Key House Panel Adopts Fortenberry-Eshoo Measure (H.Con.Res.75) as Deadline Looms for Obama Administration to Issue a Determination on the Matter
WASHINGTON—The House Foreign Affairs Committee this morning brought Congress one step closer to properly condemning as genocide the ongoing ISIL/Da’esh crimes against Christians – including Armenians and Assyrians – as well as Yezidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East, adopting H.Con.Res.75 by voice vote, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“The ANCA welcomes the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s passage of H.Con.Res75 as an important step in elevating our government’s response to genocide from a political choice to a moral imperative,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We cannot continue to treat the recognition of genocide — whether it is the systematic destruction of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians in 1915 or ISIL’s attacks against Christians and other minority groups today – as a geopolitical commodity, to be bartered or bargained away. Our stand against genocide must be unconditional. We urge the Obama Administration and Congress to speak clearly and unequivocally on this matter.”
The move paves the way for full Congressional consideration of the matter and is timed just weeks before a March 17th deadline, when the Obama Administration will be offering its official determination on the matter. The Administration has been under increasing pressure from U.S. religious leaders, human rights and civic groups — led by In Defense of Christians (IDC), the Knights of Columbus, the International Religious Freedom Roundtable and supported by the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the ANCA and over 100 organizations — to properly characterize the attacks Christians in Syria and Iraq ‘genocide.’
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) opened the March 2nd consideration of H.Con.Res.75 with an amended version of the measure which offered broader details about Christian and other minority groups targeted by ISIL, listing Assyrian, Chaldean Syriac, Armenian, and Melkite communities as well as Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabak, Sabaean Mandeans, and Kaka‘i by name. The resolution specifically cites the ISIL crimes against these communities “constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide;” urges all governments – including the U.S. and U.N. – to acknowledge them as such; and calls for a coordinated international campaign to stop the violence. The measure also commends the Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq for accepting refugees from the violence and asserts that Syria’s Assad regime and ongoing civil war in that country has contributed to the growth of ISIL.
During Committee debate on the resolution, Congressman Dave Trott (R-MI) cited his trip to Armenia in 2015 to mark the Armenian Genocide Centennial. “I saw first-hand how painful and somber the memory of those atrocities are, even today,” said Rep. Trott, who went on to state, “we have failed to recognize the Armenian Genocide and I urge my colleagues not to make the same mistake again.” Chairman Royce concurred, noting “We can’t afford the same negligence that we saw in the Armenian Genocide with respect to this genocide against the Yezidis and Christians.”
H.Con.Res.75, spearheaded by the Co-Chairs of the House Caucus for Religious Minorities in the Middle East, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), has bipartisan support from 200 cosponsors. In a press conference hosted by the In Defense of Christians (IDC) in December, Rep. Eshoo, who is of Armenian and Assyrian origin, explained why this issue is so important to her. “This is history for my family that is repeating itself all over again. […] Future generations will look at us and ask ‘did they do anything?’”
“We cannot underestimate the moral authority the United States has when we simply utter what is true,” stated Rep. Fortenberry, holding a photo of Christians shackled by ISIS abductors prior to their murder.
The ANCA has teamed up with IDC to set up an action alert urging Congressional support for H.Con.Res.75, which is available at:
A similar resolution in the Senate by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – S.Res.340 – has 11 cosponsors.
Over 42,000 Sign Knights of Columbus / In Defense of Christians Petition
Grassroots initiatives calling on the Obama Administration and Congress to take action to stop the Christian genocide in the Middle East abound, with the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians leading the latest online grassroots petition campaign which has garnered the support of top religious leaders including the Cardinal Tim Dolan, Archbishop of New York; Leith Anderson President, National Association of Evangelicals and Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, and Prelate of the Armenian Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Eastern USA, as well as a diverse group of business and community leaders including Hollywood producer Mark Burnett and Forbes Magazine Publisher Steve Forbes.
Earlier this month, the ANCA joined an International Religious Freedom Roundtable campaign also calling on the Obama Administration to take clear and unequivocal action condemning the Christian Genocide.
In December, the ANCA joined with In Defense of Christians and A Demand for Action at a White House meeting making the case for a US designation of ISIS anti-Christian attacks as “genocide.”
Secretary Kerry Faces Increased Congressional Pressure Calling for Christian Genocide Determination
Last week, as Secretary Kerry appeared before Senate and House Foreign Affairs and Appropriations panels to defend the Obama Administration’s Fiscal Year 2017 foreign aid budget request, key Congressional leaders, including Helsinki Committee Co-Chair Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) pressed the Christian genocide issue in the Middle East. Rep. Smith expressed concern about reports that the Administration was poised to speak out only regarding attacks against the Yezidis and fall short in properly characterizing anti-Christian attacks. Sen. Kerry responded that the Administration continues to look at the matter.
In December, 2015, 30 U.S. Representatives, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), sent a letter pressing Secretary Kerry to condemn the ongoing Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) attacks against Christians and other Middle East minorities as ‘genocide.’
Meanwhile, the issue of the Christian Genocide in the Middle East continues to be a key topic on the U.S. Presidential campaign trail with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) all condemning the attacks against Christians and other regional minorities ‘genocide.’
ANCA Joins Coalition in Support of Genocide Prevention Legislation (S.2551)
Parallel to ongoing efforts to secure proper characterization of ISIL’s attacks against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East and justice for the Armenian Genocide (H.Res.154 / S.Res.340), the ANCA has joined a growing coalition of human rights and civic groups in supporting the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016 (S.2551).
Introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) on February 11th, the measure outlines concrete steps to be taken U.S. Administrations to “help prevent acts of genocide and mass atrocities, which threaten national and international security, by enhancing United States civilian capacities to prevent and mitigate such crises.” Specifically, it would be make permanent an Obama Administration decision to “establish an inter-agency Atrocities Prevention Board,” which would monitor developments worldwide and oversee the development and execution of policies and tools to enhance the capacity of the United States to prevent and respond to atrocities. The bill currently has 15 cosponsors.