June 17, 2011, Glendale News-Press - Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and other advocates for a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide are taking a new tack this year, seeking both a genocide recognition vote and approval of a measure condemning religious discrimination against Armenian Christians in Turkey.
A strategic ally that allows the U.S. to operate a key military base on its soil, Turkey has been an implacable foe of official U.S. recognition of the death of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks from 1915-23. Schiff has tried for several years to get such a measure passed.
On Tuesday, Schiff and Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) reintroduced the genocide resolution. Separately, Schiff co-sponsored a resolution by Reps. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village) and Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) demanding that Turkey return property that once belonged to the Armenian Church and to end religious discrimination against Christians.
Armenian Christians represent about 1% of the population in Turkey.
“We’re taking a little different approach this year,” Schiff said. “I think this improves our chances of making progress.”
The second resolution may draw support from more lawmakers than the genocide measure has, he added.
Last year, Congress approved a resolution by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) calling for greater religious freedom in Cyprus. The Turkish military, which occupies about one-third of Cyprus, has been accused of desecrating churches and restricting access to religious sites.
“We think having more than one iron in the fire will be a productive strategy,” Schiff said.
Lincoln McCurdy, president of the Turkish of Coalition of America, said the new resolution is “totally distorted” and that the genocide recognition measure has a smaller chance of passing than it did in the last Congress.
“This is a completely new Congress, more domestically focused,” McCurdy said. “I think our efforts in trying to have balanced dialogue are paying off, and the leadership is not as passionate about it as [former Speaker Nancy] Pelosi was.”
McCurdy said the Turkish resolution fails to recognize historic persecution or disenfranchisement of Muslims in the region, including Armenia and Greece.
“Our position is, we wish there was more effort to bring the Turkish and Armenian people together,” he said.