Florida Representatives Bilirakis, Frankel, and Crist sign the letter to President Biden.
On April 21, the bipartisan co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), David G. Valadao (R-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA), along with over 100 Congressional colleagues, sent a letter to President Joseph R. Biden urging him to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide in his statement on April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
“On April 24, the world will mark the 106th anniversary of the first days of the Armenian Genocide, the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, and the displacement of many more. Yet for decades, while leaders around the world recognize the first genocide of the 20th Century, the President of the United States has remained silent. We join with the proud Armenian American community and all of those who support truth and justice in asking that you clearly and directly recognize the Armenian Genocide in your April 24 statement,” the Members write in the letter. “Mr. President, as you said last year in your April 24 statement, ‘Silence is complicity.’ The shameful silence of the United States Government on the historic fact of the Armenian Genocide has gone on for too long, and it must end. We urge you to follow through on your commitments, and speak the truth.”
In 2019 and 2020, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed resolutions formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide. H.Res. 296 passed with strong bipartisan consensus by a vote of 405-11, and S.Res. 150 passed under unanimous consent.
The Armenian Caucus letter to President Biden was signed by over 100 Members of Congress, including Representatives Brad Sherman, Joaquin Castro, Grace F. Napolitano, Sheila Jackson Lee, Jamie Raskin, John P. Sarbanes, Andy Levin, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Carolyn Maloney, Jim Cooper, Sean Patrick Maloney, Joe Neguse, David N. Cicilline, Jared Huffman, Lori Trahan, Anna Eshoo, Gregory W. Meeks, Jim Costa, Dina Titus, Abigail D. Spanberger, Judy Chu, Josh Gottheimer, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Thomas R. Suozzi, James P. McGovern, Tony Cárdenas, Betty McCollum, Jan Schakowsky, Ro Khanna, Stephen F. Lynch, John Garamendi, Jeff Van Drew, Juan Vargas, Jake Auchincloss, Ann Wagner, Greg Stanton, Nicole Malliotakis, Marcy Kaptur, Paul D. Tonko, Julia Browley, Earl Perlmutter, Linda T. Sánchez, David P. Joyce, Katherine M. Clark, Sara Jacobs, Grace Meng, Mike Quigley, Gwen Moore, Haley Stevens, Devin Nunes, Zoe Lofgren, Adriano Espaillat, James R. Langevin, Josh Harder, Peter A. DeFazio, Donald S. Beyer Jr., Rashida Tlaib, Mary Gay Scanlon, Barbara Lee, Norma J. Torres, Lois Frankel, Chellie Pingree, Donald Norcross, Alan Lowenthal, Bradley S. Schneider, Danny K. Davis, Jimmy Gomez, Colin Z. Allred, Chrissy Houlahan, Earl Blumenauer, Doug Lamborn, Susan Wild, Debbie Dingell, Diana DeGette, Scott Peters, Ted Lieu, Jay Obernolte, Karen Bass, Madeleine Dean, Michelle Steel, Brian Fitzpatrick, Mike Levin, Darrell Issa, Charlie Crist, Albio Sires, Mike Garcia, Lucille Roybal-Allard, David Schweikert, Mike Doyle, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Carolyn Bourdeaux, Young Kim, Jason Crow, Ilhan Omar, Christopher H. Smith, Chris Pappas, David Trone, Ayanna Pressley, Veronica Escobar, Raúl M. Grijalva, Richie Neal, and Jim Himes.
Click here to read the letter, or read the full text below:
Dear Mr. President:
Later this month, on April 24, the world will mark the 106th anniversary of the first days of the Armenian Genocide, the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, and the displacement of many more. Yet for decades, while leaders around the world recognize the first genocide of the 20th Century, the President of the United States has remained silent. We join with the proud Armenian American community and all of those who support truth and justice in asking that you clearly and directly recognize the Armenian Genocide in your April 24 statement.
We know that this is an issue you are well acquainted with from your time in the Senate and as Vice President, including shepherding S.J.Res. 212 (designating April 24, 1990, as a National Day of Remembrance of the 75th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide) through the Judiciary Committee in 1989. We also appreciate that as Vice President you attended the centenary anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2015 at the National Cathedral. It was during the centennial that His Holiness Pope Francis at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica said this about the Armenian Genocide: “concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”
The historic fact of what occurred a century ago is not in serious dispute. American diplomats of the period documented the mass slaughter of the Armenians, though they had no word for what they were witnessing. It was only decades later that Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide”, and did so specifically with the attempted extermination of the Armenian people in mind.
In accurately describing the Genocide this year, you will be joining both the House and Senate which overwhelmingly passed resolutions doing so in 2019. Additionally, the Library of Congress has already taken the important step of cataloging books on the subject under historically accurate Armenian Genocide subject heading.
Mr. President, as you said last year in your April 24 statement, “Silence is complicity.” The shameful silence of the United States Government on the historic fact of the Armenian Genocide has gone on for too long, and it must end. We urge you to follow through on your commitments, and speak the truth.
Bipartisan Letter Cites Portland Trail Blazer Enes Kanter Among the Critics Erdogan has Tried to Silence
WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) urged the Biden Administration to press the Turkish government to improve its human rights record, which includes an increasingly authoritarian crackdown on dissent both domestically and abroad.
The bipartisan letter signed by more than 50 other senators cited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for marginalizing domestic opposition, silencing or coopting critical media outlets, purging independent judges and replacing them with party loyalists, and jailing scores of journalists.
“President Erdogan’s foreign policy has also grown more belligerent and combative over time. In recent years, he brazenly attacked U.S.-backed Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria, he purchased Russian air defense systems despite warnings that they were incompatible with U.S. technology, and he encouraged Azerbaijan to use violence to settle a territorial dispute with Armenia,” the senators wrote.
“President Erdogan has also attempted to pressure the U.S. and other countries into extraditing Turkish nationals, whom he blames for the failed coup in 2016. The Erdogan government has sought to silence critics in the United States like Enes Kanter, an NBA player and human rights advocate, by going after his family in Turkey and placing an INTERPOL red notice on him.”
The senators note that the United States has a significant opportunity to influence Turkey’s troubling human rights record because it’s an important ally in a key region of the world.
“We believe that the United States must hold allies and partners to a higher standard and speak frankly with them about issues of human rights and democratic backsliding,” the senators continued. “We urge you to emphasize to President Erdogan and his administration that they should immediately end their crackdown on dissent at home and abroad, release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and reverse their authoritarian course.”
In addition to Rubio and Wyden, the letter was also signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John Thune (R-SD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Boozman (R-AR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), James Lankford (R-OK), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mike Braun (R-IN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), John Kennedy (R-LA), Robert Casey (D-PA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).
The full text of the letter is available here.
During today’s White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany referenced the “Armenian Genocide memorial” in Colorado that was vandalized in May during racial justice protests as an example of what happens when people who “lack a basic understanding or historical knowledge” tear down statues and monuments.
On its surface, the Press Secretary’s remarks appear to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. However, the Press Secretary does not make policy so it will be interesting to see what happens next.
On April 24, 2020, President Trump again issued an Armenian Remembrance Day statement that dodged the G word, as he has done since taking office. President Ronald Reagan was the last U.S. President to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
One can expect that the White House Press Secretary will walk-back her remarks later today or tomorrow and that Turkey’s President Recep Tayip Erdogan or the Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. will call President Trump and demand a clarification of policy, as has been done in the past. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Will President Trump use this opportunity to acknowledge and not deny the Armenian Genocide, or will he once again bend the knee to Erdogan?