GLENDALE—As President Obama visits the epicenter of the Armenian community in the United States, religious and community leaders will hold a press conference to call on the President to stop blocking the display of an Armenian Genocide-era rug woven by orphans of that crime against humanity. The rug, which took Armenian orphans 10 months to weave and has 4,404,206 individual knots, was presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925.
A community briefing will take place on Tuesday, November 26 at 8:30 a.m. at the Glendale Youth Center. Participating in the event will be Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian; Raffi Haig Hamparian, Armenian National Committee of America, National Board Member; Berdj Karapetian, ANCA–Glendale Chapter, Chairman; Armenian American Leaders
Armenian Americans across the U.S. are calling on President Obama to secure a prominent and permanent public display of a historic rug woven by Armenian Genocide orphans and presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, in appreciation for U.S. humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of Turkey’s murder of over 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923.
The ANCA campaign was initiated last month after The Washington Post reported that a planned December 16th Smithsonian Institution exhibit featuring the rug, organized in conjunction with the Armenian Cultural Foundation and the Armenian Rug Society, was abruptly cancelled when the White House, reversing an earlier affirmative decision, refused to lend the iconic symbol of American and Armenian shared heritage to the museum.
Washington Post staff writer and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Philip Kennicott, reported, “There was hope that the carpet, which has been in storage for almost 20 years, might be displayed December 16th as part of a Smithsonian event that would include a book launch for Hagop Martin Deranian’s ‘President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug.’ But on September 12th, the Smithsonian scholar who helped organize the event canceled it, citing the White House’s decision not to loan the carpet. In a letter to two Armenian American organizations, Paul Michael Taylor, director of the institution’s Asian cultural history program, had no explanation for the White House’s refusal to allow the rug to be seen and said that efforts by the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, John A. Heffern, to intervene had also been unavailing.”
Kennicott described the controversy as “a sign of the Obama administration’s dismal reputation in the Armenian American community that everyone assumes… must be yet another slap in the face for Armenians seeking to promote understanding of one of the darkest chapters in 20th-century history.”
The White House response thus far has been vague – with National Security Staff Assistant Press Secretary Laura Magnuson offering the following comment to the Asbarez Armenian Newspaper: “The Ghazir rug is a reminder of the close relationship between the peoples of Armenia and the United States. We regret that it is not possible to loan it out at this time.” A statement with the same exact wording was released by the White House last week and included in Kennicott’s article.
“The White House should simply come clean,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “It’s time for the White House to open up about Turkey’s role, and lay out all the facts about its decision to block the Smithsonian’s exhibit of the Armenian Orphan Rug – a historic, Armenian Genocide-era work of art that speaks powerfully to the common values and shared experiences of the American and Armenian peoples.”
In a letter sent to President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian reminded the White House that “upon receiving the rug, President Coolidge wrote, ‘The rug has a place of honor in the White House where it will be a daily symbol of goodwill on earth.’ I ask you, in this spirit, to remove any obstacles to the Smithsonian’s display of this historic artwork and to secure a prominent and permanent public home for this powerful symbol of America’s humanitarian values and friendship with the Armenian people,” continued Hachikian.
Placing this latest controversy in context, Hachikian noted that: “since taking office, President Obama has not only failed to recognize the Armenian Genocide, but has actively blocked Congressional legislation (H.Res.252, 111th Congress) to commemorate this atrocity and, through his Solicitor General, officially opposed efforts in the U.S. courts (Arzoumanian v. Munchener Ruckversicherungs-Gesellschaft AG) to allow American citizens to pursue Genocide-era property claims. In addition, the Administration has regularly sent senior officials to speak at events organized by Armenian Genocide deniers, while refusing repeated invitations to simply attend Congressional observances of this atrocity. In these areas, and, sadly, many more, the President has not simply failed to honor his pledge, but rather – in both letter and spirit – worked to fundamentally undermine and reverse the very policies he pledged to pursue.”
According to Dr. Hagop Deranian, the Armenian orphan rug measures 11’7″ x 18’5″ and is comprised of 4,404,206 individual knots. It took the Armenian girls in the Ghazir Orphanage of the Near East Relief Society 10 months to weave. A label on the back of the rug, in large hand-written letters, reads “IN GOLDEN RULE GRATITUDE TO PRESIDENT COOLIDGE.”
Legislators Send Valadao-Schiff Letter Urging White House To Reject Turkey’s Veto On Display Of Armenian Orphan Rug
Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of over 30 U.S. Representatives – including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), joined with Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA) and David Valadao (R-CA) in calling upon the White House to reverse its decision to block the public display of a rug woven by Armenian orphans and gifted to President Calvin Coolidge in appreciation for U.S. humanitarian assistance following Ottoman Turkey’s genocide of over 1.5 million Armenians between 1915-1923.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.