WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) spoke on the House Floor to deliver an open letter to President Joseph R. Biden, calling on him to keep his campaign promise to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Watch his floor speech here, or read his remarks below:
Mr. President, in just five days, the world will mark the 106th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, the systemic murder and displacement of 1.5 million Armenian women, men, and children by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923. This will be the first April 24th of your presidency, and your first opportunity to follow through on your promise to recognize the genocide and your decades of leadership on this issue.
On behalf of hundreds of thousands of Armenian Americans, the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren of genocide survivors, I ask you:
Keep that promise. Recognize the Armenian Genocide.
The facts of the genocide are not in serious dispute. They were recorded in real time by American diplomats who lacked a name for the barbaric and systematic extermination of the Armenian people, but knew that it was without precedent in human history. Millions of Armenians were beaten, raped, killed, and marched across deserts by the Ottoman Empire.
From the blood and rubble, the Armenian people survived. Tens of thousands of orphaned children owe their lives to the generosity of Americans who created the Near East Relief Foundation. Those children and their descendants crossed the ocean to build lives, in Los Angeles and across the nation.
You know these facts well and you have spoken about them directly, including as a candidate for president. As President, it is now in your power to right decades of wrongs and in so doing give meaning to your statement last year, when you acknowledged the genocide and said “silence is complicity.”
As a candidate and now as president, you have spoken of your commitment to human rights. You have spoken of an America who leads, “not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” If that principle is to have meaning, we cannot waiver from it just because it may be inconvenient.
The word “genocide” is significant, because genocide is not a problem of the past, it is a problem of today including in Xinjiang where Uyghurs face a relentless campaign by the Chinese Communist Party to wipe out their culture. And it is a danger today in Artsakh, where Turkey assisted Azerbaijan in making war on the Armenians again, and in so doing, threaten another potential genocide. What a comfort it would be to the perpetrators of crimes against humanity in the present day if the most powerful nation on earth could be cowed into silence about the events of a century ago.
In recognizing the Genocide, you will be joining both the House and the Senate who voted overwhelmingly in 2019 to do so. As you well know, for decades those of us who supported recognition of the genocide faced a ferocious opposition, premised on the harm that such a vote would cause to our relations with Turkey and to our national security.
Yet what happened is precisely what we all predicted. Turkey protested, but the relationship between Turkey and the United States did not change, or if it has changed, it has done so for reasons having nothing to do with the Armenian Genocide and everything to do with Turkey’s drift towards autocracy. The Turkish government and their well-heeled DC lobby has mobilized as they do every year around this time. They are spinning up fear aimed at keeping the gag order in place.
Mr. President, we must not resort to euphemisms or half-truths. The murder of 1.5 million Armenians was an atrocity – that is surely true – but it was more than that. The act of seeking to destroy a people and a culture is a different kind of evil, and it was not until Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide” that we had a word to describe it.
Denial of genocide is a profanity, and in the words of Elie Wiesel, it is a “double killing.”
Millions of Armenians, in Yerevan and across the world, tens of thousands of my constituents, Mr. President, will look to you later this week, to see if you will join leaders in France, Germany, the European Union, the Vatican, and in 49 states in recognizing the genocide.
It is my deepest wish that you will speak the truth in all of its horror, and recognize the Armenian Genocide.