Orphan Rug Display and Genocide Recognition by White House

The Armenian Orphan Rug

White House tells Asbarez that Turkey should acknowledge its past


After Rep. Adam Schiff reported Wednesday that the White House will be exhibiting the Armenian Orphan Rug in November, a senior Obama Administration official told Asbarez in an email that the “President and other senior Administration officials have repeatedly acknowledged as historical fact and mourned the fact that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, and stated that a full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in our all interests, including Turkey’s, Armenia’s, and America’s.”

“One of the principles that has guided the Administration’s work in this area, and in atrocity prevention more broadly, has been that nations grow strong by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of their pasts, and that doing so is essential to building a foundation for a more just and more tolerant future,” added the official.

This clarification by the White House was made to Asbarez after an initial statement that merely stated that the rug “is a reminder of the close relationship between the people of Armenia and the United States,” and that it was presented to US President Calvin Coolidge “in recognition of the humanitarian assistance rendered by the American people to displaced Armenian orphans,” without emphasizing how the orphans came to be and failing, once again, to characterize the events of 1915 to 1923 as Genocide.

The announcement about the November exhibit rightfully prompted the Armenian National Committee of America to call on President Obama to characterize the rug in its proper manner.

“If President Obama’s decision to publicly exhibit the Armenian Orphan Rug is to represent a symbol of real progress, the White House Visitor Center Exhibit will clearly and unequivocally reference the still unpunished crime that led to its creation – the Armenian Genocide,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America.

“If, on the other hand, the exhibit purposefully evades the rug’s proper characterization, the President’s decision to display this artwork will be seen as yet another cynical substitute for the very progress he promised the American people and will be further evidence of his continued enforcement of Turkey’s gag-rule on speaking truthfully regarding the Armenian Genocide,” added Hamparian.

The Ghazi Rug, which is also known as the Armenian Orphan Rug, was a labor of love by orphans who were rescued from the Armenian Genocide by American aid workers as part of the Near East Relief campaign that was mandated by the US President and legislated by Congress in 1915 and 1916 respectively. The entire US population was mobilized to assist the Armenians of the Near East and as a result millions of Armenians were rescued from the Genocide, among them hundreds of thousands of orphans.

Last year when the White House abruptly and inexplicably decided to reverse its agreement to lend the rug for an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute, it set in motion a controversy that, in more ways than one, was an affront to American history and to the generosity displayed by the American people, at the behest of their government at the time, toward the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Washington Post Art Critic Philip Kennicott, who broke the news of the White House’s change of mind at the time, noted that while the White House had not offered an explanation for the reversal in decision, it is likely due to the U.S. government’s deference to Turkey’s international campaign of Genocide denial.

It took action by Armenian-Americans, as well as persistence by members of Congress like Adam Schiff to get the White House to agree to display it, while still not fully recognizing the Genocide as the genesis for the creation of the rug.

The senior Administration official told Asbarez that “full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in our all interests, including Turkey’s, Armenia’s, and America’s.” So, it begs the question: Is America doing its part to justly acknowledge the fact and build “a foundation for a more just and more tolerant future,” as Asbarez was told?

Perhaps not. If it were, the US would not be basing its current policy in the region on double-standards, which are allowing Turkey to perpetuate and encourage the same level of destruction and death in the very region where Armenians were massacred 100 years ago.

Today, the Kurds, the Yazidis and other indigenous peoples of the region are the target of the Islamic State, which by all accounts—including that of American diplomats–is being aided and abetted by Turkey.

The Armenian-American community is not naïve to think that President Obama is going to recognize the Armenian Genocide through a three-day display of the Armenian Orphan Rug. But, if the White House believes in its own statements, then the US must act now and by heeding its own words, recognize the past—the Armenian Genocide—to prevent another Genocide, which is unfolding today at the hands of ISIS and with the help of Turkey.

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  1. Alex Postallian said:

    I want to hear it from the evasive,pro-turkey lips,of our WORST president..

  2. Armenian said:

    Good news. Congrats to the ANCA for all of their hard work and leadership on this matter. Their work should never go unappreciated. I hope this will represent a shift in US policy in the near future.

  3. Arius said:

    As usual US elites throw crumbs to various groups including us just before an election. Remember that Obama several times promised to recognize the Armenian Genocide before the 2008 election, and after elected stabbed us in the back like done by so many other politicians. I for one am sick of being played by both major parties which I will never again trust. Both major parties support US foreign policy that is decimating Christians and also Muslims in the Middle East.

  4. Shant said:

    If President Obama and senior administration officials really believe that Turkey should acknowledge its past, then they should act on those sentiments instead of paying us worthless lip service. When will Obama and senior administration officials have the courage to pressure their beloved so called ally Turkey to acknowledge its criminal past and present?

    • GeorgeMardig said:

      Turkey to aknowledge the Genocide need a brave president, unfortunatly coward Erdogan is not the man.

  5. edward demian said:

    What I really want for Christmas is for the US government to pick up its mandate over Armenia and enforce the Wilsonian decision. They can keep the rug.

  6. SA said:

    Is the timing of this not interesting? Turkey sees the centennial approaching and is working hard to quiet the Genocide remembrance. The West wants more support from Turkey in fighting ISIS (who interestingly is refusing the US use of airbases in Turkey to attack ISIS and itself is closing the border to prevent Kurds in fighting ISIS). Could it be that this slight threat of displaying the rug and hinting toward some sort of recognition is retaliation to Turkey’s uncooperativeness with ISIS and is a point of leverage to get Turkey to do what it wants?

    Give me a break, the administration isn’t displaying this rug and hinting toward recognition because of the ANCA or Schiff efforts — they’re using this to achieve their own political objectives with Turkey.

  7. Vahe said:

    Political pressure on Turkey to join the fight against ISIS. If Turkey continues to behave as an ally of ISIS–one of the most inhumane and politically threatening organizations in recent history–I see no reason why the US won’t recognize the Genocide. ANCA, I think this is how you should be approaching the issue of Genocide recognition. Any continued anti-American policy by Erdogan should be used as reasoning to push senior lawmakers and the President to recognize the Genocide. If Turkey is not behaving as an ally, the US should not be a complicit partner in its ludicrous genocide denial campaign.

  8. ARA said:

    while not all muslims are our enemy-the fact is that most of their states and philosophy are. Can we not learn from the Israelis why they bomb and decimate the people that bomb and shoot and kill them? it is kill or be killed. we lost our lands and homes to the muslims of the ottoman era and azeriz-all of whom still occupy our lands and remove what they can of our culture-they are all our enemy-isis is the tip of a small iceberg- there are those mongrols all over and we destroy them or they consume us and we are DEAD- we will not give up-till we get our monies and land and all else back-we must create our own armies and weapons with methods that will stand and they will run to the seas with their undees