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38 U.S. Senators Call on President Biden to Recognize the Armenian Genocide

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

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.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

“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.

Sincerely,

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Miami Congresswoman Donna Shalala Commemorates Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL)

South Florida Congresswoman Donna Shalala (D-FL) joined 50 of her Congressional colleagues to issue a statement on April 24th, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

“Over 100 years ago, my grandparents fled the Ottoman Empire to escape the #ArmenianGenocide”, she posted on Twitter.

Shalala was the only Florida Representative to issue a statement this year. She was also an outspoken supporter of the Armenian Genocide recognition resolution and spoke on the floor of the House during the debate when it passed on October 29, 2019 for the first time in U.S. history.

Armenians around the world commemorate the World War I-era mass killings of 1.5 million of their kin every year on April 24th, when in 1915 the Ottoman Turkish government rounded up and murdered over 200 Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople (Istanbul) marking the beginning of the Armenian Genocide.

Armenian National Institute Exhibit Opens at Republic of Armenia’s Ministry of Defense

Major General Lee Tafanelli of the Kansas Army National Guard with U.S. military delegation, U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy, Dr. Ashot Melkonian of the Armenian Academy of Sciences, and Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan at the Republic of Armenia’s Defense Ministry for the opening of the ANI exhibit.

YEREVAN, ARMENIA – United States Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy and Kansas Army National Guard Adjutant-General, Major General Lee Tafanelli, joined Armenia’s Minister of Defense Davit Tonoyan for the opening of the exhibit “The United States Military in the First Republic of Armenia 1919-1920” on January 27 at the Republic of Armenia’s Ministry of Defense in Yerevan.

Created by the Washington, D.C.-based Armenian National Institute, the new exhibit focuses on the enormous extent of humanitarian assistance rendered by the United States to Armenia in the aftermath of World War I through the services of American military missions sent to Armenia.

In his opening remarks, Minister Tonoyan thanked Ambassador Tracy for the support extended by the United States in recent years to Armenia. Reflecting on the historical exhibit, Tonoyan noted that: “For many, U.S. assistance during those years was critical, especially the new opportunities created to provide education thanks to which many Armenians received schooling during that difficult time and went on to make impressive achievements.”

Ambassador Tracy delivered welcoming remarks congratulating those present on the occasion of the 28th anniversary of the Armenian Army and spoke about the important work done over the past 100 years.

U.S. General Tafanelli along with his delegation of officers viewed the exhibit and are in Yerevan as part of the U.S.-Armenia military partnership program.

U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy, Major General Lee Tafanelli, and Babken Vartanian at the Republic of Armenia’s Defense Ministry for the opening of the ANI exhibit.

Regional Director Arpi Vartanian, speaking on behalf of the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Institute, pointed out the importance of the high level military mission that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson dispatched to Armenia and stressed their effective intervention in stabilizing the humanitarian crisis in the country despite the small size of the American contingents. She thanked as well Armenia’s servicemen on the occasion of the 28th anniversary of the founding of Armenia’s modern-day army.

The 27-panel exhibit documents the tremendous importance of the U.S. humanitarian intervention during the most difficult years in the life of the newly-formed Armenian state. Based upon the photographic collection of an American medical officer, Dr. Walter P. Davenport, the exhibit reveals the depth and breadth of measures taken by U.S. military personnel to stabilize the humanitarian crisis in Armenia, and especially the caretaking of the most vulnerable part of the population through hospitals, orphanages, food distribution points, and other facilities.

Subtitled “The American Relief Administration and Walter Davenport of the U.S. Army Medical Corps,” the exhibit reveals how in 1919, U.S. military personnel and civilian aid workers cared for tens of thousands of children. As Dr. Davenport reported: “At the present time we are furnishing food and medical relief to 75,000 children daily, this work being done through the medium of orphanages, orphanage hospitals, soup kitchens, cocoa kitchens, milk stations, bread distributing points, orphanage infirmaries, and public dispensaries.”

Dr. Walter P. Davenport with local Armenian medical staff.

The Davenport collection of photographs not only documents the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Armenia, but also the measurable difference American relief efforts made in the span of only a few months. The exhibit displays official and personal records related to Dr. Davenport’s activities in Armenia, which he subsequently reported in The Military Surgeon journal. With 103 photographs, 3 maps, 14 documents, and several newspaper articles, the exhibit pictorially reconstructs the conditions that U.S. military personnel witnessed in Armenia.

The digital version of the ANI exhibit is available on online and free to download from the ANI website where five other exhibits may be viewed. Designed for instructional purposes, the exhibits explain several aspects of the Armenian Genocide that were well documented photographically.