Armenian Ambassador Markarian congratulates Congressman Sherman
Washington DC – This week, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan awarded Congressman Brad Sherman (D – CA) the Mkhitar Gosh medal in recognition of his efforts on behalf of the Armenian-American community and U.S.-Armenia relations. The Mkhitar Gosh medal is named for the noted 12th century Armenian clergyman, writer, and codifier of the Armenian civil and canon laws.
Armenian Ambassador Tatoul Markarian presented Congressman Sherman the medal at a Capitol Hill reception to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Hundreds of Armenian-Americans gathered at the event in recognition of the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Upon receiving the award, Congressman Sherman reaffirmed his commitment to advancing the interests of the Armenian-American community and strengthening US-Armenia ties.
“I am honored to receive this award, and I thank President Sargsyan for this honor,” said Congressman Sherman. “It is my great privilege to work so closely with the Armenian-American community and advocate on behalf of the U.S.-Armenia relationship.”
“As a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, I will continue to fight for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and defend U.S. assistance to Armenia and Artsakh. The United States has always been a strong supporter of Armenia, and I will keep working hard to make sure that friendship and partnership grows even further.”
Congressman Sherman represents California's San Fernando Valley, an area which is home to a large and vibrant Armenian-American community.
Read Sherman’s Full Statement on US-Armenia Issues:
Recognition of the Armenian Genocide
During World War I and its aftermath, the Ottoman Empire attempted to destroy the Armenian population of Eastern Anatolia. Congress should remember this tragic event and proclaim that the Armenian Genocide is a fact. Unfortunately, there are many who deny that the first genocide of the 20th Century actually took place.
It is long overdue that Congress be on the right side of this issue and affirm what history has shown to be true. Since going to Congress in 1997, I have cosponsored every resolution commemorating the Armenian Genocide. In March 2009, my colleagues and I introduced a resolution calling for the U.S. to recognize the Armenian Genocide. In March 2010, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted on this resolution.
The resolution passed narrowly, by just one vote, with a final tally of 23 to 22. At the vote, I stressed that the last act of any genocide is genocide denial, and the first act of preventing the next genocide is to acknowledge past acts of genocide. There is no doubt about the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, and this resolution should have passed by a larger margin. I fought diligently to bring the Armenian Genocide Resolution to a vote on the House floor before the closing of the previous two-year session of Congress in December 2010. I brought the case for recognition to many members of Congress, in order to achieve a majority of votes. Unfortunately, the House leadership at the time decided to not bring the resolution to a vote on the floor.
America should never be associated with genocide denial. The victims of the Genocide deserve our remembrance and recognition. It is in our national interests to remember the past and learn from these crimes against humanity to ensure that they are never repeated.
I joined with other members of Congress to introduce the new Armenian Genocide Resolution now pending before Congress. I will not give up this fight and will continue to organize efforts in Congress to ensure that we bring the Armenian Genocide Resolution to a successful vote on the House floor.
Increased Assistance to Javakheti
We should provide a robust U.S. aid package for Georgia that includes significant assistance to the Javakheti region to support that region’s infrastructure and job creation needs. I believe that our aid programs in Georgia, while supporting development throughout the entire country, should include a robust package for this relatively underdeveloped area of Georgia.
U.S. aid to the Javakheti region focuses on agricultural modernization, social development, health projects, and improved infrastructure. Increased U.S. aid to the region helps increase the quality of life for ethnic Armenians living there. Recently, I met with the Georgian Ambassador to the U.S. to discuss the U.S. aid package to Georgia and targeted aid to Javakheti.
I also raised the Javakheti issue with the Administration. During a February 29, 2012, hearing with Secretary Clinton on our foreign affairs budget for 2013, I advocated for increased U.S. assistance to the Javakheti region in the south of Georgia. Javakheti is one of the poorest and least developed regions of the Republic of Georgia, and has a large Armenian community. Noting the generous U.S. aid provided to Georgia, I requested that the Armenian community residing in the Javakheti region of Georgia directly benefit from increased U.S. assistance to that area. I also recently pressed USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on the difficult economic conditions facing this region and his efforts in conjunction with the Armenian-American community to focus U.S. assistance to the area.
I joined my House colleagues in a request to House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations Chairwoman Kay Granger and Ranking Member Nita Lowey urging that U.S. assistance to Georgia in 2013 be targeted (at least 10% of aid to Georgia) toward job creation efforts in Javakheti.
Aid for Armenia and Artsakh
Since 1993, Congress has provided about $2 billion in assistance to Armenia. This funding has helped Armenia make the transition from a state-run to a free market economy, build democratic institutions, and provide for the needs of the Armenian people.
As a leading member of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, I have fought against cuts in aid to Armenia, year after year. In the President’s most recent budget request for 2013, he called for $36.6 million in assistance to Armenia. This is, unfortunately, a 17% decrease in aid to Armenia from current funding levels. I am requesting along with my colleagues that the Appropriations Committee provide no less than $50 million aid to Armenia in 2013.
I have been an outspoken voice in support of increased humanitarian aid to Nagorno-Karabakh. While Congress has appropriated over $46 million in humanitarian and development aid for Nagorno-Karabakh since 2004, the State Department has unfortunately not expended the funds Congress has provided for the people of Artsakh every year. I am strongly supporting efforts to require the State Department to expend the aid that Congress provides to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Recognizing the Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku Massacres
In addition to leading efforts in Congress to get recognition of the Armenian Genocide, I have also recognized other, more recent massacres against Armenians. On February 29, 2012, I solemnly marked the massacre of Armenian civilians in Azerbaijan with a House statement for the record.
On the evening of February 27, 1988, a three-day rampage against Armenian civilians living in Sumgait, in Soviet Azerbaijan, began. Armenian civilians were maimed, raped, beaten, and burned alive at the hands of rioters.
The Sumgait Pogrom was, sadly, only the beginning. Despite international condemnation of the pogrom in Sumgait, another anti-Armenian pogrom occurred later that year in Kirovabad, Azerbaijan, from November 21st to 27th. Due to the brutality, the Armenians of Kirovabad and the surrounding areas were forced to flee their homes. Another crime against humanity occurred yet again from January 13th to the 19th, in 1990. Members of the Armenian community of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, were assaulted, tortured and killed again by violent mobs.
The ethnic-cleansing of the Armenians from Azerbaijan must not be forgotten. Additionally, the United States must to do more – we need to demonstrate to Azerbaijan that the United States is committed to peace and to the protection of Artsakh from coercion. Azerbaijan should cease all threats and acts of coercion against the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh.
The fact that we must educate others about the victims of the Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku massacres demonstrates that the world has not learned the lessons of the Armenian Genocide. If we hope to stop future massacres and conflicts, we need to acknowledge those horrific acts of the past and make sure they do not happen again.