U.S. House Recognizes Armenian Genocide (video)
After decades of lobbying by the Armenian community in the United States, the U.S. House Representatives overwhelmingly passed on Tuesday evening a landmark resolution recognizing the 1915 genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.
The resolution adopted by 405 votes to 11 calls on the U.S. government to “commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance” and to “reject” Turkish efforts to deny it. It says the government should also “encourage education and public understanding of the facts of the Armenian Genocide” and their “relevance to modern-day crimes against humanity.”
The resolution was introduced by several pro-Armenian U.S. lawmakers, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, in April. It reached the House floor after being backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. They both reaffirmed their support during an hour-long debate on the bill that preceded the vote.
“It’s a great day for the Congress,” Pelosi said, urging a “strong vote” for acknowledging “one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century.”
“This was genocide and it is important that we call this crime what it was,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said as he presented the resolution to fellow legislators. He called on them to finally “set the record straight.”
More than a dozen other lawmakers, most of them Democrats representing constituencies with large numbers of Armenian Americans, spoke during the ensuing debate. They all made a case for recognizing the World War One-era slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
“This is a vote which I have waited for 19 years to cast,” declared a visibly emotional Schiff.
"We cannot pick and choose which crimes against humanity are convenient to speak out against,” said the prominent Democrat from California. “What we must do is to state the fact that the Ottoman Empire committed this grotesque crime against the Armenians."
“Genocides, whenever and wherever they occur, cannot be ignored,” said Gus Bilirakis, a Florida Republican and a co-sponsor of the resolution.
Another Republican congressman, Christopher Smith of New Jersey, blasted Turkey for its “well-funded aggressive campaign of genocide denial”
The two leading Armenian-American lobby groups swiftly hailed the passage of the resolution. Bryan Ardouny, the executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, said it “reflects the best of America.”
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) likewise praised the U.S. House for ending “Ankara’s gag-rule against American remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.”