This week the United States House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to recognize the Armenian genocide committed by the Young Turk government in the early 20th.
The Armenian genocide has long been a point of contention for people from the region formerly known as the Ottoman Empire. While some have maintained that the deaths of the Armenian people were the result of civil war, many simply say it was made up entirely.
“Members of my own family were among those murdered, and my parents fled with my grandparents to America,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. “What all of the persecuted had in common was that they were Christians.”
The resolution recognizes that Turkey participated in the rounding up, and extermination of over 1.5 million Armenians between the years 1915-1923.
From USA Today:
For years, Turkey’s government had successfully lobbied to kill such congressional resolutions, pressuring presidents and lawmakers alike with sophisticated influence campaigns. The Turks have argued the Armenians who died during that era were victims of civil war and unrest, not genocide. On Tuesday, it passed by an overwhelming vote of 405-to-11, with three lawmakers voting “present.”
One of those lawmakers who voted “present” was none other than Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
Ilhan Omar’s refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide is pretty “on brand” for the freshman congresswoman, but her constituents are less than thrilled.
“I don’t understand how morally, when asked to affirm or deny, that you would vote ‘present,’” said John Parker-Der Boghossian, whose mother’s family escaped death during the systematic murders and expulsions that affected some 1.5 million Armenians, most being Christian. “I don’t know morally how you do that.”
The Star-Tribune interviewed members of Ilhan’s community for reaction:
“Given her record and her stance as a human rights advocate and a new-generation politician who is going up against the powers that be, we were expecting she would be with the Armenian community on this issue,” said Artyom Tonoyan, of Maple Grove, a University of Minnesota researcher and the photographer behind a local art exhibit memorializing those who perished in the genocide. “We are really, really disappointed.”
Alejandro Baer, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, called it a “very problematic position” based on a “logical fallacy.”
“Acknowledging the Armenian genocide, which is an incontestable fact in the scholarly community, doesn’t come at the expense of not recognizing the victim status of any other group,” he said. “It is by acknowledging the fact of this genocide that we come closer to shedding light on [other] atrocities.”
So, what was Omar’s reason for the “present” vote? Well, she doesn’t think we talk enough about Native Americans to give the Armenian people any thought.
There are some things worth mentioning here in regards to Ilhan Omar. She is a Muslim. Muslims were the ones who committed the genocide against Christians for being Christians. Her community has a lot of Muslims in it. Do you think it might anger some of them to have their representative say members of their faith committed genocide?
Omar also says she doesn’t want this to be used as a political tool against Turkey, which has drawn criticism from fellow democrats (and NBA center Enes Kanter).
Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, who lives in Omar’s district, said the following:
“The current Turkish regime is a dictatorship and is bent on destroying the Kurdish people in what could be a genocide in present time. …[All] Americans, especially progressive Americans, should be speaking with one voice against Turkish genocide historically and currently.”
So, which side is Ilhan Omar on? She says she doesn’t want this to be used politically against Turkey, but fellow democrats are the first to point out Turkey’s desire to wipe out the Kurds.
Again, this is all “on brand” for Omar, who has been an outspoken critic of Israel as well. She’s also referred to the events of 9/11 as “some people did something”. Basically, anything that paints Islam in a bad light, Omar seems to have a different view of how things happened.
Wake up, folks.