Washington, D.C. – Today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) joined Armenian Americans and members of Congress to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, during which 1.5 million innocent lives were taken.

Below are Chairman Royce’s remarks (as prepared for delivery): 

It is with great sorrow that we gather to remember the 1.5 million innocent lives taken in the Armenian Genocide over 100 years ago. 

The coldly calculated plan for the annihilation of the Armenians, conducted by the direct order of Ottoman authorities, was undeniably genocide.

It is imperative that we acknowledge it as such. 

When I was a State Senator I authored a resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide, with the support of then Governor George Deukmejian.  It was the first resolution of its kind passed by any State.

I was honored to attend the commemoration ceremonies in Yerevan two years ago, and to lay a wreath at the memorial for the victims of the genocide.

Recognition is the necessary first step for justice and healing to occur. 

That is why I am deeply disappointed again this year that President Obama avoided using the term “genocide” in his April 24th annual statement.

It is troubling that many of the terms relating to the genocide in his statement—“suffering,” “historical record,” and “tragedy”—were also used this year by Turkish President Erdogan himself, a self-proclaimed denier of the genocide.

In fact I believe that aspects of that ethnic cleansing program continue today, specifically the obliteration of Armenian historical and religious sites in Turkey.

As stated by Enver Pasha himself, the Ottomans planned to “cleanse” their Empire of Armenian religious and historical sites in Turkey.

Since 1915, Armenian burial places have been destroyed or vandalized, and their places of worship confiscated and converted into museums, warehouses or casinos.

The international community has failed to hold Turkey accountable creating an air of impunity under which Turkish authorities continue to seize properties, as we saw this weekend with the historic Surp Giragos church and related lands.

We must continue to oppose all such moves and protect Turkey’s Christian heritage. 

We must also seek to protect Armenian Christians who today are being targeted for violence and assassination.

I am deeply concerned for the Armenian Christians today in Syria where Armenians have been enslaved, raped, crucified, and tortured in a clearly genocidal campaign. 

That is why I supported House passage of a concurrent resolution recognizing those atrocities by ISIS as genocide, and urging the Administration to acknowledge that as well.

Just as those who do not examine the past are doomed to repeat it, those who refuse to acknowledge past genocides are bound to have a blind eye to atrocities happening today.

So tonight, as we remember the victims of the first genocide of the twentieth century, let us renew our commitment to working for the safety and freedom of their descendants.

Only by so doing do we truly honor the memory of the innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide.  

Note:  Chairman Royce is an active member of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.  In April of 2014, Royce led a bipartisan delegation to Armenia where the delegation commemorated the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and placed a wreath at Tsitsernakaberd, the national memorial to the Genocide.