REP. VAN HOLLEN ISSUES STATEMENT COMMEMORATING 93RD ANNIVERSARY OF ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

US Fed News
April 29, 2008 Tuesday 8:14 AM EST

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. (8th CD), issued the following statement:

United States Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) today released
the following statement commemorating the 93rd anniversary of the
Armenian genocide:

"I rise today to commemorate the 93rd anniversary of the Armenian
Genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children were
killed by Ottoman authorities during World War I.

"On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman government began its genocidal plan by
arresting and murdering over 250 Armenian intellectuals and political
figures in Istanbul. In the interior of the Ottoman Empire, where the
bulk of the Armenian population lived, the government then arrested
and killed village leaders. Meanwhile, most able-bodied Armenian men,
who had been conscripted into the Ottoman army, were separated into
labor battalions and subsequently murdered. Next, in various provinces,
gendarmes and the army massacred Armenian villagers outright, while in
other provinces the remaining Armenian population of women, children
and the elderly were forcibly deported over the mountains and into the
scorching deserts of Syria, without food and water. Many of the female
deportees were raped and killed en route, while other deportees died
of starvation and dehydration. By the end of 1915, the centuries-old
Armenian civilization of eastern Anatolia no longer existed.

"U.S. diplomats who were stationed in Anatolia at the time were
some of the main eye-witnesses and chroniclers of that horrific
period. U.S. Consul Leslie Davis, stationed in Harput in eastern
Anatolia, wrote the following in a cable to U.S. Ambassador Henry
Morgenthau, dated July 24, 1915: "It has been no secret that the
plan was to destroy the Armenian race as a race, but the methods
used have been more cold-blooded and barbarous, if not effective,
than I had first supposed." He also wrote in this same cable: "I
do not believe there has ever been a massacre in the history of the
world so general and thorough as that which is now being perpetrated
in this region or that a more fiendish, diabolical scheme has been
conceived in the mind of man."

"This cable, and many others of a similar nature, is housed in the
U.S. National Archives only a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol and
the White House. They provide unambiguous, documentary evidence
of what occurred. Yet there are those who still refuse to properly
characterize what happened to the Armenian people during World War I
as genocide. Although the word "genocide" was not invented in 1915,
what these diplomats described was indeed genocide of a people.

"I am deeply disappointed that many of our current officials avoid
characterizing what occurred as "genocide." The avoidance does a
disservice to the memory of the victims and their descendants and
hurts our moral standing in the world. I hope that one day soon, this
legislative body and the U.S. Administration will properly characterize
what happened to the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire.

"Many of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide settled in the
United States. Bearing painful physical and emotional scares,
they nonetheless re-established their lives here, worked hard,
and became proud American citizens, thankful for the opportunity to
live in freedom. Many of their descendants have become leaders in the
fields of science, business, academia, and the arts, and have served
their country bravely in military uniform. They have also created a
vibrant community. Yet they also bear the pain of what their parents
and grandparents went through and are actively engaged in the effort
to seek proper recognition of what happened to the Armenian people in
1915. Today, as we recall the events of the Armenian Genocide and pay
homage to the victims, we also honor the Armenian-American community
for its unwavering commitment to this human rights struggle."