Today, the House passed H.Res 296, which I introduced along with Representative Gus Bilirakis, to recognize and commemorate the Armenian Genocide. This is a vote I have fought to make possible for 19 years; one that tens of thousands of my Armenian American constituents have waited decades to see. It is a moment that so many have worked and struggled and prayed for. Today, the House of Representatives refused to be enlisted in the cause of genocide denial.
This April, the world marked the 104th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians and the displacement of millions more by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923. Many other religious and ethnic minorities in the Ottoman Empire met similar fates, among them the Greeks, Assyrians, and Chaldeans. More than a century after the Armenian Genocide, it is our solemn responsibility to remember those who were lost, to seek justice and restitution, and to educate Americans and the world about the crime of genocide.
It is always the right time to recognize genocide, but it is particularly so today. For when we see the images of terrified Kurdish families in Northern Syria, loading their possessions into cars or carts and fleeing their homes headed to nowhere except away from Turkish bombs and marauding militias, how can we say the crimes of a century ago are in the past?
We cannot. We cannot pick and choose which crimes against humanity are convenient to speak about. We cannot cloak our support for human rights in euphemisms. We cannot be cowed into silence by a foreign power.
What we can do – what we must do – is state the facts. We can say that the Ottoman Empire committed this grotesque crime against the Armenians, but their campaign of extermination failed; and that, above all, we will never forget and we will never again be intimidated into silence.