House Votes to Recognize Armenian Genocide, Turkey Summons US Ambassador

October 30, 2019 Updated: October 30, 2019

The House of Representatives voted on Oct. 29 to recognize the Turkish genocide of Armenians during World War I.

The House approved a resolution 405-11 stating it is American policy to recognize and condemn the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923.

“Whereas, as displayed in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Adolf Hitler, on ordering his military commanders to attack Poland without provocation in 1939, dismissed objections by saying ‘[w]ho, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’, setting the stage for the Holocaust,” the resolution stated.

Along with rejecting “efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States Government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide” the resolution said U.S. policy included encouraging “education and public understanding of the facts of the Armenian Genocide.”

The approval included 226 Democrats, 178 Republicans, and one independent.

Turkey in 1915. Armenians were marched long distances and said to have been massacred. (AP Photo)

“There is not a shadow of a doubt that the Armenian people were subject to a brutal genocide, and it is the duty of the American government and every government to shut down false claims or denials of what the Armenian people experienced,” Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) said in a statement.

“Genocides, whenever and wherever they occur, cannot be ignored, whether they took place in the 20th century by the Ottoman Turks or mid-20th century by the Third Reich and in Darfur. Today we end a century of international silence that will not be another period of indifference or international ignorance to the lives lost to systematic murder,” added Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.).

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the only Armenian member of Congress, said in a statement: “I’ve been waiting for this moment since I first came to Congress 27 years ago.”

“Members of my own family were among those murdered, and my parents fled with my grandparents to America,” she added. “What all of the persecuted had in common was that they were Christians.”

Three representatives voted “present,” including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

Omar said in a statement: “Accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as a cudgel in a political fight. It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics.”

“A true acknowledgement … must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide,” she added.

Eleven representatives voted “nay,” all Republicans. Four were from Indiana.

Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), the brother of Vice President Mike Pence, voted against the resolution.

“I have a lot of confidence in the president and the administration knowing what to do in Turkey, and I didn’t want to interfere,” Pence said.

Thirteen others, including representatives from both parties, did not vote.

Turkey’s foreign ministry condemned the resolution and another that called for sanctions on the country.

“The resolution as it stands is both against the U.S. and international law as it is an incrimination against the principles defined in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” the ministry said in a statement. “There is no verdict of a competent court with regard to the 1915 events that establishes the crime of genocide. On the contrary, European Court of Human Rights delivered a milestone judgment which stipulates that 1915 events constitute a legitimate subject for debate.”

On Wednesday, Turkey summoned the American ambassador to file a formal protest.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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