In an annual effort that has traditionally been an uphill battle on
Capitol Hill, a local congressman has taken the reins of pushing a
resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide for passage.
This year, for the first time, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) took
the lead in nudging Congress to officially recognize the Armenian
Genocide because former Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.), the effort’s
former lead sponsor, retired. Schiff also sits on the House
International Relations Committee and the Subcommittee on
International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Human Rights.
A resolution was introduced Monday by Schiff and co-sponsored by
Rep. George Radanovich (D-Fresno).
“The purpose of this resolution is to officially recognize the
facts and to make clear the events of 1915,” Schiff said. “And while
that’s been easy and noncontroversial at the state level, it’s been
difficult in Congress.”
In 1915, 1.5 million people were systematically killed at the
hands of the Ottoman-Turkish Empire, Schiff said.
In 1988, President Reagan signed a bill that criminalized genocide
under U.S. law. But America has never formally recognized the
Armenian Genocide. Armenian leaders and Schiff said congressional
reluctance is because of a strong Turkish lobby in Washington, D.C.
Schiff said the resolution accounts for Turkey’s delicate
strategic position in the Middle East. In the build-up to the war in
Iraq, Turkey’s parliament refused to authorize the deployment of
62,000 U.S. troops on Turkish soil, which is north of Iraq.
Still, the resolution is unwarranted, Turkish officials said.
“Let me say we don’t agree with the term used to define a
genocide,” said Ozgur Kivanc Altan, acting Turkish Consul General in
Los Angeles. “We believe what happened during World War I for the
Ottoman Empire was a terrible tragedy. Many people lost their lives
and many people suffered -- from Turkey and Armenia, and Christians,
Muslims and Jews. But for genocide, according to international law,
there needs to be an intent to destroy a nation. This was absolutely
not the case.”
Altan said the matters of Turkey’s position in the war in Iraq and
its role in what many believe was a massacre should not be equated.
“I don’t thing there should be a relationship between those
issues,” he said.