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Armenian Genocide--Personal Account

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

ARMENIAN GENOCIDE--PERSONAL ACCOUNT -- (House of Representatives - July 16, 2007)

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 would like to take this opportunity to discuss the irrefutable fact of the Armenian genocide. Looking at the history of this catastrophic event from 1915 to 1918 and the impact it had on the Armenian people, it is impossible to deny that this was indeed genocide by all accounts. But one way, Mr. Speaker, to bear witness to the truth is to make reference to personal accounts when the genocide occurred at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

Thousands of Armenians have their own account of the horrific events their families had to endure, but tonight I would like to tell the story of one person, Mrs. Haigoohi Hanessian, from Syracuse, New York.

Mrs. Hanessian was born in 1906 in Taurus, Turkey. In 1909, her family fled from their home after receiving word that the Turks were leading a massacre on all Armenians in the area. They took refuge in an institution, and I should say they took refuge, Mr. Speaker, in an American institution, and finally returned to their home only to find it burned to the ground. After traveling and staying with family in different areas, they eventually moved back to Taurus, Turkey.

Yet, again, in 1915, the Armenians were being exiled. Her family was forced to board a train with an unknown destination. With thousands of others, they were herded into these trains, confined in small boxcars for days with no food and no water. Mrs. Hanessian recalls that if someone died on the train, they were simply thrown off the train and were left on the side of the tracks.

When they finally arrived at their destination, they were placed in barracks. She speaks of the sentiments towards the Armenians at the time, stating, ``They wanted all the Armenians to vanish from the Earth. Instead of killing them, they suffered and died.''

The Armenians were then marched through desert towards Syria in extreme heat, again with no food and no water. On the way, many died and were left to rot. After they reached a small village in Syria, they stayed until they were told to move again. She remembers, ``An order came from all the General Headquarters that all Armenians either be killed or deny their religion and become Muslims.'' Many people converted to save their lives, while others died to preserve their faith.

The Armenians were forced to relocate from village to village. They were left with no money and no supplies, and had to find ways to survive. She said, ``You couldn't get in touch with anybody. You didn't know what to do. We were hungry. It was terrible. We were all dying. We were just skeletons, no food, no nothing.''

Unlike much of Mrs. Hanessian's family who died or disappeared in the genocide, she survived and was able to relocate to the United States and rebuild her life in Syracuse, New York. She has since passed away, but not before she left her story behind, and I am proud to be able to retell her memories, which must never be forgotten.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to express my support this evening for swift passage of H. Resolution 106, reaffirming the Armenian Genocide. The resolution now has a majority of the Members of the House as cosponsors on a bipartisan basis.

As the first genocide of the 20th century, it is morally imperative that we remember this atrocity and collectively demand reaffirmation of this crime against humanity. By properly affirming the Armenian genocide, we can also help ensure its legacy and rightfully honor its victims and survivors like Mrs. Hanessian.

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