March 3, 2016 - 11:04 AMT
Armenians included in bill condemning IS killings as genocide

The House Foreign Affairs Committee brought Congress one step closer to properly condemning as genocide the ongoing ISIL/Da’esh (also known as Islamic State) crimes against Christians – including Armenians and Assyrians – as well as Yezidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East, adopting H.Con.Res.75 by voice vote, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“The ANCA welcomes the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s passage of H.Con.Res75 as an important step in elevating our government’s response to genocide from a political choice to a moral imperative,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We cannot continue to treat the recognition of genocide — whether it is the systematic destruction of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians in 1915 or ISIL’s attacks against Christians and other minority groups today – as a geopolitical commodity, to be bartered or bargained away. Our stand against genocide must be unconditional. We urge the Obama Administration and Congress to speak clearly and unequivocally on this matter.”

The move paves the way for full Congressional consideration of the matter and is timed just weeks before a March 17 deadline, when the Obama Administration will be offering its official determination on the matter. The Administration has been under increasing pressure from U.S. religious leaders, human rights and civic groups — led by In Defense of Christians (IDC), the Knights of Columbus, the International Religious Freedom Roundtable and supported by the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the ANCA and over 100 organizations — to properly characterize the attacks Christians in Syria and Iraq ‘genocide.’

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) opened the March 2 consideration of H.Con.Res.75 with an amended version of the measure which offered broader details about Christian and other minority groups targeted by ISIL, listing Assyrian, Chaldean Syriac, Armenian, and Melkite communities as well as Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabak, Sabaean Mandeans, and Kaka‘i by name. The resolution specifically cites the ISIL crimes against these communities “constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide;” urges all governments – including the U.S. and UN – to acknowledge them as such; and calls for a coordinated international campaign to stop the violence. The measure also commends the Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq for accepting refugees from the violence and asserts that Syria’s Assad regime and ongoing civil war in that country has contributed to the growth of ISIL.

During Committee debate on the resolution, Congressman Dave Trott (R-MI) cited his trip to Armenia in 2015 to mark the Armenian Genocide Centennial. “I saw first-hand how painful and somber the memory of those atrocities are, even today,” said Rep. Trott, who went on to state, “we have failed to recognize the Armenian Genocide and I urge my colleagues not to make the same mistake again.”

Chairman Royce concurred, noting “We can’t afford the same negligence that we saw in the Armenian Genocide with respect to this genocide against the Yezidis and Christians.”

H.Con.Res.75, spearheaded by the Co-Chairs of the House Caucus for Religious Minorities in the Middle East, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), has bipartisan support from 200 cosponsors.

In a press conference hosted by the In Defense of Christians (IDC) in December, Rep. Eshoo, who is of Armenian and Assyrian origin, explained why this issue is so important to her. “This is history for my family that is repeating itself all over again. Future generations will look at us and ask ‘did they do anything?’”

“We cannot underestimate the moral authority the United States has when we simply utter what is true,” stated Rep. Fortenberry, holding a photo of Christians shackled by ISIS abductors prior to their murder.