U.S. House Votes to Recognize Armenian Genocide

Lucy Tashjian and Writer

On October 29, 2019, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to officially recognize the 1915 to 1923 killings of approximately 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks as a “genocide.” The symbolic resolution passed in a 405-to-11 vote. 49 states have already recognized the Armenian Genocide according to the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, and Congress has finally declared a stance. 


Armenian-Americans and their allies celebrated the resolution as a victory for years worth of unsuccessful efforts in urging Congress to recognize the genocide. Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, who has a large Armenian-American community in his district, has lobbied alongside fellow Representatives for nearly 19 years to bring the legislation to a vote in the House. 


Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan saluted Congress for its actions, praising Resolution 296 as “a bold step towards serving truth and historical justice.” The Armenian government has long campaigned for international recognition of the genocide, and U.S. lawmakers were thanked for “their overwhelming commitment to truth, justice, and humanity” by the Armenian foreign ministry. Celebrity Kim Kardashian and other influential figures rejoiced on social media, sharing similar sentiments for this historic occasion. 


Previous administrations refrained from displaying support for such a resolution and prevented Congress from allowing a vote on this matter, claiming that it could damage the United States’ relationship with Turkey, a NATO ally. They objected to using the word “genocide” and supported the Turkish government’s position by opposing the congressional passage of a resolution. The Turkish government also used intense lobbying to discourage Congress from passing a resolution. 


“We should have recognized that genocide again and again long ago. But we didn’t because we were told we had a great alliance with Turkey,” said Rep. Brad Sherman. Samantha Power, Obama’s U.N. ambassador, also later came out to apologize for disappointing American Armenians, as President Obama was guilty of not using the word “genocide.”


The vote inevitably infuriated Turkish leaders. Almost immediately after the vote, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu took to Twitter, writing “This shameful decision of those exploiting history in politics is null & void for our Government & people.” According to Cavusoglu, the vote was an act of revenge by unhappy American lawmakers against Turkey’s military moves upon the Kurds. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the vote was “worthless,” and given that it was held on Turkey’s national Republic Day, was also the “biggest insult” to Turkish people. 


The resolution was part of two approved measures to push back against Turkey following the country’s military offensive against Kudrish fighters in northeastern Syria. The second measure was a bill that imposed sanctions on Turkey and some of its officials and prevents the sale of arms to Turkey for use in Syria. This bill was passed overwhelmingly as well- 403 to 16.