman Empire’s genocidal campaign against the Armenian people, as well as the Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, and other religious minorities, from 1915 to 1923. Millions of men, women, and children were killed, shot, beaten, starved, and raped as they were marched through deserts and over mountains. When the killing finally ended, 1.5 million Armenians had been killed and millions more had been displaced from the land of their birth.
There is no debate among historians that the Ottoman Empire committed atrocities against the Armenians, or that it meets the definition of a “genocide.” Indeed, the facts of the genocide were recorded contemporaneously by American diplomats, including the Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau, who transmitted a flood of cables and reports describing the wholesale slaughter of the Armenians. It was partially the study of the experience of the Armenians which inspired Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew whose family was killed in the Holocaust, to coin the word “genocide” to describe the crime of destroying an entire people and culture.
The campaign to destroy the Armenian people failed, in part thanks to the humanitarian assistance provided by the American people. Hearing reports of the wholesale killing and displacement of Armenians and other minorities in the Ottoman Empire, Americans responded with generosity and support. Congress passed first of its kind legislation to establish the Near East Relief effort which provided millions of dollars in food and aid to survivors, including tens of thousands of orphans.
For over 100 years, genocide survivors and their descendants have sought truth and justice. They have fought to have this horrific chapter in their history recognized by the international community and, for the sizeable Armenian-American diaspora, by their own government. Forty-eight U.S. states have recognized the Armenian Genocide, as have 28 foreign nations including some of our closest allies. Although the United States has made direct reference to the genocide in the past, including by proclamation of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and through the passage of House Resolutions in 1975 and 1984, Congressional acceptance of the fact of the genocide is long overdue.
Let us be direct. Genocide recognition is opposed by a single entity: The government of Turkey. For decades, Turkey has deployed threats and an intense campaign of lobbying to intimidate the Congress from recognizing the genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide is also a source of continued regional tension, undermining the foundations of a durable peace that would be in the best interests of the United States and our national security. Official recognition of the Armenian Genocide can help open a new chapter in United States foreign policy. It is time for the United States to take a stand for the truth, and against genocide denial.
The United States should never be complicit in genocide denial, what Elie Wiesel described as the final stage of genocide and a “double killing.” As we confront continuing mass atrocities around the world, including the genocide of religious minorities carried out by ISIS in Syria and Iraq or the extermination of the Rohingya in Burma, Congress’s silence about the Armenian Genocide of a century ago undermines our moral standing. It must end.
To join us as an original cosponsor of the Armenian Genocide resolution, please contact Caroline Nicholas in Rep. Schiff’s office or Shayne Woods in Rep. Bilirakis’s office.
Adam B. Schiff
Member of Congress
Gus M. Bilirakis
Member of Congress
WASHINGTON, DC – This week, the Armenian Assembly of America issued an Action Alert calling on Armenian Americans across the U.S. to “contact your representative and ask them to urge President Trump to meet with Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan.”
The Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, led by Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), David Valadao (R-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Dave Trott (R-MI), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), is currently asking Members of Congress to sign a bipartisan letter “encouraging President Trump to meet with Armenia’s newly elected Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, while he is in the United States for the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September.”
The Assembly’s alert highlight’s Armenia’s “remarkable change in its government through peaceful and democratic means” following the April 2018 “Velvet Revolution.”
“This grassroots movement, led by Mr. Pashinyan, resulted in a transition to a more genuinely democratic system. In a small, post-Soviet and landlocked country like Armenia, this non-violent transfer of power between governments is unprecedented and incredible, especially compared to its authoritarian neighboring nations,” the Assembly alert states.
The Assembly’s alert further states that “a conversation between President Trump and Prime Minister Pashinyan emphasizing economic development, security, and democracy is critical for a strong pivot towards a strategic partnership between our countries.”
The Armenian Assembly of America’s Action Alert is available here.