04.22.10

Rep. Schiff Urges President Obama to Properly Acknowledge the Armenian Genocide

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) sent a letter to President Obama urging him to properly characterize the murder of 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children as “genocide” in his statement marking the April 24 anniversary of the start of the genocide. On Saturday, it will have been 95 years since the systematic and deliberate annihilation campaign was launched by the government of the Ottoman Empire against its Armenian population.   While the Armenian Genocide has been recognized by more than 20 nations including Canada, Italy, Sweden, France, Argentina and Russia, as well as the European Parliament, it has not been formally recognized by the U.S. Congress in decades. Congressman Schiff is the primary sponsor of H. Res. 252, the Affirmation of the U.S. Record on the Armenian Genocide, which would recognize and commemorate the genocide.

“Wholesale massacres, forced marches through blistering deserts, rapes, and looting were visited upon the Armenians of eastern Anatolia,” Rep. Schiff said in the letter. “By the time that the killings ended in 1923, one and a half million Armenians were dead and the world’s oldest Christian nation had been shattered – with its survivors scattered around the world.” 

“Mr. President, you have always been a leader on the important issue of human rights,” Rep. Schiff said.  “I urge you to stand with the ever-dwindling number of survivors, as well as the descendants of others, who survived the Armenian Genocide and continue to suffer the ‘double killing’ of denial, by referring to it as a genocide.”

Below is the full text of the letter sent to President Obama:

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

As the primary sponsor of H. Res. 252, the Armenian Genocide resolution, I urge you to properly characterize the murder of 1.5 million men, women and children as “genocide” in your statement marking the April 24 anniversary of the start of the genocide.

Ninety-five years ago this month, in the spring of 1915, the government of the Ottoman Empire launched a campaign against its Armenian population. Wholesale massacres, forced marches through blistering deserts, rapes, and looting were visited upon the Armenians of eastern Anatolia. By the time that the killings ended in 1923, one and a half million Armenians were dead and the world’s oldest Christian nation had been shattered – with its survivors scattered around the world. 

As a Senator, and during the 2008 presidential campaign, you repeatedly spoke of the massacres of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman government as genocide. This was in line with the overwhelming majority of historians, including some notable Turkish historians, and the genocide has also been recognized by many local and state governments here in the United States and by many governments around the world.

Last April you did not use the term “genocide” to describe the events of 1915-23. At the time, some argued that the possible reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey was a reason to hold off on recognition. This misapprehended the nature of reconciliation, which can never find a sound basis in the denial of genocide, or silence when confronted by denial. Now, despite the signing of the Protocols, the Turkish government has given every indication that it will not ratify or implement the agreement and has sought to make resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue a precondition for any action by the Turkish parliament. I have repeatedly warned that Turkey would attempt to use the protocols process as a means to prevent the Administration from using the word “genocide,” and to try to forestall consideration of a genocide resolution by the Congress. That must not be allowed to come to pass.  Linking the process of the protocols to the Armenian Genocide resolution actually encourages Turkey to not ratify them, since the Turks know that prolonging the process serves to provide opponents of the resolution with a continuing excuse to delay recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Mr. President, you have always been a leader on the important issue of human rights. I urge you to stand with the ever-dwindling number of survivors, as well as the descendants of others, who survived the Armenian Genocide and continue to suffer the “double killing” of denial, by referring to it as a genocide.             

Sincerely,     

Adam B. Schiff
Member of Congress