In the U.S. Capitol, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) joined Armenian Americans and members of Congress on April 18 to commemorate the horrific Armenian Genocide.
Below are Chairman Royce’s remarks:
“In the grey pre-dawn, the plan was executed while the city slept. Ottoman authorities surged onto the streets of Istanbul and detained more than 270 Armenian civic and religious leaders. Those leaders would never return home; instead, they would become the first victims of the Armenian genocide.
Following this first wave, the ethnic cleansing expanded to ethnic Armenians throughout Turkey. In the end, more than 1.5 million innocent men, women and children would be killed, and over 500,000 would be forced from their homeland.
These are more than statistics to many here tonight.
After speaking with you over the years, I know that many of your families lost loved ones to the violence, and your stories have impacted me deeply. In fact, I first heard about the genocide from a man from my community who had been orphaned as a result of the genocide. His experience inspired me to author a resolution as a California state senator to recognize the Armenian Genocide, with the support of then-Governor George Deukmejian. It was the first resolution of its kind to be passed by any state, and I am pleased to see that today 48 states have passed similar resolutions.
Your accounts bear witness to the truth. Your voices are needed to educate the next generation about the genocide. As we have seen, since the days immediately following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire until today, there have been those who have worked to deny the genocide and silence its witnesses. Truth does not stand in the company of caveats, euphemisms or qualifications. It stands fearlessly and unapologetically on its own – and so should the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide.
That is why I have repeatedly called on various U.S. administrations to call the horrific violence of 1915 by its true name, and officially recognize it as the Armenian Genocide. Just this week I have joined with several of my House colleagues on a letter to President Trump, urging him again to refer to the genocide in his April 24th commemoration remarks.
I am also an original cosponsor of H. Res. 220, expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should learn the difficult lessons from past genocides, including the Armenian genocide, to prevent similar horrors from occurring again. For we have seen that brutal dictators have not only admitted that the Armenian Genocide occurred, but have studied it for lessons as they designed their own genocidal campaigns.
For example, Adolf Hitler took note of the apathetic international response to the genocide. He used that as an example to persuade the German military, and asserted that while committing genocide elicited condemnations, there were no real consequences for a nation that perpetrated one. As he famously said in a speech to Wehmacht officers on August 22, 1939, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
We have no hope to get the future right if we continue to get the past wrong.
We cannot remain silent any longer.
Genocide deniers in Turkey, the Middle East, Europe and even here at home are gaining traction in their attempts to whitewash history and convert the genocide into mere ‘consequences of war.’ Genocide perpetrators continue to believe that there is a chance for impunity in the conduct of their crimes against humanity, as we have seen in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda and even today in ISIS-held territory in Syria and Iraq. Shocking genocidal acts are being carried out within ISIS territory. Armenian Christians and other minorities are targeted for violence. Hundreds have been enslaved, raped, tortured, and even crucified.
In response to those reports, I authored the final text of H. Con. Res. 75 in the last Congress, calling for the administration to recognize these actions as part of a genocidal campaign and managed it through our committee and to House passage. Our action motivated the previous administration to do the right thing and finally condemn these ISIS actions as genocide. Our compassion for the victims of the ISIS genocide in Syria is one shared by our friend and partner Armenia. It is an inspirational dynamic in our relationship.
Years ago, the generosity of the U.S. people provided over $117 million in charitable assistance through the Near East Relief to survivors of the first genocide of the 20thcentury. Now, the descendants of those survivors are paying that generosity forward to the victims of this 21st century genocide. In fact, Armenia has welcomed more than 22,000 Armenian refugees, and provided them with housing assistance, medical care and a path to citizenship.
I will continue to support these efforts to protect lives today, as well as working to honor the millions of innocent lives that were lost in the Armenian Genocide.”