White House: Displaying the Orphan Rug would be an inappropriate use of U.S. government property

Coolidge_Armenian_Orphan_RugIn a new twist to efforts to call attention to the Armenian genocide, a group of lawmakers has accused the Obama administration of blocking a Smithsonian display of a rug woven by orphans of the mass killings about a century ago, The Los Angeles Times writes.

The lawmakers have written to President Obama urging him to make available the rug, presented in 1925 to President Calvin Coolidge and in storage as part of the White House collection, for exhibition. The bipartisan group includes more than a dozen representatives from California, which has a large Armenian American population.

The roughly 12-foot-by-18-foot Armenian Orphan Rug was to be featured in a Dec. 16 exhibit at the SmithsonianCastle in Washington that sought to call attention to a new book about the rug, which the lawmakers called a “pivotal icon related to the Armenian Genocide.”

A White House spokeswoman said Tuesday that displaying the rug “for only half a day in connection with a private book launch event, as proposed, would have been an inappropriate use of U.S. government property, would have required the White House to undertake the risk of transporting the rug for limited public exposure, and was not viewed as commensurate with the rug’s historical significance.”

Aram S. Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, attributed the decision to politics, contending it was due to the administration “catering to the Turkish government’s sensitivities about the Armenian genocide.”

“It is without a doubt a political decision,” he said in an interview. Hamparian was in New York City on Tuesday to take up the issue with the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, John A. Heffern.

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