[Congressional Record Volume 142, Number 54 (Wednesday, April 24, 1996)]
[House]
[Page H3791]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




       RECOGNIZING THE 81ST ANNIVERSARY OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the 
gentleman from Michigan [Mr. Levin] is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. LEVIN. Mr. Speaker, April 24, 1996 marks the 81st anniversary of 
one of the world's most tragic events--the genocide of the Armenian 
people by the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire. The 
genocidal process which began in the 1890's, came to a peak in 1915 
when the Turkish government began a systematic and willful attempt to 
wipe out the Armenian population of Anatolia, their historic homeland.
  The process continued in 1918 and 1920 when Turkish armies invaded 
the Armenian Republic in the Caucasus in a heartless attempt to 
eradicate the remnant of the Armenian people who had taken refuge in a 
newly freed homeland. The final act of genocide was committed in Smyrna 
in 1922 when the Turkish Nationalist armies burnt the beautiful coastal 
city on the Mediterranean and drove its Armenian and Greek population 
into the sea in full sight of American and other European warships.
  In all, over 1.5 million Armenians perished and over 500,000 more 
were left homeless and driven into exile.
  While the Sultan's government, that of Damat Ferit Pasha, directly 
after World War I held war crime trials and condemned to death the 
chief perpetrators of that heinous crime against humanity, the vast 
majority of the culpable were set free. From that day to the present, 
successive Turk governments have denied the Armenian Genocide and have 
attempted to spread doubt in the world community.
  However, at the time, the United States had consular and embassy 
officials stationed in strategic locations in the Ottoman Empire and 
all these officials, including our Ambassador, Henry Morgenthau, 
reported the intent, the technique, and the results of Ottoman Turkey 
policy in detail to our own State Department. The records of these 
officials, demonstrate what the official records of all the European 
Powers revealed--including Turkey's allies Germany and Austria--that 
the genocide was a deliberate act on the part of the government to 
destroy a native ethnic and religious minority whose only crime was to 
be different.
  All victims of man's inhumanity to man have the right to have their 
fate known and recorded. The survivors have the right to mourn the 
victims. And the world has the responsibility to see that the crime of 
genocide does not go unpunished, at the very least to the extent that 
the perpetrators are held up to universal opprobrium.
  Genocide cannot be allowed to be a policy of state. A crime 
unpunished and unrepented is a crime which can and will be repeated. 
Even today, as I speak, the present Turkish Government is enforcing a 
blockade of Armenia blocking American humanitarian assistance from 
reaching that country. This aid, supported by this Congress, is 
prevented by the present government of Turkey from being transported to 
Armenia by land. Such a violation of fundamental principles of humane 
conduct cannot be allowed to continue.
  This issue is not just an abstraction. Every year a substantial 
number of my constituents who I have known personally for many years, 
feel deep pain when April 24 comes about. A pain made worse by the fact 
that it is ignored by most media and the educated public. This is 
something that we must not let continue.
  Take, for example, the Yessaian family, whose story is recorded in 
the book, ``Out of Turkey,'' which is distributed by Wayne State 
University Press. Only six members out of a family of 37 survived the 
Genocide, and of the six, four had left Turkey prior to the onslaught. 
One of these survivors is alive today and can recall the heart 
wrenching experience of seeing his mother and his relatives perish 
before his very eyes. He still experiences nightmares to this very day.
  Suren Aprahamian, also a survivor, has written his memoirs ``From Van 
to Detroit: Surviving the Armenian Genocide,'' which were published in 
Ann Arbor, MI. He was among the few survivors of an extended family of 
over 40 and was forced to watch as old men, women, and other children 
died one by one due to hunger, thirst, slaughter, and exposure.
  Hundreds of other tragic stories of survivors have been preserved on 
oral history tapes which are on file at the Armenian Research Center of 
the University of Michigan-Dearborn, directed by another of my 
constituents, Dr. Dennis R. Papazian. These hundreds of stories, 
recited by innocent victims, provide a human dimension to the chilling 
horror of this cataclysm.
  Finally, Mr. Speaker, there are still many living survivors in my 
district. The memory of their tragedy still haunts them. They 
participate each year in commemoration ceremonies fighting against hope 
that the world will not forget their anguish. Fighting against hope 
that the present-day Turkish Government will show signs of remorse for 
a crime committed by their ancestors. Fighting against hope that the 
United States Government will again show signs of sympathy as it did in 
1915-1920.
  To me, Mr. Speaker, the Armenian Genocide is not just a footnote in 
history. It is something that many of my constituents feel very deeply 
about. It is an issue above politics and partisanship. It is a question 
of morality.
  I am painfully aware of other recent and current acts of genocidal 
activities being carried on around the world. What began as an 
exception in the Armenian case, and which then shocked the civilized 
world, seems to be becoming almost commonplace. It is my belief that 
when governments are allowed to deny genocide with impunity, and its 
perpetrators escape punishment, it only encourages this dreadful virus 
to spread further in the international body politic.

  Our Nation's strong support for human rights for all people is more 
important than ever as we witness the systematic extermination of 
innocent people caught up in ethnic and religious conflict.
  We cannot let the Armenian Genocide be forgotten. To do so would be 
to doom future generations to the same curse. Only through remembering 
the past, and condemning genocide, can we stop such acts of hatred, 
cruelty and violence from happening again, again, and again.

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