A petition on Whitehouse.gov is urging President Barack Obama to display a rug woven by Armenian orphans at a refugee camp in 1920. The tapestry was donated to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, as a gift to thank Americans for their humanitarian support following World War I.
The carpet has remained in storage and was expected to make its debut on Dec. 16 during a Smithsonian event and book launch for Hagop Martin Deranian's "President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug." On Sept. 12, the Smithsonian scholar who helped plan the event canceled the display, explaining that the White House decided to no longer loan the carpet, according to the Washington Post.
Armenian National Committee officials in Washington, D.C. have sent out an action alert, asking activists to pressure the White House House to make the orphan rug available to the public and press Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide, said Talar Malakian, Armenian National Committee Executive Director in Glendale.
"There's political play here in not displaying the orphan rug. The White House needs to make that explanation clear," Malakian said.
The genocide of 1915 to 1918 claimed the lives of roughly 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, which became the modern republic of Turkey. Modern-day Turkey disputes that genocide took place, claiming the victims were killed during the violent chaos of World War I and its aftermath.
"We live in a democracy. I think if enough people are concerned, [White House officials] may change their minds. But it has to do with activism," Malakian said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) wants the White House to display the rug.
"The decision by the White House to block display of the Armenian genocide rug is as inexplicable, as it is hurtful. The rug is not only a symbol of the resilience of the Armenian people through their darkest days, it also serves as a tangible expression of the inherent truth that not only were 1.5 million people killed in the first genocide of the 20th century, but that the American government was a central player in efforts to call attention to the plight of the Armenian people and provide relief to survivors," Schiff said.
"I believe that keeping this rug under lock and key is a shameful act by a government that has made the protection of human rights a central pillar of its foreign policy," he added.
Nearly 420 people had signed the online petition as of this past Monday.
For more information, visit the petition Share the Armenian Orphan Rug with the American People. The petition will be live on the website through Nov. 24.
-- Nicole Charky, firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow on Twitter: @nicosharki.