WASHINGTON, DC – In a major blow to Ankara’s obstruction of justice for the Armenian Genocide, the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to pass H.Res.296, an Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)-backed measure locking in ongoing U.S. recognition of this crime and officially rejecting Turkey’s denial of the genocide it committed against Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Maronites and other Christian nations. The Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.296) was adopted by a vote of 405 to 11 with three voting present.
“The ANCA welcomes the U.S. House of Representatives vote overriding the longest-lasting foreign veto in American history, Ankara’s gag-rule against honest American remembrance of the Armenian Genocide,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We must now move forcefully toward a truthful, just and comprehensive resolution of Turkey’s crime against humanity that killed over 1.5 million innocent Armenians.”
The ANCA has consistently pushed back against Turkey’s denials, striving to put America on the right side of the Armenian Genocide. Hamparian continued, “While much can be said of today’s vote – this is crystal clear. First, this vote exposed – in powerful ways – Ankara’s attempts to enlist America in its obstruction of justice for the Armenian Genocide. Second, this vote places America on the side of justice, which has, for far too long, been denied to the victims and surviving generations of the Armenian Genocide.”
The Armenian Genocide Resolution establishes, as a matter of U.S. policy, 1) the rejection of Armenian Genocide denial, 2) ongoing official U.S. government recognition and remembrance of this crime, and 3) support for education about the Armenian Genocide in order to help prevent modern-day atrocities.
In the hours leading up to Tuesday’s vote on the House floor, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) delivered rather emotional remarks in his unyielding support of the resolution. “We cannot pick and choose which crimes against humanity are convenient to speak about. We cannot cloak our support of human rights and euphemisms. We cannot be cowed into silence by a foreign power,” said Congressman Schiff. “But what we can do, what we must do…is state the facts. We can say that the Ottoman Empire committed this grotesque crime against the Armenians, but their campaign of extermination failed. And above all, we will never forget…we will never again be silenced.”
Schiff was instrumental in leading the House effort along with Gus Bilirakis (R-FL). Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) are spearheading the Senate measure (S.Res.150).
Dozens of advocates from the ANCA-Eastern Region were in Washington, DC this week for the historic vote. “After we saw the final vote, we were cheering and crying in the gallery against the rules and no one cared,” recalled ANC-Michigan co-chair Georgi-Ann Oshagan in her statement to the Weekly. “Members of Congress were cheering with us from the floor.” Oshagan says several members including Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Donna Shalala (D-FL) came up to the gallery from the House floor to celebrate with the group; she said so many of these elected officials were emotional during their formal remarks. “I think this vote was cathartic and cleansing for the 405 supporting members as it was for us,” said Oshagan. “Our ancestors were watching and fueled the whole thing. It was an unforgettable day and will keep us going until we obtain full justice with reparations. We aren’t done yet.”
“Decades of hard work paid off today,” said ANCA national board member Ani Tchaghlasian in her remarks to the Weekly. “In the face of cynicism, skepticism and disbelief even within our own community, we never wavered in our staunch belief that this day would come.” Tchaghlasian expressed her gratitude to the hundreds of activists and Armenian-American citizens who called and urged their representatives to support this initiative through the ANCA online portal. “Today marked a small step towards justice,” she continued. “We are just getting started. We celebrate today but must regroup tomorrow for tangible justice for the Armenian nation. Onwards we march towards reparations.”
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