WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives – including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), joined today with Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA) and David Valadao (R-CA) in calling upon the White House to reverse its decision to block the public display of a rug woven by Armenian orphans and gifted to President Calvin Coolidge in appreciation for U.S. humanitarian assistance following the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian National Committee of America.
The Congressional letter comes in the wake of Washington Post and National Public Radio reports and a series of Capitol Hill inquiries regarding the White House’s abrupt and unexplained reversal of its agreement to lend the rug for a December 16th exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute, organized in cooperation with the Armenian Cultural Foundation and the Armenian Rug Society. In an interview with Public Radio International (PRI), Washington Post Art Critic Philip Kennicott noted that while the White House has not offered an explanation for the reversal in decision, it is likely due to the U.S. government’s deference to Turkey’s international campaign of genocide denial.
In the Congressional letter they spearheaded, Reps. Valadao and Schiff, who are the lead sponsors of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.227), noted: “The Armenian Orphan Rug is a shared piece of American and Armenian history that belongs to the American people. For over a decade, Armenian-American organizations have repeatedly asked the White House and the State Department to allow the rug to be displayed publicly. Unfortunately, these requests have not been granted. ”
“We join with Armenian Americans from across the country in thanking Reps. Schiff and Valadao for their leadership and in expressing our appreciation to each and every supporter of this principled effort to encourage our White House to reject Turkey’s decades-long veto on the display of the Armenian Orphan Rug and – more broadly – for our President to rise above Ankara’s gag-rule on the proper condemnation and commemoration of this still unpunished crime against all humanity,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
In addition to Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA) and David Valadao (R-CA), the Valadao-Schiff letter was signed by: Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA); Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY); Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI); Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ); the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Co-Chairmen Frank Wolf (R-VA) and James McGovern (D-MA); and Representatives Tony Cardenas (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Jeff Denham (R-CA), John Dingell (D-MI), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Mike Honda (D-CA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Aaron Schock (R-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), John Tierney (D-MA), and Dina Titus (D-NV).
The ANCA has, over the past several weeks, organized a grassroots campaign, worked with Members of Congress, and consulted with the Administration, making the case to all relevant stakeholders for the prominent and permanent public display of this historic rug.
The Armenian orphan rug measures 11′ 7″ x 18′ 5″ and is comprised of 4,404,206 individual knots. It took Armenian girls in the Ghazir Orphanage of Near East Relief 10 months to weave. The rug was delivered to the President Coolidge on December 4, 1925, in time for Christmas, with a label on the back of the rug, which reads “IN GOLDEN RULE GRATITUDE TO PRESIDENT COOLIDGE.”
According to Missak Kelechian, an expert on this topic, the gift of the Armenian Orphan rug was widely covered in U.S. media, including in the New York Times in 1925 and the Washington Post in 1926. Kelechian describes the journey of the rug in the CNN clip below.
Additional information about the history of the Armenian Orphan Rug is available in Dr. Hagop Martin Deranian’s book, “President Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug,” published on October 20, 2013, by the Armenian Cultural Foundation and soon to be available on Amazon.com.