WASHINGTON– US Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Tuesday began circulating a Dear Colleague letter, urging fellow House Members to sign on as co-sponsors of H. Res. 252, the Affirmation of the U.S. Record on the Armenian Genocide, introduced by him to recognize, commemorate and properly characterize the murder of 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children during World War I as genocide.
“For too long, the United States has given in to Turkey’s bullying and efforts to recognize the victims of the genocide have fallen short,” Rep. Schiff said in the letter. “Preservation of the bilateral relationship has been allowed to supersede our moral duty to memorialize and honor those who died, and to comfort their descendants – our constituents – who fear that the first genocide of the Twentieth Century will be lost to history.”
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. Currently, 143 Members have signed on as co-sponsors to honor the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
“Given Turkey’s recent behavior, this Congress needs to reevaluate whether we should continue to dishonor the dead to placate a false friend,” Rep. Schiff continues in the letter. “Now is the time to reassert our moral leadership in the fight against genocide, to honor the memory of a million and a half innocent men, women and children.”
In an ongoing effort to parallel H. Res. 252 to recognize and commemorate the Armenian Genocide, Rep. Schiff is also calling on survivors of the genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, as well as their family members and descendants, to submit their stories and memories for inclusion into the Congressional Record. To contribute to Rep. Schiff’s Armenian Genocide Congressional Record Project, send your family’s story to Mary Hovagimian in Rep. Schiff’s Pasadena office at [email protected]
Below is the full text of the Dear Colleague letter that Rep. Schiff sent to his fellow Members of Congress today:
From: The Honorable Adam B. Schiff
Sent By: [email protected]
Bill: H.Res. 252
NOW IS THE TIME TO RECOGNIZE THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
AS TURKEY SIDES WITH IRAN, WHY DEFEND ITS CAMPAIGN OF GENOCIDE DENIAL?
– Join 143 Members in Honoring the Victims of the Armenian Genocide –
Ninety-five years ago, the Government of the Ottoman Empire initiated a campaign of extermination against the Armenian people. Hundreds of thousands were murdered outright. Others died on forced marches through the searing heat of the deserts of modern-day Syria. Families, towns and communities disappeared in an orgy of collective blood-lust carried out by the Ottoman government. 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.
Although there is near unanimity among historians that the events of 1915-23 constitute genocide, the government of the modern Republic of Turkey steadfastly denies that the mass murders carried out by its predecessor was genocide and threatens any nation or group of nations that recognizes it as such. For too long, the United States has given in to Turkey’s bullying and Congressional efforts to recognize the victims of the genocide have fallen short.
Every Member of Congress, past and present, who has reviewed the facts, who has reviewed the State Department cables and other documentary evidence in our National Archives, who has read the contemporary newspaper accounts of the horrors visited upon the Armenian people, knows that this was genocide. But year after year, proponents of Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide have been told “now is not the time.” Preservation of the bilateral relationship has been allowed to supersede our moral duty to memorialize and honor those who died and to comfort their descendants – our constituents – who fear that the first genocide of the Twentieth Century will be lost to history.
Given Turkey’s recent behavior, this Congress needs to reevaluate whether we should continue to dishonor the dead to placate a false friend. While many Americans remember Turkey’s refusal to allow coalition forces to enter Iraq from its territory in 2003, Ankara’s refusal to assist American forces has grown to embrace an agenda that is at odds with our own.
Turkey has become one of Iran’s primary defenders and apologists. Last fall, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told an interviewer said of Iran’s bellicose president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “There is no doubt he is our friend.”
Recently, Turkey and Brazil tried to frustrate months of careful diplomacy at the United Nations by announcing a sham nuclear deal with Iran that would have allowed the Iranians to continue their pursuit of nuclear weapons. When the international community, including Russia and China, pressed ahead with a new round of sanctions, Turkey was one of only two votes against the plan in the Security Council.
Turkey has also turned on its ally, Israel. The two countries used to enjoy close relations, but under the government of Prime Minister Erdogan, Turkey has launched numerous rhetorical fusillades against Israel. Erdogan, who in the past has talked of the “Jewish controlled international media,” has called Israel the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East.
Turkey was the main instigator of the recent “Gaza flotilla” and, thus, bears responsibility for the tragic events of May 31.
Ankara supports Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, whose government perpetrated the Darfur genocide and who once harbored Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership. Bashir, who recently was declared the winner of an election widely seen as rigged, is the only sitting head of state wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
This is not the behavior one expects from a friend, and Turkey can no longer be allowed to work against us in numerous international fora, but then assert that our “alliance” cannot withstand an expression of remembrance for one and a half million souls.
Amazingly, a handful of Genocide survivors is still with us. The youngest of them are in their nineties and they have only one wish – to see their families’ suffering properly memorialized in their lifetimes. Now is the time to reassert our moral leadership in the fight against genocide, and to honor the memory of a million and a half innocent men, women and children.
I urge you to join me in fulfilling our obligation to remember. To cosponsor H. Res. 252, please contact Tim Bergreen of my staff at 5.4176 or at [email protected]
ADAM B. SCHIFF
Member of Congress