That nearly 90-year old thank you gift from Armenian orphans is back in the news.
The so-called Armenian Orphan Rug is a ruby red and purple carpet, hand-tied in more than four million knots by orphan Armenian girls. It was a thank you gift to America for its aid to more than 100,000 children believed to have been orphaned by the genocide in the early years of the 20th century.
President Calvin Coolidge accepted the rug on behalf of the country in 1925. Last month, President Obama declined to retrieve the tapestry from storage for a Smithsonian event to launch a new book about the rug. The White House said it was "not possible to lend it out at this time."
Now, Representative Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is asking the White House to lend the rug to Congress for an event on Capitol Hill. Schiff is planning a gathering of survivors, historians, members of the Armenian-American community, and members of Congress to "highlight the efforts made by the American government to aid the Armenian community after the first genocide in the 20th century."
Schiff says the rug itself "embodies the tragedy of the genocide and the rebirth of the Armenian people."
The rug is the latest symbol in the ongoing battle over American recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Ottoman Turks are said to have killed more than a million Armenians. Modern Turkey, an important U.S. military ally, insists that number is inflated and the victims were caught in the middle of a civil war. When he was running for President, candidate Barack Obama said, “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide.” As president, he has avoided using the term.
Schiff sent a letter to the White House requesting the loan of the tapestry. So far, the White House has had no comment.