WASHINGTON, DC – Last month, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led 37 of his Senate colleagues in requesting the Biden administration join the U.S. Congress in officially recognizing the Ottoman Turkish Empire’s genocide against the Armenian people. To date, no U.S. president has made it U.S. policy to affirm the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide, which lasted from 1915 to 1923 and resulted in the forced deportation of around 2 million Armenians, 1.5 million of whom were brutally killed.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has cosponsored every Armenian Genocide recognition resolution since being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, was one of the signatories in urging the Biden administration to follow suit this April 24th.
“We join the Armenian community in the United States and around the world in honoring the memory of these victims, and we stand firmly against attempts to pretend that this intentional, organized effort to destroy the Armenian people was anything other than a genocide,” the Senators wrote in a letter to President Biden. “You have correctly stated that American diplomacy and foreign policy must be rooted in our values, including respect for universal rights. Those values require us to acknowledge the truth and do what we can to prevent future genocides and other crimes against humanity.”
Beyond recognizing the facts of the Ottoman Empire’s systematic extermination of Armenians, the Senators stressed that the move would rectify the executive branch’s position regarding the Genocide by aligning it with congressional consensus as well as President Biden’s previous remarks.
“Administrations of both parties have been silent on the truth of the Armenian Genocide. We urge you to break this pattern of complicity by officially recognizing that the Armenian Genocide was a genocide,” added the Senators.
Menendez has led a decades long fight to honor the memory of those who perished during the Armenian genocide, calling for a U.S. foreign policy that reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. On December 12, 2019, the Senate unanimously passed Menendez’s Senate Resolution affirming the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide, making clear that U.S. policy must reject efforts to deny the truth of this tragedy.
Joining Chairman Menendez in signing the letter to President Biden were Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Rob Portman (R-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ed Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jack Reed (D-RI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Gary Peters (D-MO), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
Find a copy of the letter HERE and below.
Dear President Biden:
We write today to strongly urge you to officially recognize the truth of the Armenian Genocide. In the past you have recognized the Armenian Genocide as genocide, including in your Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day statement during the 2020 campaign. We call on you to do so again as President to make clear that the U.S. government recognizes this terrible truth.
From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire systematically sought to eliminate the Armenian population, killing 1.5 million Armenians and driving hundreds of thousands more from their homeland. We join the Armenian community in the United States and around the world in honoring the memory of these victims, and we stand firmly against attempts to pretend that this intentional, organized effort to destroy the Armenian people was anything other than a genocide. You have correctly stated that American diplomacy and foreign policy must be rooted in our values, including respect for universal rights. Those values require us to acknowledge the truth and do what we can to prevent future genocides and other crimes against humanity.
In December 2019, after decades of obstruction, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution affirming the facts of the Armenian Genocide. The House also overwhelmingly passed its own resolution recognizing the facts of the Armenian Genocide in 2019. We appreciate that in your April 2020 Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day statement you pledged “to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide,” but Congress has already made its position clear. It is time for executive branch to do so as well.
As you said in your Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day statement last April, “It is particularly important to speak these words and commemorate this history at a moment when we are reminded daily of the power of truth, and of our shared responsibility to stand against hate — because silence is complicity.” Administrations of both parties have been silent on the truth of the Armenian Genocide. We urge you to break this pattern of complicity by officially recognizing that the Armenian Genocide was a genocide.
WASHINGTON, DC – In February, Florida Armenians Editor Taniel Koushakjian travelled to the nation’s capital for a series of meetings with government officials, NGO’s, and policy makers. During his time, he met with Armenia’s new Ambassador to the U.S., His Excellency Varuzhan Nersesyan, and welcomed him back to the United States in his new capacity. They discussed a series of issues of concern to the Armenian American community.
Koushakjian conveyed the congratulations of several thousand Armenian Americans in Florida who cheered the democratic movement of the citizens of Armenia and the peaceful transition of power that swept across Armenia in 2018. He also invited Ambassador Nersesyan to visit the Sunshine State in 2020.
Ambassador Nersesyan is no stranger to Washington, DC. From April 2008 to December 2012, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the United States.
Nersesyan is the first Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. under Armenian President Nikol Pashinyan. He presented his credentials to the President of the United States Donald J. Trump in a ceremony in the Oval Office on January 11, 2019. During a brief conversation, President Trump and Ambassador Nersesyan highlighted the steps towards expanding the US-Armenia bilateral relationship in several areas. The interlocutors emphasized the role of the Armenian American community in enhancing the friendship between the two nations.
By Mireille Samra
Special Guest Contributor
After packing my five very heavy suit cases, I felt prepared to enter my direct flight to Washington D.C. Why might a South Florida native fly to Washington D.C. other then touring all the national monuments and museums? The simplest answer is to learn. My name is Mireille Samra and I am currently enrolled in the Armenian Assembly of America’s Terjenian-Thomas Summer Internship Program in Washington, D.C. Through the internship with the Assembly, I was placed on Capitol Hill, in the Office of Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Armenian Caucus in Congress.
As an intern with the Armenian Assembly this summer, I have gained several new professional and personal connections. I was able to meet the President of Armenia twice in one day, along with the honorable First Lady of Armenia, on their first official visit to the U.S. So far, the 2018 class of Assembly interns have met with several community, political, and industry leaders. Early on, we met with the Director of the Armenian National Institute (ANI), Dr. Ruben Adalian. ANI provides historical information concerning the Armenian Genocide. In addition, the Assembly program provides us with direct meetings with elected officials, such as Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Congressman Bilirakis, and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), to name a few.
Currently, I have only been in D.C. for about one month. In that short amount of time, I have been learning things I could have never expected to learn, from how the metro (subway) system works, and the fact that finding parking in Washington, D.C. is like winning the lottery! Growing up, I’ve been known for always taking opportunities and not thinking much about them. Truthfully, this internship has taught me a lot. A typical workweek is Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 6:00pm, most days. Working on Capitol Hill, the people you meet are endless. Just last week I was giving a tour of the Capitol when the Queen of Jordan Rania Al-Abdullah walked by a few feet away from me! Something that keeps the internship on the Hill very interesting is that no two days are ever the same. For any Armenian American that is passionate about working hard in a big city and learning, the summer internship with the Armenian Assembly of America is a must before graduating.
Mireille Samra is a resident of Boca Raton, Florida and an active member of the South Florida Armenian American community. She graduated from Spanish River High School and currently studies Criminal Justice at Lynn University in Boca Raton.