Schiff Delivers Open Letter to Turkish People on House Floor on Genocide

WASHINGTON—Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead sponsor of the Armenian Genocide resolution, went to the House of Representatives floor on Wednesday to deliver an open letter to the Turkish people on the Armenian Genocide.

The full text of the speech is below:

An Open Letter to the Turkish People:

Today, I write to you on a topic of great importance to both of our nations. It is on a subject that many of you, especially the younger generation, may know little about because it concerns a chapter of world history that your government has expended enormous efforts to conceal.

Turkey has been at the center of human civilization from Neolithic times to the present, and your arts, culture and science have enriched the world.

But interwoven with all of Turkey’s remarkable achievements is a dark chapter that too many of today’s Turks know little or nothing about.

Were you aware that your grandparents and great-grandparents had many Armenian neighbors and friends – that twenty percent of the population of today’s Istanbul was Armenian? Did you know that the Armenians were well integrated into Turkish society as celebrated intellects, artists, craftsmen and community leaders? Have you ever wondered, what happened to the Armenians? Have you ever asked your parents and grandparents how such a large, industrious and prosperous people largely vanished from your midst? Do you know why your government goes to such lengths to conceal this part of your history?

Let me tell you a part of their story. The rest you must find out for yourselves.

Ninety-nine years ago this month, in the dying years of the Ottoman Empire, the Young Turk government launched a campaign of deportation, expropriation, starvation and murder against the empire’s Armenian citizens. Much of the Armenian population was forcibly removed to Syria, where many succumbed during brutal forced marches through the desert heat. Hundreds of thousands were massacred by Ottoman gendarmes, soldiers and even ordinary citizens.

By the time the slaughter ended in 1923, one and a half million Armenians had been killed in what is now universally acknowledged as the first genocide of the Twentieth Century. The survivors scattered throughout the Middle East and the wider world with some making their way to the United States, and to Los Angeles.

It is their grandchildren and great grandchildren whom I represent as a Member of the United States Congress. Theirs is a vibrant community, many tens of thousands strong, with schools, churches and businesses providing a daily link to their ancestral homeland. And it is on their behalf that I urge you to begin anew a national conversation in Turkey about the events of 1915-23.

As a young man or woman in Turkey, you might ask: What has this to do with me? Am I to blame for a crime committed long before I was born. And I would say this: Yours is the moral responsibility to acknowledge the truth and seek a reconciliation with the Armenian people that your parents and their parents could or would not. It is an obligation you have inherited and one from which you must not shrink. For though we cannot choose our own history, we decide what to do about it — and you will be the ones to shape Turkey’s future.

At the end of World War II, Germany was a shattered nation – defeated in battle and exposed as history’s greatest war criminal. But, in the decades since the end of the war, Germany engaged in a prolonged effort to reconcile with the Jewish people, who were nearly exterminated by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The German government has prosecuted war criminals, returned expropriated property, allied itself with Israel, and made countless apologies to the victims and to the world. Most important, Germany has worked to expunge the cancer of dehumanizing bigotry and hatred that gave rise to the Holocaust.

This path, of reflection, reconciliation and repentance must be Turkey’s path as well. It will not be easy, the questions will be painful, the answers difficult, sometimes unknowable. One question stands out:

How could a nation that peaceably ruled over a diverse, multicultural empire for centuries have turned on one of its peoples with such ruthlessness that an entirely new word had to be invented to describe what took place? Genocide.

As in Judaism and Christianity, the concept of repentance or tawba is central to Islam. Next year will mark a century since the beginning of the genocide and Armenians around the world will mourn their dead, contemplate the enormity of their loss, and ask, why? Answer them, please, with words of repentance.

Sincerely,
Adam Schiff
Member of Congress

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30 Comments

  1. Ara kasparian said:

    Mr .Adem I have no worlds how can I thank u GOD my God blass u

  2. herayer said:

    THIS HUMAN LETTER SHOULD ALSO BE READ BY OUR PRESIDENT MR. OBAMA DOES HE HAVE THE COURAGE TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT?

  3. H. Boghossian said:

    Although grateful for Mr. Shiff’s efforts, it is still a shame that after a century later we must still try to convince and tug at the heart strings of the other side to do what is right.

  4. H. Boghossian said:

    It’s no wonder why Armenians are so pessimistic and have a bleak outlook on life. From experience, we have learned that there is no such thing as justice or righteousness in this world.

    • S. Spendlove said:

      There is justice for those who persevere, no matter how long it takes and there will eventually be righteousness for victims as truth will always prevail in the end.

  5. Danoog said:

    Schiff is very consistent in his support for Armenian issues. I don’t particularly like Democrats, but I would definitely vote for Schiff if I lived in his district.

  6. Robert said:

    Well said! Thank you Rep. Adam Schiff for this and your many continued efforts to see the Armenian Genocide recognized.

  7. Alexis Zorbas said:

    Thank you, Representative Schiff. Well said.

    Turkey: The cradle of Greek and other (Armenian, Jewish, Levantine) pre-Ottoman civilization!

    • Gavur said:

      Merhaba Gurgen;
      Why is it stupid to appeal to the newer educated generation of Turkish citizens about Turkeys’ History? Take a look around at all the ancient cathedrels and ruins in what we now call the Republic of Turkey est. 1923, Topaki Palace et al….they were all constructed by the early indigenous non Turkish citizens. Do you know your roots? Are you of Armenian background like famous Turkish Attorney Fetiye Cetin found her beloved grandmother was an Armenian orphan. There is so much proof sitting in the US Library of Congress, they were the ones after all that voted in the first humanitarian effort for America called “American Near East Relief” to specficially cloth, feed, shelter and educate over 130,000 Armenian orphans. Most of the proof is from non Armenians up to and including the Ambassador to Constaniople at the time (Henry Morganthau)
      What Schiff fails to mention is the many brave Turkish citizens that did help the Armenians by hiding them or arranging passage out of Turkey. My grandparents came from Van we had roots there centuries before the arrival of the Turkic tribes of Mongolia Central Asia.
      These roots will never go away and so continues to stand our St. Hagia Sofia that was shamelessly converted into a mosque and later to a museum and the name of Constaniople the eastern most Vatican post changed to Istanbul, Izmir was Smyrna and so on.

      You can convert a church to a mosque, change a name of a town to another name, forceable convert Christians to muslims or implement “Turkification” policies on everyone but it doesn’t change truth.

  8. Karen said:

    Why does he state that Turkey is the cradle of civilization? that is historically false….Although I appreciate his efforts he is giving Turkey what they want to hear, that they existed there historically when they did not, Mr. Schiff you re amazing, but please do some more historic research before you make public speeches.

    • GeorgeMardig said:

      ….. Turkey is the cradle of civilization?….. Not important, it’s just politics

  9. Roubina Malayan said:

    Thank you Congressman Schiff, I admire your courage to extend a helping hand for all people who need it.

  10. AmericanIndian said:

    Thanks Congressman Schiff but the problem remains America has a lot of blood on it’s hands as well, but the only difference is as an American I can openly say my Government perpetrated GENOCIDE on the Native Americans. With the “widow maker policy” or the forced extinction of their Buffalo to starve them out and then the final insult to injury…The forced deportation march “trail of tears”
    No one will every force me or tell me the true history of the USA no one, I hope that the new breed of younger educated Turks that are looking at the internet and world wide documentation about the Armenian Genocide embrace it and learn from it. I hope they also learn about who the Assyrians are, Pontic Greeks, and Greeks. Where did they all go? What happened? Why does the Turkish Govenrment confiscate our ancient religious sites? Always question your government none of them can be trusted.

  11. Harry Keleshian said:

    Congressman, I compliment you on your honest courage to bring thus very important issue to the attention of your colleagues. I am the son of a survivor and knows what was done to our people by the Ottomsn Turks in the eary 1900s. My father and his mother and two sisters were driven from there home and made to march in the hot desert pubed to die but by the grace of a God survived, one sister died in route. That went on for 6 years until they finally reached the shores of thus great country.

    Thank you, thank you Congressman Schiff.

  12. VARTAN said:

    SUPER PERFECT TRUE SPEECH….HOPE TURKISH PEOPLE AND THEIR UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT WHAT THEY DID…!!!!!

  13. Joyce Chorbajian said:

    Dear Congressman Schiff: There are not enough words of thanks for the open stand which you took in regard to this very important issue that not only affected the Armenians, but continues to affect other nations. Unless humanity begins to accept the injustices that were done to the Armenians followed by other horrific events that have followed, we as the world community, will never find peace on earth. Please continue your efforts for all mankind.

  14. Bedros Zerdelian said:

    Thank you Congressman Schiff for your effort with some correction.
    Turkey has been never at the center of human civilization from Neolithic times to the present, the Greeks, Assyrians, Hitites, Armenians etc. their arts, architecture, culture and science have enriched the world.
    I hope they listen to your advise and directions.
    Justice never dies, get sick than recovers. (Baruyr Sevag)

  15. Kyprianos said:

    This article contains two historical mistakes.
    First Turkey has not been the centre of civilization, since we cannot speak of Turkey before the arrival of the Turks. To be historically accurate we may say Asia Minor, or Anatolia, not Turkey. The Turks made their way into Asia Minor in waves starting from the 9th century till the fall of Constantinople. Talking about the Neolithic times and ”Turkey” is historically misleading.
    The second historical mistake of this speech: it is a mistake that is been repeated over and over. Although I am a strong supporter of the Armenian genocide recognition (and, the often more forgotten, Assyrian and Greek (and Greek-Pontian) genocides), the majority of historians will agree that the first genocide of the 20th century is the Hereo and Namaqua Genocide that took place from 1904 to 1907. The German general Lothar von Trotha drove the Herero people (South-West Africa) into the desert where most died of thirst. The same fate happened to the Nama people. In 1985 the United Nations’ Whitaker Report recognized these events.

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