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American Foreign Service Association Award Withdrawn

Location: Washington, DC


The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to express my disappointment with the American Foreign Service Association, and its decision to withdraw awarding a "Constructive Dissent" award to U.S. Armenian Ambassador John Evans.

Ambassador Evans was due to receive the Christian A. Heter Award for intellectual courage, initiative, and integrity later this week. The award was as a result of courageous statements he made regarding the recognition of the Armenian genocide.

In a series of public statements, Ambassador Evans, who has studied Russian history at Yale and Columbia and Ottoman history at the Kennan Institute stated, "I will today call it the Armenian genocide."

Mr. Speaker, Ambassador Evans has studied history of Armenia, and based on his substantial studies of the issue, he is willing to go on the record and define the actions taken Armenians as genocide. The Armenian genocide was the systematic extermination, the murder, of 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children. To this day, the Republic of Turkey refuses to acknowledge the fact that this massive crime against humanity took place on soil under its control, and in the name of Turkish nationalism.

Unfortunately, some 90 years later, the U.S. State Department continues to support Turkey's demands and denials despite all evidence to the contrary. It is not likely that the State Department was happy that their Ambassador to Armenia acknowledged the Armenian genocide. And, therefore, Ambassador Evans retracted his remarks after receiving substantial pressure from the State Department.

Well, now the selection committee at the American Foreign Service Association has decided to withdraw the award with no reason for its actions. I find the timing of the decision peculiar. The sharp turnaround came right before Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan arrived in Washington for a meeting with President Bush. Based on past history, it is clear that the State Department, the Bush administration, and the pro-Turkish lobby pressured AFSA to withdraw Ambassador Evans' award.

It is simply unacceptable for this administration to continue to penalize the ambassador for his comments. Ambassador Evans did a courageous thing. His statements did not contradict U.S. policy, but rather articulated the same message that this administration has sent to the public. The only difference in this case is that Ambassador Evans assigned a word to define the actions taken against the Armenians.

This was a refreshing break, I must add, from a pattern on the part of the State Department of using evasive and euphemistic terminology to obscure the full reality of the Armenian genocide. Ambassador Evans pointed out, and I quote, that no American official has ever denied it, and went on to say, and I quote, I think we, the U.S. Government, owe you, our fellow citizens, a more frank and honest way of discussing this problem.

Ambassador Evans was merely recounting the historical record, which has been attested to by over 120 Holocaust and genocide scholars from around the world. By doing this, he earned a prestigious award that was taken from him because of politics and denial.

Mr. Speaker, I want to add my voice to all those who, in Ambassador Evans' own words, and again I am quoting, think it is unbecoming of us as Americans to play word games here. I believe in calling things by their name. Evans was right, and the American Foreign Service Association was correct in awarding him the Christian A. Herter Award. We should encourage our Ambassadors to speak the truth, and, more broadly, end, once and for all, our complicity in Turkey's campaign of genocide denial.

Mr. Speaker, Ambassador Evans has been penalized for simply telling the truth. The American Foreign Service Association has set a terrible example by retracting Ambassador Evans' award. I guess, even in America, the Turkish Government is able to stifle debate.

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