Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern this week managed rule debate on the House Floor for H.Res. 296, a resolution recognizing and memorializing the Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the 20th Century. Lasting from 1915 to 1923, more than 1.5 million Armenians were killed, as well as members of many other religious and ethnic minority groups. Though several proclamations have been issued by the Executive Branch and measures passed by Congress over the years, none in modern times have stated the facts while clearly calling this conflict what it was – a genocide. With passage of this resolution, the United States will finally join 31 other nations and 49 out of 50 states in fully acknowledging the facts about the Armenian Genocide.
Excerpts from McGovern’s speech:
“M. Speaker, this rule is about U.S. leadership. Standing for human rights. And whether we are going turn to a blind eye to atrocities – even if they took place 100 years ago. H.Res. 296 is a resolution formally recognizing and memorializing the Armenian Genocide. And let me say it is about time.
“1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Empire and the emerging nation of Turkey over a century ago. Tens of thousands of Armenians were violently expelled from their ancestral homelands!
“These truths are important. Acknowledging them is important. Yet, the United States has only tinkered around the edges of recognizing this reality. Some of our nation’s closest allies already have – 31 nations in fact. Countries like Canada, Italy, France, Poland, Sweden and Germany. Even Russia has recognized this genocide! …
“White House statements and Congressional resolutions over the years have referred to “mass atrocities” and other euphemisms. But nothing in recent times has fully recognized it by calling it what it actually was – a genocide.
“We need to speak the truth, M. Speaker. 49 of our own 50 states have formally recognized the Armenian Genocide. But the federal government has not. This is a dark stain on our human rights record. The United States should stand foursquare for human rights. Anything short of that sends exactly the wrong message to abusers around the globe.
“M. Speaker, I represent a congressional district in central Massachusetts. It is the home to the oldest Armenian community in America. The first Armenian Orthodox church in America was built in Worcester, Massachusetts, my home town. People still worship in it today.
“When I was first elected in 1996, we had rows and rows of pews filled with survivors of the Armenian Genocide sitting at the front of the church during our annual April remembrance of the Armenian Genocide. Sadly, almost two years ago, the last of our survivors, Rose, passed away.
“I have learned so much from this community. And to those who insist that now is not the time for us to recognize the Armenian Genocide, I have to ask in return – when will it be the right time? When the very last survivor of the genocide has passed away?
“Those who want the world to forget; those who want to deny genocide – they believe that history will be erased with the last eye-witness to genocide.
“I must be honest, M. Speaker. As many political leaders have proclaimed “never again” over the years, the Armenian-American community has been left to wonder when “never again” would finally become “enough is enough.”
“With this resolution, the United States will join the ranks of the many nations, parliaments and institutions that have fully recognized and commemorated the Armenian Genocide. We will speak out clearly in favor of human rights. Finally, we will say loud and clear that “enough is enough….”
“Standing up for human rights is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an American issue. Even in an age of heightened partisanship, this Congress must still be capable of speaking with one voice against genocide and crimes against humanity – no matter when they took place.”