The Chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee – the two powerful Congressional panels with oversight over U.S. foreign policy – joined with their colleagues on the evening of April 24th on Capitol Hill in rallying bipartisan support for a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In moving remarks, Chairman Menendez stressed that there should not be any verbal equivocation when dealing with genocide: “So let’s be perfectly clear, there is no other word for it; there is no euphemism; there is no avoiding it; there are no excuses. As part of this commemoration we must fully commit ourselves to acknowledging the fundamental truth that what happened from 1915-1923 was by definition a blatant act of genocide – an acknowledgement that must come from Turkey, and it must come from our own government.”
Chairman Royce reviewed how Ottoman Turkish authorities made no effort, at the time of the Genocide, to hide their intent to destroy the Armenian people: “The events that we remember today, that commenced 98 years ago is not only still today – shocking – the genocide, or as Hitler said the annihilation. [. . .] An attempt to annihilate an entire race, in which the American Ambassador Henry Morgenthau was present at the time – an observer – and said that these deportations were an attempt to annihilate a race and that those who gave the orders understood it. And that far from trying to conceal it, they shared with him, what indeed would be the outcome.”
The Armenian Genocide remembrance, held before a standing-room-only crowd in the Hart Senate Office Building, was hosted by the Congressional Armenian Caucus, with prominent attorney and Capitol Hill veteran Sarig Armenian serving as Master of Ceremonies. In addition to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), others offering remarks and participating in the remembrance were: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Joe Crowley (D-NY), the Vice-Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus; Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Representatives Tony Cardenas (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Janice Hahn (D-CA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), John Tierney (D-MA), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Niki Tsongas (D-MA). Legislators, including Senators Jack Reid (D-RI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Representative Linda Sanchez extended support for the program and widely publicized the event using social media.
“Armenian Americans from across the nation came together today to deliver a powerful message to Congress about our community’s enduring commitment to a truthful, just, and comprehensive resolution of the Armenian Genocide,” said Aram Hamparian, ANCA Executive Director. “We thank all those from our community and among our coalition partners who joined us on Capitol Hill. And, of course, we want to express our appreciation to all the legislators, Republican and Democratic, who are working to promote our nation’s values and advance our regional security interests by ending Turkey’s denial of truth and obstruction of justice for this crime against all humanity.”
In the weeks leading up to April 24th, the ANCA formally invited scores of senior Administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, to attend the April 24th Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide remembrance. On the morning of the observance, after weeks of consideration, the State Department informed the ANCA that, as a matter of policy, the Obama Administration had decided not to participate in the event, or even to arrange for a single official to be present at the Congressional program. The State Department remains set, however, over ANCA’s objections, to send U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone to speak at an April 26th Washington, DC conference of the ATAA, a group devoted, in large part, to the denial of the Armenian Genocide.
As in years past, the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues – co-chaired by Representatives Grimm and Pallone – was joined by Armenian American organizations, the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, and the Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in hosting the event. In addition to remarks by legislators, powerful speeches of solidarity with the global movement for a just resolution of the Armenian Genocide were offered by Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Tatoul Markarian, and Republic of Nagorno Karabakh Representative Robert Avetisyan.
The program’s opening prayer was offered by Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the Legate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, and the benediction was given by Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern U.S., who, once again this year, also opened the April 24th session of the U.S. House with a prayer broadcast nationwide on C-SPAN. As has become a tradition in recent years, the reach of the program was multiplied by social media, with Senators and citizens alike posting photos, tweeting impressions, and emailing updates throughout the event.