U.S. House votes to recognise 1915 Armenian Genocide

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday adopted a resolution to formally recognise the Armenian genocide in a 405 to 11 vote.

Turkey maintains that the events were not deliberate or coordinated, but brought on by conditions of war during the tumultuous period. Official state policy says the number of Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives during the period from 1915 to 1923 was much lower than the 1.5 million that most scholars agree on.

The country has successfully lobbied against any attempts to vote on a resolution for the recognition of the genocide in the United States to date. 

An hour-long discussion was held in the House before the vote on Tuesday, with several representatives expressing opinions.

Many representatives likened the 1915 events to Turkey's current actions against Syrian Kurds.

Representative Steny H. Hoyer said the resolution recognises the “horrific and systematic efforts to commit genocide against the Armenian people.”

“As the House joins in condemnation of that genocide and memorializes its victims, let us also keep our attention focused on populations today that are being subjected to ethnic cleansing and forced relocation,” Hoyer said. 

“Our Kurdish allies who fought so courageously to help us defeat ISIS are being forced to leave their homes by Turkey’s campaign to seize control of… Northern Syria. Let today’s action in this House be a reminder, Mr. Speaker, to President Erdoğan and his government that the United States is watching. The American people will not turn our eyes away. Neither will we turn our eyes away from the millions of others in Syria who have been displaced and the hundreds of thousands who have been killed; who have been bombed, gassed, and brutalized by the Assad regime and its enablers.”

Representative Frank Pallone said, “It’s our duty to honour that history with an honest, factual statement recognizing the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians as the 20th century’s first genocide.”

“The United States must never accept crimes against humanity and we must do everything in our power to prevent and stop atrocities unfolding in real-time. What is currently taking place in Syria, the killing of the Kurds at the hands of the Turkish president Erdogan is unacceptable. And it is far past time for the Turkish government to accept its responsibility for systematic ex-termination of Armenians in the past century and to commit to protect the dignity of every human life in this century.”

Representative Jim Costa said, “These innocent men and women and children became the victims of the first genocide as we know in the 20th century.”

“The horrors of the Armenian genocide can never, ever, ever be undone, yet by acknowledging the suffering of these veterans through the official recognition of the official recognition of the Armenian genocide we can ensure that at least future generations will never forget.”

Representative Jim McGovern said, “To not appropriately acknowledge the genocide only paves the way for future dictators and authoritarians to commit similar atrocities.”

Representative David Cicilline said he supports the recognition of “the horror of the genocide against the Armenian people between 1913 and 1925, killing 1,5 million martyrs.”

“There’s no question that the Ottoman Empire carried out a systemic campaign of persecution, forced removal, starvation and murder against Armenians along with other Christian minorities living under ottoman rule.”

Representative Gus Bilirakis said, “Today we end a century of international silence that will not be another period of indifference or international ignorance to the lives lost through systematic murder.”

“Our darkest moments as a human race have come during times from those who knew better stood silently making excuses and allowing injustice and persecution to reign. Turkey’s current actions against our Kurdish allies are extremely concerning and we cannot stand by and let egregious human rights violations happen. Turkey’s offensive in Syria is unacceptable behaviour from a U.S. ally.”

Representative Anna Eshoo, who is one of three members of the House and Senate of Armenian descent, said members of her own family were among those that perished.

“The United States has been missing in action on the honour roll of over two dozen countries, 14 of which are allies and 49 states and our country that have formally recognized the Armenian genocide and today we can end over 100 years of silence by passing this resolution and there is a historic parallel as we are considering this resolution that Turkey is pursuing the ethnic cleansing of Kurds in Syria as we meet today.”

Representative Adam Schiff said, “This is a vote I have fought for 19 years to cast.”

“To deny genocide, on the other hand, is profane. It is in the words of Elie Wiezel a double killing. It is always the right time to recognize genocide but particularly so today. 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, how can we truly say the crimes of a century ago are in the past? We cannot.”

Representative Eliot Engel said, “Only by shining a light on the darkest parts of our history can we learn not to repeat them.”