WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America, in welcoming a first wave of Executive and Legislative branch sanctions over Turkey’s atrocities in Syria, underscored that Ankara will neither respect the depth of American resolve nor respond to U.S. calls for restraint as long as the President and Congress continue to enforce Ankara’s high-profile gag-rule against honest American condemnation and commemoration of Turkey’s WWI-era genocide of Armenians and other Christian nations.
“We are imposing U.S. sanctions on Turkish leaders in Ankara, at the same time we’re enforcing Turkey’s gag-rule on American leaders right here Washington, D.C. That’s wrong. And it has to stop,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “If we are to be taken seriously by Erdogan, the President and Congress need to override Turkey’s veto – establishing, through statutory and executive action, official U.S. recognition and ongoing remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.”
The ANCA launched an online congressional outreach campaign calling for the fast-tracking of Turkey sanctions legislation and the immediate passage of Armenian Genocide legislation (S.Res.150 and H.Res.296).
A White House statement on Monday announced the immediate reinstatement of a 50 percent increase in steel tariffs and called off negotiations on a reported $100 billion trade deal with Turkey in response to President Erdogan’s invasion and atrocities in northern Syria, which have already displaced tens of thousands of civilians. The President pledged to “aggressively use economic sanctions to target those who enable, facilitate, and finance these heinous acts in Syria,” and to “swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkey’s leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.” The President had already pledged $50 million in stabilization assistance to ethnic and religious minorities in northern Syria, including the imperiled Christian population. Vice President Pence and national security adviser Robert O’Brien are scheduled to travel to Turkey in the “immediate future” to explore ways to end Turkey’s aggression.
Both Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate and House have expressed concerns about the President’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria, leaving the region’s Kurdish, Christian, and other minorities vulnerable to Turkey’s onslaught. “Abandoning this fight now and withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria would re-create the very conditions that we have worked hard to destroy and invite the resurgence of ISIS,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the President’s “package of sanctions against Turkey falls very short of reversing that humanitarian disaster.” The ANCA has expressed early support for a number of Senate and House measures to be introduced this week – including those by Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX).
The Armenian Genocide Resolutions (S.Res.150 and H.Res.296) are spearheaded by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL). The bi-partisan measures lock in permanent U.S. recognition and commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s denial, and promote public education regarding the crime as a genocide prevention tool. Over 110 U.S. Representatives and more than 18 Senators are cosponsors of the measures.
Since Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria, House Foreign Affairs Committee members Albio Sires (D-NJ) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) have each referenced Turkey’s genocidal past in statements condemning Erdogan’s actions. “Reports that Turkey has begun its incursion into Northern Syria leaves our Kurdish allies vulnerable to the possibility of military destruction as Turkey seems intent on eradicating Kurdish influence along the Turkey-Syrian border at whatever cost,” Rep. Sires noted in an October 9 statement. “These actions are particularly concerning given Turkey’s historical precedent of eliminating minority groups that it perceives as a threat, as it did during the Armenian Genocide.”
Rep. Lieu tweeted on Sunday: “Now would be a good time for the United States to recognize the Armenian Genocide. For too long, presidents like @realDonaldTrump were too afraid to acknowledge this historical truth out of respect for Turkey. Turkey no longer deserves our respect or our assistance.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on Monday that “State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the United States had long stored, under American control, at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 250 miles from the Syrian border, according to two American officials.” A senior official told the New York Times that the weapons were “now essentially Erdogan’s hostages. To fly them out of Incirlik would be to mark the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance. To keep them there, though, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago.” The ANCA, along with the Hellenic American Leadership Council, has long advocated for the redeployment of Turkey-based nuclear arms.
The ANCA joined with Kurdish and other local organizations in protests in front of the White House and the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles over the weekend. The ANCA Western Region, Kurdish Community of Southern California, and AYF Western U.S. organized the Sunday protest calling attention to Turkey’s genocidal policy against Kurdish, Armenian, and other minorities. Fox 11 was among the local stations covering the protest.
The ANCA-WR also added a new sub-panel on Saturday, October 19 at its upcoming 2019 ANC-WR Grassroots Conference, discussing Turkey’s illegal invasion of Syria: its impact and ramifications. Dr. Khatchig Mouradian from Columbia University and Legal Expert Edvin Minassian, Esq. will discuss the topic. For tickets, visit the website.
The ANCA is working with a coalition of Kurdish, Greek, Assyrian/Syriac/Chaldean, human rights, and religious freedom groups to coordinate a protest during the recently announced November 13 meeting between President Trump and President Erdogan in Washington, D.C. ANCA and VOA Turkey news footage of President Erdogan’s May 2017 visit to Washington D.C. showed the President ordering his security guards and supporters to attack peaceful protesters in Sheridan Circle, across the street from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence.
Additional protests are planned in major U.S. cities and will be announced soon.