Omar Faces Backlash Over ‘Present’ Vote on Armenian Genocide Resolution

November 1, 2019 Updated: November 1, 2019

Rep. Ilhan Omar, for her “present” vote on a House resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide, received backlash from several groups.

The resolution, H.Res.296 (pdf), passed the House by an overwhelming 405-to-11 margin and recognizes the “killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923” as a genocide.

Omar tweeted that she disapproved of the timing and politicization of the vote.

“*Of course* we should acknowledge the Genocide,” Omar tweeted before she added: “I think we should demand accountability for human rights abuses consistently, not simply when it suits our political goals.” In a longer statement, she then argued that other atrocities such as the killings of Native Americans and the Atlantic slave trade need to be acknowledged.

Turkey has long disputed that the Armenian deaths a century ago were due to genocide and considered them casualties amid the fighting of World War I.

Several of her constituents issued statements about the “present” vote.

This is the scene in Turkey in 1915 when Armenians were marched long distances and are said to have been massacred. (AP Photo)

Rev. Tadeos Barseghyan of St. Sahag Armenian Church in St. Paul told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Omar’s arguments have been used in the past.

“Is there a right or wrong time to … stand up for justice that she claims to be a champion for?” Barseghyan said, adding, “This is recognizing the victims and their descendants.”

Michele Byfield Angell, a parish council’s chair, said Omar should have approved the bill.

“If [Omar] is going to be representing our community here, she should hear us. … If she’s voting present as acknowledging it but not doing anything about it, then what is she doing?” she said.

The leader of an Armenian advocacy group also criticized the move.

Omar’s “votes and actions … do not represent the best of American or Muslim values,” said Van Krikorian, the co-chair of the Armenian Assembly of America, reported NBC News. “Innocent people were and are being slaughtered, and there is a universal need to defend the victims of genocide and ethnic cleansing, not to stand with or defer to the murderers.”

Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter, a longtime critic of the current Turkish government, also blasted Omar over the move on social media, accusing her of being on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s payroll.

“What an absolute disappointment and shame that the only democrat who did NOT support the Turkish bill aiming to stop the killing of innocent people is @IlhanMN who seems like on #DictatorErdogan ‘s payroll working for his interests, but not for the American people and democracy!” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz weighed in.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart following their talks in the Black sea resort of Sochi on Oct. 22, 2019. (Sergei Chirikov/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“The Armenian Genocide is historical fact, and the denial of that fact is a continuation of the genocide. As a member of Congress, I sponsored this legislation. The memory of the victims and the commitment to the survivors demands that history acknowledge the lives lost,” he wrote in a statement.

Turkish government officials decried the House vote this week.

“We are saddened that a slander against our country is being accepted by a country’s parliament,” President Erdogan said after the passage of the resolution, adding that Turkey “would consider this accusation the biggest insult towards our nation,” The Hill reported.

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