Bolstered by New Jersey Senator, US Senate Votes Unanimously to Recognize Armenian Genocide

One month ago, Pascack Hills junior Alec Boyajian was “hopeful for” the resolution’s passage in the Senate “considering its support” by firebrands of both parties like “Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.” Now, Boyajian is relieved.

A memorial at Huff Pond in Montvale, N.J. remembering the Armenian Genocide. The plaque was installed this year at a ceremony attended by Montvale Mayor Mike Ghassali, Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo, and local Armenians. Photo credit: Vani Apanosian.

On October 29, 2019, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing Turkey’s genocide against Armenians during World War I. With 405 representatives in favor and only 11 against it, the resolution, though largely symbolic, represented an emotional victory for Armenian-Americans as well as a firm rebuke to Turkey. 

Now, the victory is more absolute. On December 12, the US Senate passed a similar resolution –– unanimously. With that, both houses of Congress have voted almost entirely in favor of acknowledging the Armenian genocide. As the bill heads to the president’s desk, Armenian-Americans at Hills and throughout the region are reacting with gratitude and relief.

One month ago, Pascack Hills junior Alec Boyaijan was “hopeful for” the resolution’s passage in the Senate “considering its support” by firebrands of both parties like “Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.”

Now, Boyaijan is relieved. “It’s another step in the right direction,” he said, saying that the “powerhouse” vote “surprised” him but “it wasn’t that expected because of people” close to the President’s ear, like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

The Senate’s unanimous support of the resolution makes clear their condemnation of Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who had recently participated in an unannounced meeting with President Trump. Responding to the resolution’s passage, Erdogan said “if the U.S. side really wants to act fairly, it should refrain from taking a political stand on a matter that historians should decide.”

The resolution’s passage, however, appears to be apolitical. Despite the White House’s alliance with the Turkish government, there appears to be bipartisan pushback in the Senate for President Erdogan’s actions in Northern Syria and his purchase of Russian weapons. 

In past weeks, it was reported that the White House directed several senators to block the bill, but these attempts failed with the firm support of N.J. Senator Bob Menendez, its leading sponsor.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Menendez said “there is no euphemism” for Turkey’s actions against Armenians. He said America’s non-response thus far “established patterns that would be repeated later in the 20th century with the Holocaust and other genocides around the world.”

Senator Menendez won the praise of many Armenians at Hills, grateful for his representation of New Jersey’s interests and those of Armenians across the country.

“[Menendez] spearheaded [the vote],” Boyajian said. “I know from when he was reelected in 2018, it was part of his campaign to non-Armenian people [to recognize the genocide], which is amazing. He really cares about it.”

As a member of the Armenian Caucus in the Senate, Menendez enjoys support from institutions like the Armenian National Committee of America, which said it was “proud to stand shoulder to shoulder” with the senator. 

In part thanks to his advocacy and connections with the community, Armenians in New Jersey see local recognition of the genocide, in towns like Montvale and Woodcliff Lake, brought to the national level. While Boyajian acknowledges the likelihood of President Trump vetoing the resolution, he “has full confidence that in the very near future, another president possibly in office will see the popularity around it and recognize the Armenan genocide.”

In the meantime, Armenian-Americans aren’t ceasing efforts to educate others about their history and culture. At Hills, junior Alexis Kaloustian recently began an “Armenian Learn to Learn” for interested students, citing in an email “the recent events involving the Armenian community.”

UPDATE: On Tuesday, December 17, President Trump rejected the Senate resolution in recongizing the Armenian Genocide. The resolution is non-binding and does not need to be signed by the President in order for it to go into effect.