WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) took the floor of the U.S. House today to speak out against Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and to share with his colleagues a recent New York Times article quoting the recollections of the Genocide by the present-day Turkish residents of historically Armenian lands, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We would like to thank Congressman Pallone for his principled leadership against Turkey’s ongoing campaign to bury the truth of the Armenian Genocide,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “In standing up against this denial, he is taking a stand for all the victims of past genocides and helping to ensure that the world never again witnesses the use of genocide as a political tool.”
In his remarks, Congressman Pallone stressed that, “to this day, the Republic of Turkey refuses to acknowledge the fact that this massive crime against humanity took place on soil under its control, and in the name of Turkish nationalism.” He also sharply criticized the Turkish government’s high-priced campaign to defeat “bipartisan legislation in Congress affirming U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.”
In a reference to the State Department’s complicity in the Turkish government’s denials, Congressman Pallone stated that, “the United States must go on record acknowledging the Genocide. And, rather than appease Turkey on this issue, we should use our significant influence with that country to get them to do the right thing, to admit what happened in the past and to work for improved relations with their neighbor, the Republic of Armenia.”
The complete text of Congressman Pallone’s remarks follows:
“TURKISH REGION RECALLS MASSACRE OF ARMENIANS”
Monday, May 15, 2000
Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, May 10th, the New York Times published an extremely important article on a subject that receives far too little attention: the Armenian Genocide. What was particularly interesting about this article was that it addressed the issue of the Armenian Genocide from the Turkish perspective, from the point of view of ordinary people living in what were the killing fields. Many in the Armenian community, and their friends and supporters, frequently discuss the painful memories of the Genocide from the perspective of the victims. The article in last week’s paper presents the history of the Genocide from the descendants of the perpetrators, the people who live on land in what is now the eastern part of the Republic of Turkey, but which was once a center of Armenian life.
Mr. Speaker, I request permission to submit this article for the Record. (“Turkish Region Recalls Massacre of Armenians” by Stephen Kinzer, New York Times, Wednesday, May 10, 2000.)
Mr. Speaker, every year in late April, Members of this House come to this floor to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Genocide was the systematic extermination – the murder – of one-and-one-half million Armenian men, women and children during the final years of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. This was the first genocide of the 20th century, but sadly not the last. April 24, 2000, marked the 85th anniversary of the unleashing of the Armenian Genocide. On that dark day in 1915, Armenian religious, political and intellectual leaders from the Turkish capital of Constantinople (Istanbul) were arrested and exiled in one fell swoop, silencing the leading representatives of the Armenian community in the Ottoman capital. This was the beginning of the Genocide. Over the years from 1915 to 1923, millions of men, women and children were deported, forced into slave labor and tortured by the government of the “Young Turk Committee.” 1.5 million of them were killed.
To this day, the Republic of Turkey refuses to acknowledge the fact that this massive crime against humanity took place on soil under its control, and in the name of Turkish nationalism.
That’s why this newspaper article was so interesting and important. Let me quote from one woman, Yasemin Orhan, a recent university graduate and a native of the town of Elazig, Turkey: “They don’t teach it in school, but if you’re interested, there are plenty of ways you can find out. Many Armenians were killed. That’s for sure.” Ms. Orhan told the New York Times reporter that she had learned about the killings from her grandmother. Another woman, Tahire Cakirbay, 66 years old, standing at the site of a long-gone Armenian Orthodox church, pointed to a nearby hill and said: “They took the Armenians up there and killed them. They dug a hole for the bodies. My parents told me.”
Mr. Speaker, it’s hard to erase from memory such a monumental crime as the Armenian Genocide. But the Turkish Government is trying. The Times article notes that in the rest of Turkey, little is known of and remembered of the Armenian Genocide or of the former thriving Armenian community in what is now eastern Turkey. As Ms. Orhan says, “They don’t teach it in school.” In fact, what they do teach Turkish young people in schools is a skewed version of their own history. Not content with merely propagating this false version of history for internal consumption, Turkey is using its resources to endow Turkish Studies Chairs at prestigious American universities, staffed by scholars sympathetic to the Turkish official version of history. They are also using their lobbying resources including former Members of this House to lobby against bipartisan legislation in this Congress affirming U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Mr. Speaker, the United States must go on record acknowledging the Genocide. And, rather than appease Turkey on this issue, we should use our significant influence with that country to get them to do the right thing, to admit what happened in the past and to work for improved relations with their neighbor, the Republic of Armenia.
The Republic of Armenia is working to build a strong democracy, despite the hostility from Turkey, and their ally Azerbaijan, both of whom still maintain blockades preventing vitally needed goods from reaching the Armenian people. Last week, seven leading Members of the Armenian Parliament came up to Capitol Hill to meet with a bipartisan group of Members of Congress. This week, officials from Armenia and the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh, as well as from Azerbaijan, will be in Washington for a conference on how to resolve the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. The Armenian people look forward to a bright future of freedom, independence, prosperity and cooperation with their neighbors. But they cannot forget the bitter history of the early 20th century, and they cannot accept Turkey’s efforts to deny that it happened.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I’d like to quote from another of the Turkish citizens quoted in the New York Times article, a factory worker named Selhattin Cinar: This used to be an Armenian area, but now they’re gone. Dead, killed, chased away. Our government doesn’t want to admit it. Why would you want to say, ‘My yogurt is sour’?”