WASHINGTON, DC – From coast to coast, community forums to the floor of the U.S. Congress, Senators and Representatives joined with Armenian Americans and genocide prevention advocates in record numbers this April to commemorate the Armenian Genocide and press Turkey to end it’s denial of this still unpunished crime, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Excerpts from statements are provided below from top Senate leaders including Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) as well as House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and senior House leaders, including U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chair Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Tom Lantos Human Rights Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA).
Last week, on April 24th, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) headlined the annual Capitol Hill commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, organized by the Congressional Armenian Caucus with the participation of Armenian American organizations as well as the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia and the Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic Representative in the U.S. The Armenian Genocide remembrance, held before a standing-room-only crowd in the Hart Senate Office Building also included the participation of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Joe Crowley (D-NY), the Vice-Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus; Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Representatives Tony Cardenas (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Janice Hahn (D-CA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), John Tierney (D-MA), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Niki Tsongas (D-MA). Legislators, including Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) extended broad support for the program and widely publicized the event.
Excerpts of Senate and House floor statements and press statements commemorating the Armenian Genocide are provided below.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO): “Nearly a century after the tragedy that befell the Armenian people in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, we pause to reflect on the catastrophic loss of life and systematic killing and displacement of an unthinkable number of innocent civilians. We stand with the Armenian people in remembrance of this genocide and reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that such a tragedy will never happen again.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA): “I hope that this is the year that we finally right this terrible wrong because the United States cannot and does not turn a blind eye to atrocities around the globe. In fact, the United States is often the first to speak out in the face of violence and unspeakable suffering and to urge other countries to respond. But sadly, our Nation is on the wrong side of history when it comes to the Armenian genocide. So this April 24, as we pause to remember the victims and to celebrate the many contributions Armenian Americans have made to our great country, I hope that the United States will finally and firmly stand on the right side of history and officially condemn the crimes of 1915 to 1923 by their appropriate name.”
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL): “From 1915-1923, 1.5 million Armenians were killed and 2 million more deported by the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian Genocide is well-documented as one of the 20th century’s greatest crimes against humanity. It is time the United States formally recognized the Armenian Genocide, as have 11 of our NATO allies and the European Union. I was privileged to serve as Co-Chair of the Armenian Issues Caucus in the House of Representatives and look forward to working closely with the Armenian-American community in the future.”
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI): “We mark Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, first, because those who perished deserve to be remembered, but we also do so as a reminder: a reminder of the horrible violence that ethnic hatred can inflame; a reminder that too often, governments have employed those hatreds and passions; and a reminder that the world’s silence in the face of one such episode of atrocity can embolden others who would seek to emulate it. It is often noted that Adolph Hitler, in justifying his invasion of Poland in 1939, told his commanders: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Silence in the face of governments that abuse and oppress their people simply enables the perpetrators of violence and injustice.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ): “We commemorate the 98th anniversary of one of the darkest events in human history. We will not forget, we cannot ever forget. To me, genocide is genocide and I continue to support a resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide and to use the lessons of what clearly was an atrocity of historic proportion to prevent future crimes against humanity. The world remembers 98 years later, the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the survivors and those who perished. Here in the halls of Congress and around the world, people of goodwill everywhere remember and will never forget.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY): We come here to remember. We come here to never forget. We come here because we are speaking truth to power. We tell the world. We tell Turkey. We tell everyone – you cannot deny genocide in Armenia or anywhere else because the candle of truth always burns brighter than lies. We know that, and we are here to light thousands of those candles for those who perished – the 1.5 million; for those who perished subsequent to that. And, for those young children who should learn the lessons of history so that we will never repeat the most awful chapters of history, of which the Armenian Genocide is one.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO): “Today marks the anniversary of the start of the terrible and tragic Armenian Genocide. Beginning on this date in 1915, more than half of the Armenian population was murdered, including 1.5 million men, women and children, and a half million more forced into exile. I stand with the Armenian community and the world today when I say, ‘Never again.’ We should never forget this tragedy, and we should redouble our efforts to ensure that genocide never occurs. The United States has a unique role to play in the world to prevent these tragedies from happening, and we should never lose sight of that responsibility.”
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL): “I have been a strong supporter of Armenia and of the Armenia Genocide resolution, which recognizes the massacre of 1.5 million innocent Armenian men, women and children at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as genocide. These atrocities should not be ignored whether they took place in the early 20th century by the Ottomans, the mid-20th century by the Third Reich, or now with the ongoing violence in the Nuba Mountains and Burma. Genocide is a scourge on the human race and must be acknowledged as such.”
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI): “On behalf of the Armenian community in my home State of Rhode Island, I am honored to welcome the archbishop here today and to join him in remembering the victims of the Armenian genocide –the systematic extermination of Armenians living under the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. I join members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues in urging that our government finally recognize the Armenian genocide as a historical fact.”
Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA): “Nearly 100 years ago, the hatred of one race toward another spilled over from politics into the murder of more than 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman soldiers. This day not only recognizes those murdered in that genocide, but also the staggering inhumanity and atrocious acts of violence committed so often throughout human history. This day should serve to not only remind us of millions of lives lost, but that we must act with vigilance to ensure that atrocities are not allowed to ever occur again. As we remember this dark period in history, we should remain hopeful, because goodness exists and that it is possible to prevent such horrific losses. I stand united with the Armenian people and the rest of America to take up that challenge.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA): “The only way to describe such atrocities is a genocide. On this somber anniversary, we owe it to those who were lost, their loved ones, and the few remaining survivors to recognize what happened, and to recommit ourselves to the protection of human rights around the world. I am committed to seeing Congress formally recognize the Armenian Genocide in a resolution. I have co-sponsored legislation every Congress, and look forward to doing so again this year. America’s commitment to human rights is absolute, and we have a duty to recognize this tragedy, and to remind the world that mass murder and destruction will not be ignored.”
Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA): “I grew up in a community in the San Joaquin Valley with many wonderful Armenian families. As a young boy, I learned about the history from our neighbors, my friends. And while, sadly, the Turkish Government today is still in denial as to the events that took place between 1915 and 1923, I would hope some day, just as the German Government and others have recognized the fact that there are parts of our history that we would just as soon forget or overlook, we know that if we recognize them, we have greater assurances that they will not repeat themselves.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY): “Who after all speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Mr. Speaker, I want to affirm today that we do remember, and we remember with reverence. We recall with sorrow the massive loss of life as the result of a deliberate policy of murder. We also know that we owe it to humanity and history to remember, if only to help erect a deterrent against future such tragedies. And let me add that Turkey owes it to the Armenians to acknowledge and come to terms with what its forbears perpetrated–and, at a minimum, to apologize. Turkey also owes that to itself, too, for Turkish society will be stronger for having ended the charade of denying what the whole world knows to be true.”
Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ): “There are some today who still choose not to recognize the atrocities that undeniably occurred between 1915 and 1923. As a member of the Armenian Caucus in the United States House of Representatives, I have co-sponsored several resolutions acknowledging the Armenian Genocide and calling upon Turkey to allow for religious freedom. As your Congressman, you can be assured that I will continue to advocate for this important resolution. We must continue to remember the injustice and the acts of hatred that occurred almost a century ago. By continuing to hold annual commemorations of events such as this, we make our voices heard. I can only hope that our acknowledgement and recognition of these crimes against humanity will help us pave the way forward to a lasting peaceful resolution between Turkey and Armenia.”
Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA): “I join the Armenian community in my district and around the world in a moment of reflection as we pay tribute to the victims and survivors of this horrific genocide that took place not even a century ago. Across this nation and the world, we share a common humanity, union and strength that continues to serve us. The memory of the dead and the legacy of those who survived will forever remain etched in our hearts. I am inspired by the strength of the Armenian people, so many of whose lives have been touched by tragedy but have persevered and resolved to never let history be forgotten. Let us commit to delivering the Armenian community with the long overdue recognition they deserve.”
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ): “Further, some will complain that these statements unfairly besmirch the dignity and reputation of today’s Turks. I would say that recognizing genocide from nearly a century ago need not sully the reputation of modern-day Turks any more than accounts of disreputable, brutal or atrocious behavior of early settlers in the Americas, or of Germans in the 1930s and 1940s, or South Africa under apartheid, or other historical regimes reflect badly on those nations today, unless those nations refuse to acknowledge and learn from past evils and mistakes.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD): “I join in remembering the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian genocide, which began on this day 98 years ago with the persecution of political leaders, clergy, journalists, and other leading figures in Armenian society. In the United States and throughout the world, Armenian communities mourn those lost and resolve never to forget – as do all who are committed to justice and human rights.”
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI): “The chilling scale of this tragedy demands that we continue to commemorate the Armenian Genocide , and remember those who were lost. Throughout my time in Congress, I have cosponsored House resolutions that have affirmed the U.S. record regarding the true nature of this ethnic extermination, and honored its victims and survivors. We must do all we can to ensure that the historical record contains the absolute truth–a commitment that will help fight against a sense of impunity. Through recognition and remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, we raise awareness of “man’s inhumanity to man,” helping to stop similar tragedies from happening in the future.”
Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL): “Although these atrocities occurred almost a century ago, it is imperative to remember the suffering that was endured as a result of unrestrained human malice. To acknowledge this truth is necessary, not just out of respect for our fellow citizens of Armenian descent, but also in hope that we can prevent such heinous crimes from occurring in the future. Today, I call on my colleagues to join me in somber remembrance of the 1.5 million Armenians who perished during this dark period of history, and to honor the strength and resolve of the Armenian community still working to overcome this tragedy.”
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY): “Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide . This yearly commemoration is a testament to the lives and legacy of the 1.5 million Armenians who lost their lives, and is emblematic of our commitment to keeping the Armenian nation and culture alive. Today, as we revisit this dark period in world history, we must be mindful of the lessons learned from this tragedy. We have witnessed that blind hatred and senseless prejudice tear at the very fabric of our society, even today. The victims of the Armenian Genocide , the Holocaust, ethnic cleansings in Kosovo, Rwanda, and Sudan, and acts of vicious terrorism remind us of the human cost of hate. We must do everything in our power to prevent these kinds of senseless tragedies from happening again.”
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA): “In order to prevent future genocides, however, we must recognize those of the past. For many years the U.S. House of Representatives has had before it a resolution which clearly affirmed that the Armenian Genocide did occur. I have been a strong supporter and vocal cosponsor of this resolution in every Congress, and I remain so today. Almost one-hundred years have passed since the Armenian Genocide , yet the suffering will continue for Armenians and non-Armenians alike as long as the world allows denial to prevail.”
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA): “It is hard to image anyone today visiting Armenia’s Tzidzemagapert, the genocide monument and memorial, without being shaken by the experience, as I was. The site is a permanent reminder of the horrifying depravity mankind is capable of when unshackled from any notion of mercy or compassion. That the Armenian people could recover from such a tragedy, and recover from the ensuing decades of Soviet rule, to establish an independent state in which they control their own destiny, is a tribute to the amazing resiliency and love of freedom harbored by the Armenian nation.”
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ): “While, the Armenian Genocide has been recognized by scholars all over the world and has been widely documented as a historical fact, we are reminded today that Turkey refuses to recognize the atrocities as genocide. However, I will not stand idly by as the truth of the murder of one and half million Armenians is distorted. The time for the U.S. to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide is long overdue, and I am as committed today, as I was when I founded the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues more than 17 years ago, to push for that formal recognition.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): “This week almost one hundred years ago, the voices of the more than 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children were silenced forever. We must never forget. We must learn from this dark hour of history. Indeed, there is no greater tribute to their memories than our commitment to act to prevent genocide in our time. If we ignore the mistakes of the past, then we are destined to repeat them. That’s why it is critical, year in and year out, to reaffirm our dedication to recognizing the Armenian genocide and to placing the U.S. Congress firmly on the side of honesty in our history. On this anniversary, it is our responsibility to embrace the truth and build a brighter future.”
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD): “Turkey has repeatedly thwarted efforts by Congress and successive administrations to recognize the Armenian Genocide by threatening all manner of retaliation should recognition be accorded. I submit that we do no favors to Turkey by acquiescing in its cynical campaign. Turkey’s path to the European Union, its abysmal relations with its ethnic and religious minorities, particularly its violent conflict with the Kurdish people, would all improve if the Armenian Genocide was addressed openly and honestly. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2015, it is time for the United States to formally recognize this tragic chapter in world history and to bring some measure of peace and healing to those of Armenian descent.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): “I am not Armenian , but I speak to you in your language because on this day we are all Armenian . For many years I have sat with you and listened–to the stories of those who were lost in the genocide and those who survived. I speak to you in their language and yours to thank you for sharing your history with me and to pledge again that I will not stop fighting until the United States lives up to its principles by honoring and commemorating the Armenian Genocide. And because I know that day will come. May it come soon, so the last of the survivors may hear its awesome sound. May God hear our voices.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ): “Despite the overwhelming preponderance of evidence of the Ottoman government’s policy of annihilation of Armenians and the virtually universal acceptance of the Armenian case as a classic example of genocide , the government of the modern state of Turkey refuses to acknowledge the crimes of the previous regime as the responsibility of the Ottoman government or as a case of genocide . Indeed, the Turkish government even has undertaken the persecution of those Turks who recognize the genocide. One day the Turkish government will acknowledge the genocide. That will be a great day for Turkey–for the moral air of the country–and a truly patriotic gesture, a sign of spiritual strength. The sooner the better! The United States does a disservice to Turkey and its people by facilitating genocide denial by not pressing Turkey harder to acknowledge the truth.”
Rep. David Valadao (R-CA): “Despite the horrors of this time and broad international consensus that these events are rightly identified as “genocide,” the foreign policy of the United States refuses to acknowledge what so many already know to be true. Today, let us recognize and remember the 2 million Armenians whose lives were lost or forever changed by these tragic events.”
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA): “The horror of the Armenian Genocide was surpassed only by the silence that followed it. To this day, the Turkish government prohibits recognition of its predecessor’s dark history, and has pressured others to adhere to the same base standard. The United States has a moral obligation to acknowledge the horrors of the past, just as we must recognize all genocides as crimes against humanity. Recognition of the Armenian Genocide is long overdue.”
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA): “Adolph Hitler, in describing his murderous plans and seeking to silence those with reservations, famously said, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” There is power in speaking the truth, even about atrocities that occurred nearly a century ago, so that others with evil aims will not be empowered by our silence. Sadly President Obama, despite his campaign promises, has once again failed to characterize the brutal slaughter of one and half million people as genocide.”