In the House yesterday, Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) refused to vote for a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide and was one of just three representatives who voted “present.” The non-binding resolution passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 405-11.
“Accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as a cudgel in a political fight,” Omar said in a statement explaining her vote. “It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics.”
Omar further justified her refusal to vote in favor by saying the resolution should have included mention of other genocides and crimes against humanity. “A true acknowledgement . . . must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide,” she wrote.
The resolution states that it will be U.S. policy to recognize the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians at the command of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey has lobbied vigorously against the resolution, which it views as a distortion of history. The resolution itself does not mention Turkey, referring to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey’s predecessor.
Omar met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in New York City in 2017, while she was a Minnesota state representative.
The House vote came amid escalating tensions in U.S.-Turkey relations over the handling of Turkey’s invasion of northeast Syria. While President Trump generally has been friendly toward Erdogan, other lawmakers, including prominent Republicans, have pilloried Trump’s decision to allow Turkey to combat Kurdish organizations. Some of those organizations were prominent U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS.
“I think some of us are a little bit annoyed with Turkey, and we want them to know how much annoyed we are,” said Representative Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.