Schiff Blasts Mischaracterization of Meeting with Turkish Delegation

Washington–Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) strongly condemned Thursday an article in the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman that mischaracterized a meeting that he had in early December with a group of young Turkish political leaders.
The article, entitled "US Democrat Schiff ‘Surprised’ by Turkish Side of Armenian Story," included a manufactured quote from Congressman Schiff that implied that Schiff was rethinking his position on the Armenian Genocide.
In a letter to the editor of Today’s Zaman, Schiff reiterated his unwavering support for genocide recognition, saying that:
"I told the delegation that the historical record was unequivocal–that 1.5 million Armenia’s perished at the hands of the Ottoman Empire between 1915-1923 and that this tragedy constituted the first genocide of the Twentieth Century. I said that I believed that the decades of denial of the genocide was, in the words of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, a "double killing" and that millions of Armenia’s worldwide were still suffering, even after more than 90 years had passed."
He also criticized the Turkish daily for its poor journalism and noted that the episode is emblematic of Ankara’s campaign of denial:
"While I certainly did not expect the Turkish delegates to accept my views, I did not expect them to completely mischaracterize mine and for your paper to misquote me–never bothering to contact my office to find out what in fact I said. While I am troubled by the misquote and deliberate nature of the misrepresentation, I realize that this is another small episode in a decades-long campaign of denial and self-delusion that has poisoned generations of your countrymen and has been a persistent irritant in relations between our two countries," read Schiff’s letter.
The full text of the letter is below:

To the Editor:
The article in today’s edition of your newspaper, "US Democrat Schiff ‘Surprised’ by Turkish Side of Armenian Story," grossly mischaracterizes the meeting that I had earlier this month with a Turkish delegation.
The meeting, which was arranged by the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL), was intended to promote a frank and open dialogue between a younger generation of Turkish politicians and opinion-makers and the Congress. In setting up the meeting, the ACYPL wanted to afford the Turkish members of the delegation the chance to discuss my position on the importance of American recognition of the Armenian Genocide that would afford both sides the opportunity better understand why so many Members of Congress believe that this is the right thing to do for America and for Turkey. Having followed Turkish press coverage of this issue for several years, I looked forward to the opportunity to have a dialogue that was candid and unfiltered with a group of new leaders, perhaps less wedded to the dogmas of their party elders. This is consistent with my open-door policy of meeting with those who share as well as those who disagree with my views.
I told the delegation that the historical record was unequivocal–that 1.5 million Armenia’s perished at the hands of the Ottoman Empire between 1915-1923 and that this tragedy constituted the first genocide of the Twentieth Century. I said that I believed that the decades of denial of the genocide was, in the words of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, a "double killing" and that millions of Armenia’s worldwide were still suffering, even after more than 90 years had passed.
I also emphasized that modern Turkey’s denial of the genocide was hurting Turkey and jeopardizing the country’s accession to the European Union. I was especially emphatic in raising the issue of Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which makes it a crime to insult "Turkishness," a thinly-veiled reference to the genocide. Having met the courageous journalist Hrant Dink, I told them I thought it was a travesty to prosecute his son for publishing his murdered father’s words. Why would a modern nation go to such lengths to criminalize the discussion of an historical event if it was not the truth?
I also listened to the delegation members, who were eager to share their views with me and had told me that they considered obtaining this meeting the highlight of their time in Washington, D.C. and our meeting, which lasted the better part of an hour, was lively and interesting.
While I certainly did not expect the Turkish delegates to accept my views, I did not expect them to completely mischaracterize mine and for your paper to misquote me–never bothering to contact my office to find out what in fact I said. While I am troubled by the misquote and deliberate nature of the misrepresentation, I realize that this is another small episode in a decades-long campaign of denial and self-delusion that has poisoned generations of your countrymen and has been a persistent irritant in relations between our two countries.
In 2003, I had the pleasure of a brief stop in Turkey on my way back from a visit to our troops in Iraq. The Turkish people, well aware of my views, were nonetheless warm and hospitable, and keenly aware of the importance of their alliance with the United States. That alliance can and must survive the truth. Our relationship will be better for it and, more importantly, Turkey will be as well.

Sincerely,

ADAM B. SCHIFF
Member of Congress

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