CR: Remembering the Armenian Genocide – Sen. Feinstein


Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today to honor the victims of
the Armenian Genocide, one of the great tragedies of the 20th century.
Last Saturday, April 24, 2004, marked the 89th anniversary of the
beginning of that tragic period and I urge all Americans to take time
to remember, reflect, and pledge never to forget what happened.
On April 24, 1915, under the guise of collecting supplies for its
participation in World War I, the Ottoman Empire launched a brutal and
unconscionable policy of mass murder. The New York Times reported that
the Ottoman Empire had adopted a policy to annihilate the Armenians
living within the empire. Throughout the following years, Armenians
faced violent attacks, starvation, deportation, and murder. Sadly, the
world took little notice.
Before the violence began in 1914, 2.5 million Armenians lived in the
Ottoman Empire. As a result of the genocide, 1.5 million Armenians had
died and another 500,000 had been driven from their homes and villages.
We must remember and pay homage to those that died. We must remind the
world of these deaths and renew our commitment to ensure that such
tragedies never happen again.
I am proud to represent an Armenian community of half a million in my
great State of California. They are a strong and resilient community,
taking strength in the tragedies of the past and the promise of a
better tomorrow. This community is leading the effort to preserve the
memory of the Armenian Genocide not only for future generations of
Armenian Americans, but, indeed, for all Americans and all citizens of
the world.
I urge my colleagues to join me in remembering the first genocide of
the 20th century. Through our commemoration of this tragedy, we make
clear that we will not tolerate mass murder and ethnic cleansing ever
again and we will never forget.
Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, people around the world are joining
together to solemnly remember and honor the men, women and children who
perished in the Armenian genocide. Eighty-none years ago, 11/2
million Armenians were systematically massacred at the hands of the
Ottoman Empire. Over 500,000 more were forced to flee their homeland of
3,000 years. Before genocide was defined and codified in international
law, Armenians experienced its horror.
Yet it appears that the international community did not learn the
lessons of Armenia’s genocide. Throughout the 20th century, the
international community failed to act as governments in Germany,
Yugoslavia and Rwanda attempted to methodically eliminate people
because of their religion or ethnicity. Minority groups were abandoned
by the international community in each instance to be overwhelmed by
violence and despair. In Armenia, as in Rwanda and the Holocaust, the
perpetrating governments scapegoated their minority groups for the
difficulties they faced as societies. They justified their campaigns of
hatred with political and economic reasons in an attempt to rationalize
their depravity.
This is why we must remember the Armenian genocide. To forget it is
to enable more genocides and ethnic cleansing to occur. We must honor
its victims by reaffirming our resolve to not let it happen again.
In the shadow of the Holocaust, in 1948, the United Nations adopted
the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
Genocide. What Winston Churchill once called a “crime without a
name”, was now called “genocide” by the Convention and defined as
“acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a
national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” The Convention
required its parties to create domestic legislation to hold
perpetrators of genocide accountable for their actions and to place
these perpetrators before domestic courts or international tribunals.
The international community has a long way to go in punishing and
especially, preventing genocide. But we have made the first steps. As
we move forward, we must learn the lessons of Armenia’s genocide. Can
we recognize the rhetorical veils of murderous leaders, thrown up to
disguise the agenda at hand? Have we, the international community,
learned that we must not stand by, paralyzed, as horrors occur, but
work collectively to prevent and stop genocides from occurring? We owe
the victims of the Armenian genocide this commitment.