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Bilirakis, Schiff Rally Support for Sustained U.S. Policy of Official Armenian Genocide Recognition

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.”

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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:

  1. Commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance;
  2. Reject efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the U.S. Government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide; and
  3. 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

Dear Colleague:

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.

Sincerely,
Adam B. Schiff
Member of Congress

Gus M. Bilirakis
Member of Congress

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Congressman Deutch Cosponsors Genocide Prevention Resolution

Last week, South Florida Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) became the latest cosponsor of H. Res. 220, a resolution expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding past genocides.

The resolution states that “the lessons of past genocides should be applied to help prevent future war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.” It reaffirms the 2016 resolutions passed in the House and Senate that recognized the ISIS killings of “Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria” as genocide, as well as the decades-long U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide.

In a series of tweets announcing his support for the legislation, Congressman Deutch stated that “Over 100 years after Armenian Genocide, it is our responsibility to continue to learn from this dark moment in history.”

“Over 100 years after the Armenian Genocide, it is our responsibility to continue to learn from this dark moment in history which caused unimaginable devastation and irreparable pain to the Armenian people,” Rep. Deutch told FLArmenians.com. “As we’ve learned from survivors of the Holocaust, keeping alive the memory of those lost and retelling the story of this genocide is essential in working to prevent history from repeating itself. Unfortunately, the recent genocide against the Yazidis by ISIS reminds us that we still have far to go,” he said.

Deutch, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is only the second Florida lawmaker to cosponsor H. Res. 220. Armenian Caucus Vice-Chair Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) led the effort in the introduction of H. Res. 220 back in March. It currently has 52 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. A date has not yet been set for a committee vote on the bill.

How John Boehner Checked Two Opposing Lobby Groups, and the Tea Party, With One Bill

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Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) / AP Photo

 

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Editor

As is routine in Armenian American politics, an Armenian Genocide resolution was introduced in the US House of Representatives at the beginning of the 114th Congress. Once again leading the charge are Reps. Robert Dold (R-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). Together, they introduced H. Res. 154, aka the Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution, on March 18, 2015. This bill differs significantly from the bipartisan Armenian Genocide recognition resolution which passed committee in 2000, 2005, 2007, and 2010. As of this writing, H. Res. 154 boasts 62 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Given the significance of 2015, the Turkish government ramped up its denial campaign in the United States and sought to introduce an opposing bill in Congress. In the weeks after the introduction of H. Res. 154, Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL) circulated a letter to his House colleagues asking them to support a different resolution. Clawson’s bill, which planned to use language proposed by the newly-formed Turkish Institute for Progress (TIP), would use text from H. Res. 154, strike reference to the Armenian Genocide, and create a 100-year congressional task force aimed at bringing the Turkish and Armenian people together. “Unite us, not divide us,” a reference to the full-page advertisements that ran in The Washington Post and POLITICO, is political speak for Turkey’s latest genocide denial lobbying campaign.

Then, on April 28, 2015, H. Res. 226, a resolution calling on the President “to work toward equitable, constructive, stable, and durable Armenian-Turkish relations,” was introduced by Pete Sessions (R-TX). Sessions’ bill not only omitted reference to the Armenian Genocide, it also left out the Turkish proposal for a joint taskforce. Pete Sessions is the Chairman of the House Rules Committee, which is commonly referred to as the “Speaker’s Committee.” H. Res. 226 currently has 2 cosponsors.

Clawson has yet to introduce his Turkish denial resolution.

For House Republican leadership this scenario played right into their hands. John Boehner has voiced his objection to a congressional resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide on more than one occasion and Rep. Clawson was one of 25 congressmen to vote against Boehner for the Speakership. What Speaker John Boehner has effectively done is introduce a bill, stripping the specific language for which each opposing lobby group was advocating, rendering the issue legislatively moot, and check his Tea Party foes in the process.