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Observing Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, 98 years ago today, the Ottoman Empire in Turkey launched one of the most horrific episodes in human history. The detention and eventual execution of hundreds of members of Turkey's ethnic Armenian minority launched a genocidal campaign of deportation and starvation in which more than 1.5 million people ultimately perished.

We mark Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, first, because those who perished deserve to be remembered, but we also do so as a reminder: a reminder of the horrible violence that ethnic hatred can inflame; a reminder that too often, governments have employed those hatreds and passions; and a reminder that the world's silence in the face of one such episode of atrocity can embolden others who would seek to emulate it. It is often noted that Adolph Hitler, in justifying his invasion of Poland in 1939, told his commanders: ``Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?'' Silence in the face of governments that abuse and oppress their people simply enables the perpetrators of violence and injustice.

I join the many members of the Armenian-American community and Armenians around the world in the hope that the Government of the Republic of Turkey which we should remember played no role in the Armenian genocide can work together with the Government of Armenia to heal the divisions that remain nearly a century after this dark episode. That should include an honest and forthright dialogue about the nature of the events and the impact that it has had which is still with us today. Already, the governments of these two nations have negotiated an agreement to open the border between them, an agreement that includes a pledge to establish an independent commission of historians to review and come to a common understanding of the events of a century ago. I am hopeful that this agreement can be ratified and implemented.

It is also worth remembering that Turkey, a vital U.S. ally, is playing an enormously important role in confronting a more recent atrocity: the death of thousands of Syrian civilians at the hands of a dictatorial government seeking to hold on to power at any cost. More than 75,000 Syrians have died in this strife, and more than 1 million of them are refugees. Many of those refugees have sought shelter in Turkey. I have joined with Senator McCain and others in calling for our government to explore additional ways of supporting the Syrian people and of supporting the efforts of Turkey and other nations to protect Syria's people. That call is motivated, in part, by the memory of historic episodes in which the community of nations has failed to act when confronted by such evil.

Our remembrance of the Armenian genocide makes it incumbent upon us to bear witness to this and other modern atrocities against human and civil rights. By our refusal to remain silent in the face of today's violence and injustice, we honor the victims of the Armenian genocide and other atrocities against decency and humanity.

Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the 98th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide based in part on the horrific crimes perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian people in the early 20th Century.

Between 1915 and 1923, more than 1.5 million Armenians were marched to their deaths in the deserts of the Middle East, murdered in concentration camps, drowned at sea, and forced to endure horrific acts of brutality at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

Yet, in the 65 years that have passed since the Convention was adopted, successive U.S. administrations have refused to call the deliberate massacre of the Armenians by its rightful name genocide.

For many years, I have urged both Democratic and Republican administrations to finally acknowledge the truth. I do so again today. It is long past time for our government to acknowledge, once and for all, that the Armenian genocide is a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence.

In fact, the Armenian genocide along with the Holocaust is one of the most studied cases of genocide in history. Tragically, Adolf Hitler even used the Ottoman Empire's action against the Armenians to justify the extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust, saying in 1939, ``Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?''

A number of sovereign nations, ranging from Argentina to France, as well as 43 out of 50 U.S. States have recognized what happened to the Armenians as genocide. Yet successive U.S. administrations continue only to refer to the Armenian genocide as an annihilation, massacre, or murder.

The entire Armenian community and the descendants of the victims of the Armenian genocide continue to suffer prolonged pain each and every day that goes by without full acknowledgement by the United States.

I hope that this is the year that we finally right this terrible wrong because the United States cannot and does not turn a blind eye to atrocities around the globe. In fact, the United States is often the first to speak out in the face of violence and unspeakable suffering and to urge other countries to respond. But sadly, our Nation is on the wrong side of history when it comes to the Armenian genocide.

So this April 24, as we pause to remember the victims and to celebrate the many contributions Armenian Americans have made to our great country, I hope that the United States will finally and firmly stand on the right side of history and officially condemn the crimes of 1915 to 1923 by their appropriate name.


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