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Commemorating the 97th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. ESHOO. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge and commemorate a solemn occasion of deep personal significance. Today marks 97 years since the infamous episode in which the Ottoman Empire began rounding up and murdering Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. By 1923, some 1.5 million Armenian women, children and men were dead from a systematic campaign we now know as the Armenian Genocide, or Great Crime. Their lives ended in the most brutal ways imaginable, subjected to death marches, burnings, rape and forced starvation. Some 500,000 Armenians who did survive--my own grandparents among them--were forced into exile.

Like others whose families experienced this tragedy first-hand, I did not first learn of the Armenian Genocide in history books. I learned about it from my own Grandmother as she recounted the murders of priests and her flight from the only home she knew.

We must be clear: There is no doubt to the fact that the Armenian Genocide took place. There is no credible historian who can dispute it, and there is no evidence that detracts from its horror and magnitude. What's missing is a moral clarity as penetrating as the facts themselves, and a willingness in this House and in our government to acknowledge the Genocide.

The consequences of surrendering the moral high ground on Genocide denial are manifest and tragic. Since 1915, we have witnessed the same tragedy again and again. In 1939, Adolf Hitler is said to have asked, in justifying his awful crimes, ``Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?'' In the Holodomor in Ukraine, the killing fields of Cambodia, the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the red clay hills of Rwanda, and now, today in Darfur--genocidal crimes continue. We must acknowledge the Armenian genocide for our collective future, for those who suffer around the world today, and to honor the memories of those who died.

Each time this question arises, there are those who demand we once again sweep history under the rug for political convenience, calling what began 97 years ago anything but Genocide. My response is simple. The systematic extermination of an ethnic group is Genocide, and we insult ourselves and degrade our values when we claim otherwise.

I hope we use this solemn occasion to redouble our support for a more honest appraisal of the facts. So much of who I am is informed by my Armenian heritage, including the moral grounding to demand the truth. As we pray today for those who died, let us also work toward an open and just acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide, the truth, and a strengthened commitment to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.

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