Armenian Genocide Resolution Introduced in House of Representatives

WASHINGTON–Speaking Tuesday at a Capitol Hill press conference, Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA), George Radanovich (R-CA) and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) joined together in announcing the support of more than 150 of their House colleagues for the introduction of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, reported the Armenian National Committee of America. Joining with the four legislators as cosponsors of the Armenian Genocide Resolution are Congressmen Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), both strong supporters of Armenian Genocide recognition as well as senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the influential panel which will first consider this legislation prior to a vote on the House floor. The resolution is similar to H.Res.316, introduced in the previous session of Congress. This measure was overwhelmingly approved in the International Relations Committee (now called the Foreign Affairs Committee), only to be blocked from final passage by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL). With the change in House leadership, the lead sponsors noted during the press conference that this legislation now has the best chance for passage in recent memory. During his opening remarks at press conference, Congressional Armenian Caucus Cochairman Frank Pallone underscored the importance of introducing and passing Armenian Genocide legislation: "We, as the House of Representatives, have an obligation to send a message to the world that we affirm the [Armenian] Genocide and to send a message to the Turkish government, which is ultimately behind all of the genocide denial on the part of the [US] Administration." Citing the presence of Armenian Genocide survivors Yeretzgeen Sirarpi Khoyan and Rose Baboyan, Rep Adam Schiff explained that "there aren’t many survivors left and while there are still survivors among us we have, I think, the highest ethical obligation to recognize the losses of their families, the losses of their entire community, and in many respects beyond that, the loss of almost an entire people." Touching on the US responsibility to end the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Rep. Schiff argued, "How can we demonstrate the kind of moral leadership we need to condemn the genocide in Darfur if we do not have the courage to recognize the murder of a million and half people in the first genocide of the last century?" Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) stressed that, "It is up to the House to bring this important resolution to vote." He went on to explain that, "38 US states have recognized the Armenian Genocide" and that the time had come for the US Congress to enact the Armenian Genocide Resolution. Armenian Genocide Resolution lead sponsor in the 109th Congress, Rep. George Radanovich, argued: "I think it is not even in Turkey’s interest to successfully keep this [Genocide resolution passage] from happening because it is in their best interest as a growing country to recognize what happened in their country many, many years ago."We appreciate the leadership of the Armenian Genocide Resolution’s authors–Adam Schiff, George Radanovich, Frank Pallone, Joe Knollenberg, Brad Sherman, and Thaddeus McCotter–and are, of course, very encouraged by the broad, bipartisan support for their introduction of this anti-genocide legislation," said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. "The immoral firing of Ambassador Evans for recognizing the Armenian Genocide, the intense controversy over the Richard Hoagland nomination due to his denial of this crime, and–of course–the brutal assassination Hrant Dink, all serve as a stark wake up call for Congress to pass the Armenian Genocide Resolution."Armenian Americans across the country look forward, in the coming weeks, to working with all our Congressional friends in support of the early adoption of this legislation in the US House of Representatives," added Hamparian. The introduction of the resolution comes in the wake of the January 19 murder of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul, Turkey for his lifelong commitment to Armenian Genocide recognition. The Turkish government had long persecuted Dink for his principled stand on the Genocide, prosecuting him under the repressive Article 301 penal statute for "insulting Turkishness." Dink, who was convicted but given a suspended sentence, had appealed the decision. The resolution also follows the firing of US Ambassador to Armenia John Marshall Evans last year, for properly characterizing the Armenian Genocide as "genocide." The Administration subsequently nominated Richard Hoagland for the position of Armenian Ambassador–a move blocked by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) following widespread bipartisan concerns by Senate Foreign Relations Committee members about the Evans firing and statemen’s by Hoagland denying the Armenian Genocide. As members of Congress prepared to introduce the Armenian Genocide resolution, thousands of Armenian American activists contacted their legislators through phone, mail and the ANCA WebFax system urging them to become early cosponsors of the legislation. ANCA regional offices and local chapters held community briefings, press conferences and events in support of the measure, leading to a groundswell of early support. The Armenian Genocide legislation is expected to be referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. A Senate version of the resolution is set to be introduced in the coming weeks.

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