[Congressional Record: April 27, 2004 (Extensions)]
>From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
HON. PETER J. VISCLOSKY
in the house of representatives
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in solemn memorial to the
estimated 1.5 million men, women, and children who lost their lives
during the Armenian Genocide. As in the past, I am pleased to join so
many distinguished House colleagues on both sides of the aisle in
ensuring that the horrors wrought upon the Armenian people are never
On April 24, 1915, over 200 religious, political, and intellectual
leaders of the Armenian community were brutally executed by the Turkish
government in Istanbul. Over the course of the next 8 years, this war
of ethnic genocide against the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire
took the lives of over half the world’s Armenian population.
Sadly, there are some people who still deny the very existence of
this period which saw the institutionalized slaughter of the Armenian
people and dismantling of Armenian culture. To those who would question
these events, I point to the numerous reports contained in the U.S.
National Archives detailing the process that systematically decimated
the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. However, old records are
too easily forgotten–and dismissed. That is why we come together every
year at this time: to remember in words what some may wish to file away
in archives. This genocide did take place, and these lives were taken.
That memory must keep us forever vigilant in our efforts to prevent
these atrocities from ever happening again.
I am proud to note that Armenian immigrants found, in the United
States, a country where their culture could take root and thrive. Most
Armenians in America are children or grandchildren of the survivors,
although there are still survivors among us. In my district in
Northwest Indiana, a vibrant Armenian-American community has developed
and strong ties to Armenia continue to flourish. My predecessor in the
House, the late Adam Benjamin, was of Armenian heritage, and his
distinguished service in the House serves as an example to the entire
Northwest Indiana community. Over the years, members of the Armenian-
American community throughout the United States have contributed
millions of dollars and countless hours of their time to various
Armenian causes. Of particular note are Mrs. Vicki Hovanessian and her
husband, Dr. Raffy Hovanessian, residents of Indiana’s First
Congressional District, who have continually worked to improve the
quality of life in Armenia, as well as in Northwest Indiana. Three
other Armenian-American families in my congressional district, Dr. Aram
and Mrs. Seta Semerdjian, Dr. Heratch and Mrs. Sonya Doumanian, and Dr.
Ara and Mrs. Rosy Yeretsian, have also contributed greatly toward
charitable works in the United States and Armenia. Their efforts,
together with hundreds of other members of the Armenian-American
community, have helped to finance several important projects in
Armenia, including the construction of new schools, a mammography
clinic, and a crucial roadway connecting Armenia to Nagorno Karabagh.
In the House, I have tried to assist the efforts of my Armenian-
American constituency by continually supporting foreign aid to Armenia.
This past year, with my support, Armenia received $84 million in U.S.
aid to assist economic and military development. In addition, on April
16, 2004, I joined several of my colleagues in signing the letter to
President Bush urging him to honor his pledge to recognize the Armenian
The Armenian people have a long and proud history. In the fourth
century, they became the first nation to embrace Christianity. During
World War I, the Ottoman Empire was ruled by an organization known as
the Young Turk Committee, which allied with Germany. Amid fighting in
the Ottoman Empire’s eastern Anatolian provinces, the historic
heartland of the Christian Armenians, Ottoman authorities ordered the
deportation and execution of all Armenians in the region. By the end of
1923, virtually the entire Armenian population of Anatolia and western
Armenia had either been killed or deported.
While it is important to keep the lessons of history in mind, we must
also remain committed to protecting Armenia from new and more hostile
aggressors. In the last decade, thousands of lives have been lost and
more than a million people displaced in the struggle between Armenia
and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabagh. Even now, as we rise to
commemorate the accomplishments of the Armenian people and mourn the
tragedies they have suffered, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and other countries
continue to engage in a debilitating blockade of this free nation.
Consistently, I have testified before the Foreign Operations
Appropriations Subcommittee on the important issue of bringing peace to
a troubled area of the world. I continued my support for maintaining
the level of funding for the Southern Caucasus region of the
Independent States (IS), and of Armenia in particular. In addition, on
February 26, 2004, I joined several of my colleagues in sending a
letter to President Bush urging nim to ensure parity in military
assistance between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues, Representatives Joe
Knollenberg and Frank Pallone, for organizing this special order to
commemorate the 89th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Their
efforts will not only help bring needed attention to this tragic period
in world history, but also serve to remind us of our duty to protect
basic human rights and freedoms around the world.