California Democrats urge recognition of Armenian Genocide

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Armenian activists rally outside the Turkish Consulate General on the 94th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Armenians and Turkish officials disagree over the use of the term genocide in describing the mass killings of Armenians in 1915. Ottoman authorities arrested about 250 Armenian intellectuals and leaders in Constantinople in April 24, 1915 just before the Ottoman military forced Armenians to march hundreds of miles to what is now Syria. Massacres and sexual attacks against the Armenians were widespread. The Armenian Genocide is the second most-studied case of genocide after the Holocaust.

Armenian Remembrance Day — the day set aside to remember the victims of an ethnic cleansing that happened nearly a century ago — is this Saturday. On Capitol Hill, an annual battle over the term “genocide” is heating up.

Both of California’s U.S. senators sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide. Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer rejected the argument that the United States’ relations with Turkey would suffer.

She said other countries use the term genocide to describe the deaths of a million and a half Armenian people in 1915. She cited Canada, France, Greece and Italy.

"I mean, these are countries that have very close relationships with Turkey," she said. "They're right in their region. So it's hard for me to see why Turkey would say, 'well now we're gonna break off the relationship because the United States of America joined so many other nations of the world in telling the truth'."

Last month, after the House Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide, Turkey recalled its ambassador in protest. Turkey says the deaths of Armenians were the result of fighting and forced relocation, not an organized genocide.

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