Tuesday, October 29th marked a day for celebration in the eyes of thousands of Armenian-Americans.
In a rare display of bipartisanship, the US House voted by a margin of 405-11 to officially recognize and condemn the Ottoman Empire’s actions against the Armenian people as genocide. Following a century of Turkish denial, this victory is one of incredible significance to descendants of those affected by the 1915-17 mass killings.
The passage of H.Res.296 comes on the back of increasingly tense US-Turkey relations. It has been widely understood as a political response to Turkey’s recent incursion into northern Syria. Their attack on the Kurdish ethnic minority- which some warn is reminiscent of the forced labor, deportation, death marches, and outright massacres against the Armenians- has elicited a powerful response from US representatives across the political spectrum.
The 11 “no” votes came from Republicans who fear alienating Turkey. Of more interest, however, is Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) decision to abstain from voting altogether. As a champion of human rights activism, her abstention has been highly scrutinized by other progressives, and particularly her constituents within Twin Peaks’ Armenian-American community. Omar’s official justification (via Twitter) was that “we should demand accountability for human rights abuses consistently, not simply when it suits our political goals”. Nevertheless, the freshman representative has drawn sharp criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu promptly condemned the House’s decision, calling it “shameful” and declaring it “null and void” in the eyes of the government and the people. Turkey, which has repeatedly denied the scope of actions taken against the Armenians, will likely see its once-friendly relationship with the US continue to deteriorate. The Trump administration has yet to respond to the House’s decision.
Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny remarked that, “Passage of H.Res. 296 by the House of Representatives reflects the best of America. It honors a proud chapter in U.S. history of humanitarian intervention,” a sentiment echoed by Armenian-American youth.
“I think it’s finally time our voices are being heard,” said LCHS Armenian club president Alec Tujian (12), who takes great pride in his heritage. “Over time, these [actions] will all help us as an Armenian nation, for those living in and out of our historic country”.
Information comes from VOA News, The New York Times, & the Armenian Assembly of America