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93rd Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Location: Washington, DC

93RD ANNIVERSARY OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE -- (House of Representatives - April 24, 2008)

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

Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, today we mark the 93rd anniversary of the onset of the Armenian genocide. It is on this date that the Ottoman officials captured more than 200 Armenian intellectual leaders and placed them in prison. Unfortunately, these actions were only the beginning of the Ottoman-led atrocities against the Armenians.

During the following years, at least 1.5 million Armenians were arrested and compelled to march hundreds of miles to what is today the Syrian desert. And along the way, prisoners of all ages endured hunger, thirst, rape, sexual abuse, and other forms of torture.

While it is difficult for us to commemorate these terrible acts each year, we must continue to remember those horrors that can occur when governments persecute citizens based on ethnicity or religious affiliation.

We often hear those words of George Santayana's famous quote that, ``Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'' And these words are ringing true today as well. Already, there are those who deny that the Armenian genocide occurred despite the vast evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, our generation has seen its own mass murders occur in Rwanda and Sudan.

So, I urge my colleagues in the majority to bring House Resolution 106, which commemorates these atrocities that occurred only a few generations ago, to the House Floor for a vote. Now is the time for America to officially ensure that U.S. foreign policy reflects sensitivity concerning human rights issues.

Just yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting Alice Khachadoorian-Shnorhokian. Alice is a resident of Mahwah, New Jersey, which is a town in my district. Alice was born in Turkey in 1912 to a successful, respected Armenian family of eight. And when Turkish officials ordered Armenians to denounce their faith and nationality, she and her parents refused. As a result, her family was rounded up and ordered to march into the desert. Alice and her brother were too young, of course, at that age to walk, so her parents had to put them in boxes on either side of a donkey and march into the desert.

When they arrived in Aintab, her mother befriended their Turkish neighbors, and these neighbors ultimately enabled them to get a permit which allowed Alice and her family to escape. Alice moved to the United States in 1980, and became a citizen of the U.S. just 5 years later. And, as a survivor, she says she wants to, ``see justice so that the words `never again' become a reality.''

So, while I am a Member of Congress, I will always remember Alice's words and her wish. We must fully recognize the friendship with our allies in Turkey today, but we cannot change nor should we forget the past. I hope that there can be some reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, and that a proper acknowledgement of the crimes of the past can now allow them to move forward into a future of peace and also of mutual understanding.

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