We will never again be silenced, Member of the house of Representatives said in a blog post on Medium after Joe Biden’s recognition of the Armenian Geocide.
“In doing so, the President has cast aside decades of shameful silence and half-truths, and the broken promises of so many of his predecessors, and spoken truth to power,” Rep. Schiff wrote,
The article runs as follows:
Politics can be deeply personal. If you’ve struggled to get health care or worried about putting food on the table, that’s personal. If you’ve been through a trauma, that’s personal, and you want your country to recognize the injury and do something about it. To help you, yes, but to make sure that others do not have to experience the same hardship or tragedy.
For tens of thousands of my constituents whose families have experienced unmitigated tragedy and loss, they’ve been disappointed by politicians their entire lives, and presidents of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, have refused to recognize the truth behind their suffering, that they and their ancestors were the victims of genocide.
I am writing, of course, of the Armenian Genocide.
For more than two decades, I have had the privilege of representing the largest Armenian-American community in America. The Armenian-American community is like so many others — its members care about education and health care and opportunity for themselves and their children — but they also are a tightly knit community with a deep sense of their history. And for year after year, they have seen presidents fail to recognize the catastrophe that befell their parents, grandparents and great grandparents, and which led their families to build new lives in America.
Let me take a step back.
For those of you who don’t know about this terrible chapter in history, in its waning days, the Ottoman Empire undertook a systematic campaign in 1915 to exterminate the Armenian people.
American diplomats recorded the events in real time, yet they lacked a name for the barbaric and systematic extermination of a people. Millions of Armenians were beaten, raped, killed, and marched across deserts. And in the end, 1.5 million Armenian women, men and children lay dead.
It was not until Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide” in 1943 that we had a word to describe the sheer magnitude of evil of seeking to destroy an entire people and culture.
Out of the blood and rubble, the Armenian people survived, and the orphans of this society crossed the ocean to build lives in California and around the nation.
Every April 24, we commemorate the Armenian Genocide — the families torn apart, the lives lost and the culture that survived. In Los Angeles, we march, we remember, and we pledge never to forget.
For tens of thousands of my constituents, recognition of the genocide has been a lifelong struggle, passed down for generations. It is a deeply personal struggle, because the denial of that crime is an ongoing injury. The wound remains fresh.
And it’s been deeply personal for me, too. I’ve sat with survivors of the Genocide, been welcomed into their homes and heard their stories of forced marches through the Syrian desert, and the murders of the parents, brothers and sisters. I’ve watched them relive the pain, with tears streaming down their faces, and it is just like it was yesterday.
With each commemoration, I’ve watched as their numbers dwindled, hoping and praying that we could achieve recognition while some remained who were witnesses. Last session, the few who remain were able to see the genocide finally recognized by the U.S. Congress. But still, not by a U.S. President, not since Reagan, and even then, not in a statement devoted to the Armenian Genocide alone.
For weeks, I’ve been on the phone with members of the White House and Cabinet to underscore what recognition of the Armenian Genocide would mean, especially now.
President Biden promised to recognize the Armenian Genocide while running for office, and he just fulfilled his promise.
The feeling on the streets of Little Armenia in Hollywood this morning was electric. President Biden defied Turkish threats and recognized the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians for what it was — the first genocide of the 20th Century.
In doing so, the President has cast aside decades of shameful silence and half-truths, and the broken promises of so many of his predecessors, and spoken truth to power.
For my constituents, it doesn’t matter if it was a Democrat or Republican speaking this simple truth — just that the President of the United States said it. Finally.
Speaking this simple truth can help deter other crimes against humanity by demonstrating that those who engage in mass murder will be held accountable. Because genocide is not some relic of the past, it’s happening right now in places around the world. Only months ago, Turkey and Azerbaijan made war against the Armenians in Artsakh, and many Armenians fear that another genocide could take place at any time.
As we commemorate the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we remember the lost souls, and pledge to keep their memory alive — through word and deed.
We will never again be silenced. We will never forget.