WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, over 30 Members of Congress signed a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to release the Armenian Orphan Rug for public display, reported the Armenian Assembly of America. The letter initiative was spearheaded by Armenian Genocide resolution sponsors Reps. David Valadao (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) and enjoys broad bipartisan support.
The letter to President Obama states, “This historic rug was hand-woven by orphans of the Armenian Genocide. It was made in an American-sponsored orphanage run by a U.S. charity created by an act of Congress. The carpet, which has over 4 million hand-tied knots, was presented in 1925 to President Calvin Coolidge as a symbol of gratitude for American aid and generosity. President Coolidge noted that, ‘The rug has a place of honor in the White House where it will be a daily symbol of goodwill on earth.'”
In recent weeks, news reports surfaced alleging that the White House succumbed to pressure from the Turkish government and purposely blocked a planned December exhibition of the carpet at the Smithsonian Institution.
The White House issued a statement saying that, “The Ghazir rug is a reminder of the close relationship between the peoples of Armenia and the United States. We regret that it is not possible to loan it out at this time.”
The White House did not offer an explanation as to what, or who, was preventing the release of the rug.
Meanwhile, the Assembly has been in close contact with key Administration officials urging that the rug be prominently displayed, not only at the Smithsonian, but also at the White House and made available for display in the U.S. Capitol.
“I am deeply moved by this action,” Dr. Hagop Martin Deranian, author of the book Calivin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug, told the Assembly. “This issue has come to light after many years of hard work. We are speaking on behalf of the weavers and what they would want us to do. I am hopeful that this momentum will continue and that the rug will soon be available for public viewing,” Deranian said.
In 1925, Dr. John H. Finley, editor-in-chief of the New York Times and vice-chairman of the congressionally chartered Near East Relief organization presented a rug made by orphans of the Armenian Genocide to then President Calvin Coolidge. The rug was made in appreciation of America’s generosity in aiding the survivors of the first genocide of the 20th Century. It was previously displayed at the White House in 1984 and 1995, but not since, an issue which the Assembly has raised with successive Administrations.
For over a decade, the Assembly has called on the White House and the State Department to facilitate the release of the Armenian Orphan Rug for public display. “The Armenian Assembly, once again, calls on the White House to release the Ghazir rug,” stated Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “It is a piece of American history and it belongs to the American people,” stated Ardouny.
Below is the text of the Valadao-Schiff letter to President Barack Obama:
November 8th, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We would like to inquire about reports that the White House has blocked the exhibition of the “Armenian Orphan Rug,” a pivotal icon related to the Armenian Genocide. The item was requested for display at an event scheduled to open on December 16.
This historic rug was hand-woven by orphans of the Armenian Genocide. It was made in an American-sponsored orphanage run by a U.S. charity created by an act of Congress. The carpet, which has over 4 million hand-tied knots, was presented in 1925 to President Calvin Coolidge as a symbol of gratitude for American aid and generosity. President Coolidge noted that, “The rug has a place of honor in the White House where it will be a daily symbol of goodwill on earth.” Publicized in the New York Times and many other outlets, the rug’s presentation to President Coolidge resulted in millions of dollars being raised for humanitarian assistance.
The Armenian Orphan Rug is a shared piece of American and Armenian history that belongs to the American people. For over a decade, Armenian-American organizations have repeatedly asked the White House and the State Department to allow the rug to be displayed publicly. Unfortunately, these requests have not been granted.
We urge you to release this American treasure for exhibition, and we look forward to working with you toward this end.