WASHINGTON–Congressman Brad Sherman–a Democrat representative from California’s 24th district–met Thursday–Sept. 11–with a delegation of Armenian parliamentary leaders visiting Capitol Hill. The parliamentary leaders represented a broad spectrum of political parties from the governing Republic Bloc to the opposition National Accord Alliance.
Sherman discussed the provision of US assistance to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh in the House version of the foreign aid bill. Sherman had promoted direct aid to Karabakh and supports the House version of the bill which provides humanitarian assistance to Karabakh through non-governmental organizations. The House version of the foreign aid bill also retains Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act which blocks aid to Azerbaijan and places limitations on aid to Turkey.
Sherman’stressed the critical role Diasporan Armenia’s play in support of Armenia and Karabakh with an analogy to the role played by Jewish-Americans in support of Israel. "Thirty years ago Israel was a country surrounded by a hostile Muslim state–facing a lukewarm State Department and a hostile oil lobby. Sound familiar?" asked Sherman. "Jewish people in the diaspora were able to change all that. Armenian-Americans need to unify and mobilize their resources in support of Armenia and Karabakh."
Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–leader of the Congressional Armenian Caucus–organized Thursday’s meeting.
Earlier that week–on September 9–Sherman introduced a House Resolution commemorating the 75th anniversary of the destruction of Smyrna. The Resolution urges Congress to join "the Hellenic and Armenian communities in honoring the victims of the Smyrna massacres of 1922 and the millions of Orthodox Christians who perished in the genocidal campaign in Asia minor from 1894 to 1923."
The House Congress Resolution 148 also calls upon the Republic of Turkey "to take all appropriate steps to acknowledge these crimes against humanity" and also brings these events to the attention of the American people calling for the preservation of an accurate history.
Additionally–H.Con.Res. 148 not only mentions the brutal torture and death of thousands of priests in the broader period of 1894-1923–but specifies the murder of 37 Armenian clerics.
"It is important to remember the victims of Smyrna so that such atrocities may never again be repeated," said Sherman–"Turkey should acknowledge and recognize these crimes against humanity and the genocidal campaigns against Armenia’s and Greeks in Asia Minor."
On September 9–1922–Smyrna–the largest city in Asia minor–was sacked–burned to the ground and its Greek and Armenian inhabitants massacred by Turkish forced under the gaze of Western ships stationed offshore. The destruction of Smyrna was the culmination of a Turkish campaign to eliminate the Greeks and Armenian populations in Asia minor.
The Resolution also recognizes that persecutions of the Greek minority in Turkey reoccurred during a pogrom in Istanbul in 1955 in which Orthodox churches and Greek businesses were burned and vandalized. Restrictions on press and religious freedoms and harassment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate continue today.
Other sponsors of the Resolution include Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Michael Bilirakis (R-Fla.)–both of whom are the leaders of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus.