Armenian Orphan Rug Goes on Display at White House

Description of the rug avoids reference to the Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON—The Armenian orphan rug went on display at the White House this morning, after months of pressure from legislators and Armenian American community activists.

The Armenian Orphan Rug on display at the White House (Photo by George Aghjayan, The Armenian Weekly)
The Armenian Orphan Rug on display at the White House (Photo by George Aghjayan, The Armenian Weekly)

The exhibit is taking place at the White House Visitor Center from Nov. 18 to 23. The White House Visitor Center is located at 1450 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC and is open to the public from 7:30a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Members of Congress including Reps. Adam Schiff and David Valadao and Armenian-American groups hosted a press conference today at the National Press Club to mark the opening of the White House display of the Armenian Orphan Rug–also known as the Ghazir Rug–a work of art that has been the subject of political controversy since it was woven by orphan survivors of the Armenian Genocide and gifted to U.S. President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 in appreciation for U.S. humanitarian assistance following Turkey’s mass murder of over 1.5 million Armenians and other Christians during World War I.

“Today’s White House display of the Armenian Orphan Rug is a testament to the generous spirit of the American people, whose unprecedented humanitarian assistance efforts saved hundreds of thousands of survivors of the Armenian Genocide—including the Armenian orphans who meticulously crafted this unique artifact of American and Armenian history,” Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian said. “Unfortunately, the display’s description—using evasive and euphemistic language—deprives this profoundly important work of art of its moral and historical meaning. It also deprives viewers of the opportunity to learn about the Armenian Genocide and draw lessons from this experience to prevent future atrocities.”

“We thank Congressman Schiff and Valadao and all their colleagues who helped make this display possible, and whose efforts are already sparking national and international attention to this still unpunished crime. We remain troubled that on the eve of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, Turkey’s gag rule is still in force and remain committed to a truthful and just international resolution of this crime,” added Hamparian.

Community activist and Weekly contributor George Aghjayan was among those who flew to DC to view the orphan rug. “Seeing the rug is like looking into the hearts of the orphans who wove it,” he said.

The ANCA joined Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Congressman David Valadao (R-Calif.), Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Congressman David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Congressman Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Congressman James McGovern (D-Mass.), and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) as well as the Armenian Assembly of America and Armenian Rug Society at a press conference marking the opening of White House display of the Armenian Orphan Rug.

Complete coverage of the press conference will be available later today.

Additional images from the White House display of the Armenian Orphan Rug are available here.

After long decades in storage, and following Congressional pressure and a nationwide Armenian American grassroots campaign to secure its release, the White House has agreed to the display of the Armenian Orphan Rug, woven by orphan survivors of the Armenian Genocide and gifted to U.S. President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 in appreciation for U.S. humanitarian assistance following Turkey’s mass murder of over 1.5 million Armenians and other Christians.

The White House is displaying the Armenian Orphan Rug, also known as the Ghazir Rug, as part of an exhibit at the White House Visitors Center. The exhibit—entitled “Thank you to the United States: Three Gifts to Presidents in Gratitude for American Generosity Abroad”—will showcase the Ghazir rug, as well as the Sèvres vase, given to President Herbert Hoover in appreciation for feeding children in post-World War I France, and the Flowering Branches in Lucite, given to President Barack Obama in recognition of American support of the people of Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011. These three gifts to American presidents will be on display so visitors to the White House and those wishing to see the artifacts can view them.

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 President Coolidge on Dec. 4, 1925, in time for Christmas, with a label on the back of the rug, which reads “IN GOLDEN RULE GRATITUDE TO PRESIDENT COOLIDGE.”

The controversy surrounding the Armenian orphan rug erupted in October 2013, when the Washington Post and National Public Radio reported the White House’s abrupt and unexplained reversal of its agreement to lend the rug for a Dec. 16, 2013, exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute, organized in cooperation with the Armenian Cultural Foundation and the Armenian Rugs 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 November 2013, a bipartisan group of over 30 U.S. Representatives, led by Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and David Valadao (R-Calif.), called on the White House to reverse its decision. Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Representatives Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Nikki Tsongas (D-Mass.) also sent personal letters urging the White House to take action.

For the past year, Rep. Schiff has been working with members of the Armenian American community, as well as several of his colleagues, to convince the White House to reverse a 2013 decision to not allow the rug to be displayed. Display of the Armenian Orphan Rug is especially sensitive to the Turkish government, which objects to any official U.S. commemoration, directly or indirectly, of the Armenian Genocide.


  1. In my opinion, the Armenian Orphan Rug should have gone on display at The Smithsonian so that it could be viewed by a much larger number of visitors. The reason why it was not was never given.

    • That’s exactly why. IT would of been permanent at the Smithsonian. The weasel in office and the neocon and zionist decision makers of this country, decided to water down the significant of the rugs meaning. That’s all. It will be buried again after its display period is over.

    • You really think more people would have seen it at a private book launch event at the Smithsonian that would have lasted half a day at most, rather than one of several weeks display at the White House?

  2. It is shameful that this administration continues the non-recognition of the Armenian Genocide. It is shameful that even Obama cannot dispel the pressures of the Turkish administration. Yes, it is truly “a massive betrayal by the Obama administration.”

  3. As long as Turkey is a NATO member.
    As long as Jewish community in the US is so strong and intend to monopolize the ” Genocide” it is a very improbable goal of Armenian that US recognizes Armenian Genocide.

  4. I wish I could understand the reason for reluctance to honor the significance of this piece of work. The genocide happened. That is truth. A Turkish official warned my grandfather to take his family out of Armenia. He did. The years was 2014. The Armenian community has the right to know that all Turkish citizens were not evil. We also have the right to be able to honor our ancestors and countrymen/women. To hold this magnificent work of art hostage that was created by children who had suffered so much is cruel and mean spirited. I only wish I could see it.


  6. This absolute failure by this administration to give this beautiful reminder of Armenian genocide victims it’s full honor is yet another reminder why this administration is an absolute failure. To speak about how it came about is a necessary reminder of what took place to insure that it does not happen again. Failure to do so, the impotent appeasement of Turkey by our leadership legitimizes savagery of those events, like calling Fort Hood a case of ‘workplace violence’. I am not Armenian but am an East Eurpean immigrant. To me it is a sign of a national weakness, a shameful badge of cultural illiteracy to have a country like US where millions came to seek asylum from prosecution and violence to shirk our collective responsibility in educating those unfamiliar with such events. And, Ali Dabiri, how dare you blame another suffering culture for this administration’s insufferable cowering. Today’s events in Israel and obama’s commentary is even more toxic than usual. Put the blame where it lies – last time I checked, those whom you blame aren’t the ones who may be offended by this beautiful relic’s display. If people (not my family, because we knew history) don’t know it – teach them, speak up, shame the cowards. If I can do it, so should you. This rug matters today as much as it ever did. It belongs in Smithsonian, away from whims of politicians, particularly now. If Turkish government objects to recognition of factual horrors and learned nothing from its past, it is an approval and not to be tolerated.

    • Thank you Victoria, a very insightful commentary. You can imagine the frustrations we Armenians feel every time there is any mention of the genocide, or any thing that remotely commemorates it, it is again and quickly pushed under the rug. This a failing not just of this, but also of previous US administrations. America shouts loudly about dignity and what’s right and wrong, but conveniently turns away like a coward when it gets a bit problematic.
      All these years, all this fuss, all the uncertainty, all the deliberations, for a rug that seemingly will be on display for only five lousy days. Thanks for your heroic and altruistic stance America, The whole thing will be over soon, the rug will be mothballed and out of sight yet again before you know it.

  7. Verbal report of the genocide by my mother , whose family was severly victimized by Turkish terrorists in the early 1900’s, heightens my belief that the mind set of most Muslims in the name of Islam , has not changed where Christianity is involved and never will. To trust in their promises to be a peace-loving people is like trusting that the beautiful rug is a magic carpet. The genocide is a historical fact . It should be acknowledged by the government of the country in which it was birthed, preceding “The Holocaust” about a quarter century before.
    History repeats itself, sorry to say. Even so, some good does come forth in His time and survivors of those who endure will reap His reward. The rug was created and produced with loving remembrance. I hope it will be treated with respect.

  8. @Victoria,
    Regarding “another suffering culture”,

    Ali Dabiri’s post is based on the reality of what we have observed for the past several decades. Since you are not Armenian, perhaps you are not quite aware of exactly what the “other suffering culture” has been involved in for the past several decades where the recognition of the Armenian Genocide is concerned.

    To the factions of their community who hold power, I would ask the following. Considering how Jews went through their own genocide during WWII…

    1. Why are many Armenian Genocide denying authors Jewish, especially ones their community holds in high regard and calls them “renowned scholars”, instead of ‘Genocide denying pseudo-scholars’? [Example: Bernard Lewis]

    2. Why are American Jews in politics actively working to make sure the Armenian Genocide is not recognized in the US? In fact some of them have proven themselves such hypocrites, they have tried to make it look like they support our cause, while writing letters behind our backs against Genocide recognition. [Example: Jane Harmon]

    3. Why has Israel, the first country on this planet that should have recognized the Armenian Genocide, has not done it until this day, and to add insult to injury, starts throwing around Genocide recognition ideas the minute some conflict arises with Turkey?

    4. Why is Israel meddling in Armenia’s conflict and selling weapons to a terrorist nation like Azerbaijan causing deaths to Armenians on the front lines?

    5. Why are dishonorable American Jewish rabbis behaving like extremists and lying to the public about how “Azerbaijan has been a great friend of Israel and Jews for thousands of years” even though the Azeri hatchling just hatched out of an egg less than 100 years ago?

    6. Why are those same Rabbis <> who wrote letters based on that lie demanding that California NOT recognize Artsakh Armenian’s right to exist free of Azerbaijani terrorism?

    7. Why is their supposed “human rights” hypocrite organization, calling themselves the “Anti Defamation League”, deliberately and knowingly DEFAMING THE ENTIRE ARMENIAN COMMUNITY with their pro-Turkey, anti-Christian and anti-Armenian Genocide denial?

    8. Why aren’t there Jewish organizations which are not condemning all of the above in order TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, instead of just playing lip service to meet the minimum required to look like they are the good guy and doing the right thing where human rights and genocides are concerned?

    Yes, these points might be surprising and uncomfortable for some to read, but facts are facts. And I hate to say it, but in the future, the above mentioned will go down in our history for having been instrumental in preventing the Armenian Genocide recognized in the US before the important centennial, perhaps even more so than Turkey itself.

    Note: this is not to say that we do not appreciate the work of those honorable and honest Jews both from history and today who deserve the highest respect for standing besides truth and justice.

  9. Totally agree with Hagop D. What he states is factual .
    The Israeli Government, the Jewish Lobby in the US and the ADL, for reasons that cannot be rationally explained, and an unexplainable hidden agenda, have been consistent in denying the Genocide and lobbying against recognition.
    Admittedly, there have been exceptions who have been supportive and critical of the “policy” , but the “policy” has not changed. This is a mystery. What are they afraid of? What deal have they made with the
    Turks and the Azeris?
    Also , refer to my comments of 10/21 on the ” The U.S. and the Armenian Genocide” that was published on 10/17.
    Vart Adjemian

    • Well, in terms of the Azeris, Israel gets much needed oil (around 40% if that’s accurate) and they get to fly their UAVs to spy on Iran. For Israel, that’s far more important than a country named Armenia. The US, Russia and other major countries all do business with unsavory countries over moral objections. But for Israel, it’s more of an existential issue, and ironically, that’s something we can understand given Armenia’s situation. This is how the world is messed up and people die because of it.

      What Israel is doing with vis-a-vis the Karabakh conflict is wrong and they’re enabling the Azeris for waging a modern war, but I don’t think it’s hard to understand why they’re doing it. It’s a pro-Israel motivation rather than an explicit anti-Armnenian, even though Azeris will use Israeli weapons against Armenia.

  10. The Armenian Orphans’ Carpet displayed in the White House after a great effort from offspring of the genocided race of 1915, is not a rug…
I will repeat, any such beautiful piece, is a real Carpet, not a rug and never will be.

    The Orphans’ Carpet is shinning… still

    Like crystals…like diamonds…with its silk and wool threads

    Orphans’ petite hands were lights

    Hence till today still give lights

    Created by their angelic, innocent fingers
    Filled with joyful spirits from the past days
    That passed, none able to return …

    They lost their warm homes
…Their Altars

    Their belfries with voices of bells ringing on Sundays…

    Calling them to hymnate… “Surp~Surp” (divne~divine)

    They lost their beloveds’ hugs…
Their toys… their garden with flowers and fruitful trees…

    Their photos…
their antiques
    Their musical instruments: Pianos, Duduks, Violins, Drums, …

    Still they wanted to please 

    Those who saved them to breathe…
    Who made them to sing

    Their Gomidasian songs: Groong (crane), Andoni (homeless), …

    Can anyone understand how those orphans
that colorful Carpet
    under the moonlight to reach a large size:
    5.6 x 3.6 m (18.5 X 11.7 ft)
 with 4,404,206 knots?

    By laughs? … by jokes… by songs?

    Or eyes filled with trillion tears… stagnated blood ..?

    Still they did pray to God

    That they were saved from butchers’ hands…

    Sylva Portoian, MD

    (A poetic soul shines from well-known Genocide)
    November 19, 2014
    Written Instantly

  11. It’s is a beautiful rug both visually and metaphorically. Why doesn’t some enterprising soul reproduce the rug in a smaller commemorative version that we can buy for ourselves and distribute to US congress and world leaders on April 24th 2015. I’ve got $500 to contribute to get this project off the ground. How about one of you IT brainiacs get it going on kickstarter and one of you rug merchants figure out how to make it happen in Armenia or Artsakh.

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