Members of Congress Gather in Historic Kennedy Caucus Room to Call for Truth and Justice; Urge Obama to Honor his Pledge to Recognize Armenian Genocide
WASHINGTON—On April 13, two dozen Members of Congress joined in the historic Kennedy Senate Caucus Room on Capitol Hill with hundreds of Armenian Americans from across the United States, the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, the Embassy of Armenia, and the Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in reaffirming their support for a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We want to thank each of our Congressional friends, from both sides of the aisle, who joined with us in standing up against U.S. complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide,” said ANCA chairman Ken Hachikian following the event. “While we remain troubled that the bipartisan Congressional majority in support of official U.S. recognition of this crime was not allowed the opportunity to vote on the Armenian Genocide resolution during the last session of Congress, we are encouraged by the energy and turnout for this evening’s event, and are hopeful that we will be able to work with our legislative allies to move this issue forward in the coming weeks and months.”
Among the most compelling remarks were those by Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who praised former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, who was among the observance participants, for his “profile in courage” in recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Sen. Menendez went on to explain, “I do not believe in approving members of the State Department who come before the [Senate Foreign Relations] Committee who are unwilling to simply recognize that there was an Armenian Genocide and I will continue as a U.S. Senator to put those nominees to questioning and continue to hold them if they cannot make the simple acknowledgement that Ambassador Evans made and that our own historical records make.” In 2006, Senator Menendez placed a “hold” on U.S. Ambassador to Armenia nominee Richard Hoagland, who, in response to Senate inquiry, denied the Armenian Genocide. Sen. Menendez joined Senator Boxer in taking a similar step in 2010, blocking Senate consideration of U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan nominee Matt Bryza.
Senator Menendez concluded his remarks by calling on President Obama to honor his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide. “I expect my President, whom I have supported, to finally come through and stand up for what is right—stand up for what he believed as U.S. Senator, stand up as U.S. President today to say there was an Armenian Genocide, we recognize it, and by recognizing it we honor those who lost their lives and we also put it to the test of history to remember that it should never be repeated again.”
House Genocide Resolution lead sponsor Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) echoed Sen. Menendez’ remarks, slamming the Turkey-Armenia Protocols as a “gambit by Ankara to prevent the Administration from using the word ‘genocide,’ and to forestall consideration of a genocide resolution by the Congress.” Quoting from a letter he sent to President Obama earlier in the day, Rep. Schiff went on to note “Turkey’s professed desire for reconciliation with Armenia was illusory. Now that the truth has been revealed, I ask you to return to the clarity you so forcefully expressed in 2008.”
Freshman Congressman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) cited his past support as State legislator and Providence Mayor for Genocide affirmation and education and went on to add, “once we complete the work of [U.S.] recognition of the Armenian Genocide, we must quickly move to the subject of reparations, which I think is also important as we move forward.”
Members of Congress spoke eloquently about Yeretzgeen Sirarpi Khoyan, the 106 year old genocide era survivor, who spares no effort to participate in Congressional Armenian Genocide commemorations on an annual basis.
Chuck Yessaian Jr. served as master of ceremonies of the evening, offering moving remarks about how his own family was touched by the Ottoman Turkish campaign to exterminate the Armenian and Christian minorities between 1915-1923. Opening and closing prayers were offered, respectively, by Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern U.S. and Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern U.S. Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Tatoul Markarian and Republic of Nagorno Karabakh Representative Robert Avetisyan spoke forcefully about the importance of the annual Capitol Hill commemoration and ongoing international efforts to secure justice for the Armenian Genocide.
Representatives joining Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif) at the Genocide observance included (in alphabetical order): Shelley Berkley (D-Nevada), Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Hansen Clark (D-Mich.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), and Tim Walz (D-Minn.).
Among the Senate and House members represented by staff at the Genocide observance were Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Representatives Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), David Dreier (R-Calif.), Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), and Scott Tipton (R-Colo.).