Crimes against humanity cannot go unanswered: Rep. Schiff commemorates 109th anniversary of Armenian Genocide

Today, Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Vice Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, released the following statement to commemorate the 109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The statement was also submitted for the Congressional Record.

Read Schiff’s full statement below:

“One hundred and nine years ago, the Ottoman Empire began a concerted and systemic effort to destroy the Armenian people. Armenians from all walks of life, including writers, doctors, and teachers, were rounded up and brutally murdered, clergy were tortured and burned alive in churches, women and girls were brutalized, raped and killed, sons and daughters witnessed their fathers being murdered, and children and the elderly died of exhaustion and starvation on a forced march to Deir ez-Zor. 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children, entire families, were wiped out in an act of mass premeditated murder.

The facts of the genocide are horrific and undisputed by historians. They were recorded by American diplomats serving in the Ottoman Empire at the time who bore witness in official cables to the annihilation of the Armenian population. The U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time, Henry Morgenthau, described it as a “campaign of race extermination.” It was the first genocide of the 20thCentury – a term coined by Raphäel Lempkin partly in response to this barbarity.

Despite overwhelming and ever-increasing evidence of this methodical mass killing, Turkey has long engaged in a dangerous campaign to deny the genocide and to silence anyone who seeks to speak the truth.

I have sat down with survivors. I have been welcomed into their homes. I have listened to their stories of how their parents, aunts and uncles were murdered, how their property and the lives that their families built were destroyed. I have watched them relive the pain over and over, reopening the wound to keep the history of their families alive.

The United States will no longer stand in dishonorable silence. In 2019, the U.S. House passed my resolution officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide by a near unanimous and bipartisan margin. That same year, the U.S. Senate also passed a resolution affirming the facts of the Armenian Genocide. And in 2021, President Biden finally cast aside decades of shameful silence by our nation to become the first sitting U.S. President to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.

These historic achievements happened because of a resilient and enduring Armenian community and diaspora, and decades of work. It’s a testament to the efforts of thousands of activists, organizations, communities, and faith leaders. It’s a victory for human rights and for truth itself, and it’s something that we achieved working together.

But we know there remains so much important work to do. These wounds are still open, they have not fully healed and in tragic ways, some grow even larger.

To this day, President Aliyev of Azerbaijan echoes the genocidal language and actions of more than a century ago with the support of Turkey. Beginning on September 27, 2020, and over 44 days, Azerbaijani forces invaded and murdered innocent Armenians in Artsakh and displaced tens of thousands more. They continued to terrorize the people of Artsakh in subsequent military attacks, and by blocking the Lachin corridor, leaving 120,000 ethnic Armenian people without access to food, water, medical supplies and services, gas, and electricity for over 9 months. And then in 2023, the Aliyev regime took full advantage of a people they had systematically starved to ethnically cleanse Artsakh’s indigenous Armenian population.

As we mark the 109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide with pledges of “never again,” the democratic and peaceful Armenian people face threats like never before. There is real and growing concern that Aliyev has his eyes set on land beyond Artsakh. To this day, Azerbaijani forces remain present on sovereign Armenian land, in violation of Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Though the United States and international partners have condemned Azerbaijan’s aggression and military assault against Armenians, the time for strong statements alone has clearly long passed. Condemnation must be followed by real meaningful consequences. The United States must hold Azerbaijan and its leadership accountable. Crimes against humanity cannot be ignored and cannot go unanswered.

The United States must suspend military assistance to Azerbaijan, impose Global Magnitsky Act sanctions on Azerbaijani officials complicit in war crimes and other gross human rights violations, call for Azerbaijan’s release of Armenian prisoners of war, hostages, leaders of Artsakh, and other illegally detained persons, and urge the immediate withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces from the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia.

Further, we must provide robust humanitarian assistance to Armenia and the Armenian people, advocate for the right of displaced persons and refugees to return to their homes in Artsakh, with a commitment to safeguarding their individual and collective property rights. Finally, we must also call attention to the destruction and desecration of Armenian religious and cultural sites by Azerbaijan and urge their safeguarding and preservation.

On this solemn anniversary, as we pause to remember the innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide, we also reflect on the resilience of those who survived, and the perseverance of their children and grandchildren, who built new lives in the United States and around the world, speak the beautiful Armenian language, and enrich our nation with the Armenian culture and heritage. Armenians refused to let the Genocide define their lives or to limit their future potential. Instead, they showed the world that Armenians could face the future with courage, knowing that they have already overcome the worst atrocities of the past.

Despite the struggles the Armenian people have faced and continue to face, it has not broken their faith, determination, or their will to press on. They have overcome the harshest of trials, and yet, they remain strong and unbowed, in Los Angeles, in Yerevan, and around the world. I will always stand with the Armenian community.”

Schiff’s 30th Congressional District, which includes the cities of Burbank and Glendale, is home to the largest Armenian diaspora community in the country. In 2019, the U.S. House passed Schiff’s resolution officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide with broad bipartisan support.

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