Armenian Americans Deliver United Message to US House Leadership

Grassroots Organizations Protest Congressional Opposition to Genocide Legislation

WASHINGTON–DC–More than a dozen national grassroots Armenian-American organizations came together this week to communicate the "extraordinary disappointment" of the Armenian-American community over the Congressional leadership’s opposition to legislation recognizing the Armenian genocide–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

"We have seen–in recent weeks–a tremendous groundswell of opposition from across the Armenian-American community to the Congressional leadership’s attack on the Schiff Amendment–and their stubborn refusal–despite the strong–bipartisan support enjoyed by the Genocide Resolution–to schedule a vote on this human rights initiative," said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian.

The letter–written on behalf of the collective leadership of the Armenian-American community to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert–gives voice to the community’s unequivocal opposition to the House leadership’s efforts to reverse the Schiff Amendment to the fiscal year 2005 Foreign Operations bill–H.R. 4818–and expresses the community’s "great dismay with your public statement against holding a vote on the Genocide Resolution–H.Res.193."

The letter comes in the wake of the adoption by the US House–last month–of the Schiff Amendment–which seeks to block the use by Turkey of US foreign aid to lobby against the Genocide Resolution. It was adopted by voice vote–without any opposition–on July 15. Within hours of its passage–the Schiff Amendment came under intense attack by the Congressional leadership–with the Speaker of the House and his top deputies issuing a statement–posted prominently on the first page of the Speaker of the House’s website–that they would use their influence to block its adoption as part of the final foreign aid bill.

The organizations that signed the community-wide letter were the ANCA–the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church–Eastern and Western US–the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church–Eastern and Western US–the Armenian Missionary Association of America–and the Apostolic Exarchate for Armenian Catholics–as well as the Armenian General Benevolent Union–Armenian Democratic Liberal (Ramgavar) Party–United Armenian Fund–Armenian Relief Society–Armenian Bar Association–National Organization of Republican Armenia’s–Armenian Youth Federation–Homenetmen–Armenian General Athletic Union–and Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural and Educational Association.

The signatories to the letter stressed that the Schiff Amendment–which was adopted by the US House on July 15–"simply underscores the importance of protecting American people from having their tax dollars used by the government of Turkey for a purpose they find patently offensive–the denial of the Armenian Genocide." They also noted that the adoption of the Amendment "reflected the breadth of the bipartisan opposition to Turkey’s shameful campaign against H.Res.193–and–just as importantly–demonstrated the clear and overwhelming support of a majority of Members enjoyed by the underlying legislation."

The Genocide Resolution–H.Res.193–was introduced last year by Congressmen George Radanovich (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA)–and Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chairmen Joe Knollenberg and Frank Pallone. It has been cosponsored by 110 US Representatives and was approved–without opposition–in May of last year–by the Judiciary Committee. This genocide prevention measure is supported by a diverse coalition of over one hundred religious–civic–ethnic and human rights organizations–including American Values–Union of Orthodox Rabbis–NAACP–Sons of Italy–and the National Council of La Raza.

The full text of the Armenian American community letter to the Speaker of the House is provided below.

Text of Community Letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert

Dear Speaker Hastert:

We are writing–as the collective leadership of the Armenian-American community–to voice our extraordinary disappointment with your opposition to the Schiff Amendment to the fiscal year 2005 Foreign Operations bill–H.R.4818–and to express our great dismay with your public statement against holding a vote on the Genocide Resolution–H.Res.193.

The Schiff Amendment simply underscores the importance of protecting American people from having their tax dollars used by the government of Turkey for a purpose they find patently offensive–the denial of the Armenian Genocide. The adoption of this measure on July 15th by the full US House of Representatives reflected the breadth of the bipartisan opposition to Turkey’s shameful campaign against H.Res.193–and–just as importantly–demonstrated the clear and overwhelming support of a majority of Members enjoyed by the underlying legislation.

As you know–H.Res.193–which was introduced by Congressmen George Radanovich and Adam Schiff–and Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chairmen Joe Knollenberg and Frank Pallone–has been cosponsored by 110 of your colleagues and was approved–without opposition–in May of last year–by the Judiciary Committee. This genocide-prevention measure is supported by a diverse coalition of over one hundred religious–civic–ethnic and human rights organizations–including American Values–Union of Orthodox Rabbis–NAACP–Sons of Italy–and the National Council of La Raza.

We respectfully call upon you to reconsider your opposition to the Schiff Amendment and to immediately schedule a vote of the full US House of Representatives on the Genocide Resolution–H.Res.193. We make this request on several levels. First is that the adoption of such a resolution represents a moral imperative that we–as Americans–must take to defend human rights and protect human lives against the crime of genocide. Secondly–we should not allow a foreign nation–particularly one that so brazenly flaunts basic American values and which blocked the US-led coalition from opening a northern front in the Iraq War–to impose its dictates on the US Congress. Thirdly–the clear majority of Members who support this resolution should not be denied the opportunity to take part in an up-or-down vote on this human rights measure. Finally–by bringing this measure to the floor–you would be honoring your public pledge to our community on this subject made in October of 2000.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns. We would be pleased to meet with you personally to discuss this matter further.

Sincerely,

Authors

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