April 24, 2011: Markey Commemorates Anniversary of Armenian Genocide
“Today, we remember and honor the victims of the Armenian Genocide, and we call, once again, for passage of a resolution affirming the Armenian Genocide in the U.S. Congress.
“Between 1915 and 1923, a campaign conceived and executed by the Ottoman Empire forcibly deported nearly 2 million Armenians from their homes, resulting in the deaths of 1.5 million innocent children, women and men. The history surrounding this issue is abundantly clear -- genocide did occur.
“While the target of this campaign of extermination was the Armenian people, it was indeed a crime against all people – and we must not forget lest we let it happen again. On this day every year, communities across our nation and across the world come together to remember this great tragedy. On this day, we are all Armenians.
“The term ‘genocide’ had not yet been coined in 1915, when the first Armenians were driven from their homes. The definition of this most profound crime against humanity came in 1944 from Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust by fleeing to America after the fall of Warsaw to the Nazis. In the wake of World War Two, Lemkin led the international community to establish the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Lemkin’s definitive example of genocide was the crimes against the Armenians.
“And as we commemorate the Armenian Genocide, we must redouble our efforts to stop similar crimes being committed today. The scorched towns of Darfur, in western Sudan, continue to suffer mass murder, displacement, rape, and torture at the hands of the government and its militia allies. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, armed forces continue to target ethnic populations with abductions and violence, leading to more than 5.4 million civilian deaths in the past 15 years. And just weeks ago, the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders was forced to suspend clinics in eastern Congo due to attacks from armed Congolese soldiers. These ongoing genocides must be stopped. Immediately.
“In order to eliminate these genocides in the future, we must keep alive the memories of genocides past.
“The U.S. House of Representatives has had before it, for many years now, a resolution which clearly affirms the United States record on the Armenian Genocide. I have been a strong supporter and vocal cosponsor of this resolution in every Congress, and I remain so today.
“Last year, when the Foreign Affairs Committee voted in support of the resolution, Turkey recalled its Ambassador to the United States. Turkey’s leaders continue to say that properly recognizing the Armenian Genocide will harm U.S.-Turkey relations – that it is not the right time to pass this resolution. But it is always ‘the right time’ for the truth.
“Already, 43 states and 20 nations have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide, and it is time for the United States to do the same. After all, how can we have the moral authority to call out and condemn the genocides in Darfur or Rwanda when we are unable to acknowledge the tragedy of Armenia? I look forward to the day that this truth can be spoken aloud, in one voice, by our government, and by governments around the world. Because it is the truth.
“In 2009, the governments of Turkey and Armenia announced a roadmap for normalizing relations between the two countries. In a process brokered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the two countries signed protocols to resume diplomacy and end the Turkish blockade of Armenia. However, before the ink had dried on those accords, the Turkish government backtracked on its commitment by adding additional preconditions.
“The people of Armenia continue to face the devastating hardships wrought by the dual blockades of Turkey and Azerbaijan. These blockades severely impede Armenia’s ability to export goods, restricting the country’s GDP by almost 40 percent of what it could be. In the face of these ongoing blockades, the United States must fully restore its economic aid to Armenia while working to reestablish the Turkish government’s commitment to normalized relations.
“Armenia has come a long way to free itself from terror and tyranny – free from the Ottoman Empire, free from the Soviet Union, and free from the horrors of the genocide that we remember every April 24th. This journey continues today, with our shared responsibility to ensure that the Armenian people are able to build their own, independent and prosperous future. If Armenians want to stay in Armenia and make a life there, they should be able to do so in peace and prosperity, and we should support them. And so, I look forward to continuing to work with the Armenian-American community and Members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenia to address the issues facing this longtime friend and important ally of the United States, so that together we can build something positive, something hopeful, something good for the future – an Armenia that is respected and honored by its allies and neighbors. And this cannot come without universal acknowledgment of the great humanitarian horror that was the Armenian Genocide.
“Elie Wiesel once wrote, ‘A destruction, an annihilation that only man can provoke, only man can prevent.’ Nearly one century later, that is our responsibility -- to remember the Armenian Genocide so that we can prevent such atrocities from happening again, and to continue standing together with the Armenian people in building a better future.”