Washington, D.C.- U.S. Representative Robert Menendez (D-NJ) made the following statement on passage by the House International Relations Committee of a bill to commemorate the Armenian genocide and urge Turkey to acknowledge the culpability of the Ottoman Empire in the genocide and separate legislation calling on the president to ensure that U.S. foreign policy reflects appropriate understanding of the Armenian genocide:
Mr. Chairman, the resolutions on the Armenian Genocide that we are voting on today ask us to do just that – to remember. They simply ask that we remember that the Ottoman Empire brutally tortured and murdered 1.5 million Armenians 90 years ago and that half a million Armenians were forced to flee their country.
They ask us to honor those who survived the genocide. Although few survivors of the Armenian Genocide are still living today, those who endured the horrors of 1915 are heroes for all time. They ask that we honor those who died and call for recognition of the Genocide carried about by the Ottoman Turkish government. And they ask that we remember, so we don’t repeat the same tragedy, anywhere, in any country of the world.
In my view, all Americans must recognize that the atrocities committed from 1915 to 1923 constitute genocide. We do not use that word lightly. But the word, itself, makes a powerful statement about the horrors suffered by the Armenian people. As Samantha Powers, a leading expert on genocide said in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, “The extermination of Armenians is recognized as genocide by the consensus of scholars of genocide and Holocaust worldwide. The failure to acknowledge this trivializes a human rights crime of enormous magnitude.”
Today, the people of Armenia and her diaspora are proudly seeking to rebuild their country. From the ashes of despair born of the genocide, and from the ravages of seven decades of communist rule, Armenians the world over are striving to secure a safe and prosperous future for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh.
As Armenian-Americans join with Armenians from throughout the world to help to rebuild their homeland, and as they seek to secure an economically prosperous state founded on firm democratic principles, I will stand by them. Just as this Congress, and this country, should stand by them.
That is why I am proud to cosponsor both of the resolutions before us today. Both of these resolutions simply ask us to remember, and to acknowledge, the Genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire so that we may honor the victims.
I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of these resolutions, not only to remember the atrocities committed in the past and to honor the victims and survivors, but also to take fundamental steps towards ensuring that all people, whether they are Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Cambodian, or Rwandan, receive protection from policies of discrimination and hate that lead can lead to genocide.