The Texas House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 191, titled “Recognizing the Armenian Genocide,” on May 19, thus making The Lone Star State the 46th state in the U.S. to officially classify and commemorate the 1915-1923 annihilation of Ottoman Turkey’s indigenous Armenian community as genocide.
“We are grateful to the Texas House of Representatives for standing on the right side of history by making their dynamic state the latest member of our Union to unequivocally and vociferously honor the memory of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide despite overwhelming Turkish opposition,” remarked Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) Chair Nora Hovsepian.
“This incredible victory, which achieves universal recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the Western Region’s 19 states, was possible because of the outstanding unity and activism demonstrated by the diverse Armenian community of Texas, the unflinching leadership of State Representative Scott Sanford and his fellow lawmakers, as well as the dedication and persistent work of our grassroots—ANCA-Houston and ANCA-Dallas—and staff. While many Texan-Armenians and community groups were instrumental in the passage of and building ground for HR191, I would like to specifically recognize the former ANCA-Dallas founding chair Lucia Nazarian for initiating Texas’ recognition of the Armenian Genocide, as well as Focused Advocacy President Brandon Todd Aghamalian and University of Texas Austin Professor and Armenian Church of Austin representative Mihran Aroian for their leadership in bringing the Armenian community together to make this important recognition a reality,” continued Hovsepian.
The resolution, which had more than 50 original bipartisan cosponsors and passed unanimously, declares, in part, that “During World War I, the crumbling Ottoman Empire began a systematic campaign to eradicate its Armenian population, which then numbered more than two million; and… as many as 1.5 million Armenians perished and today, only 3 million live in Armenia, a country that covers no more than 10 percent of the ancient Armenian homeland, while the Armenian diaspora numbers 8 to 10 million in countries around the world, including the United States,” concluding with the resolved clause “That the House of Representatives of the 85th Texas Legislature hereby recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
The recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Texas follows renewed activism in The Lone Star State, including the 2015 defeat of anti-Armenian resolutions as well as adoption of HR 1541, which recognized Texans’ contributions to the Near East Relief that saved 132,000 orphans of the Armenian Genocide. The latter humanitarian effort was recognized by ANCA-Dallas during its April 2, 2016 ‘Texas We Thank You’ Gala, at which Rep. Sanford received the ANCA-Dallas Advocate of Justice award for his long-time support for Armenian Genocide awareness.
HR 191 was introduced by Rep. Sanford on jan. 26, followed by a public hearing in the International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs committee on April 24, during which ANCA-WR Chief Legislative Consultant Haig Baghdassarian joined a large group of Armenian Americans as well as representatives from the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission and Houston’s Holocaust Museum in testifying in support of HR 191. Following the testimony, ANCA-WR called its online activists in Texas to action, as a result of which hundreds of letters were emailed to state legislators. Many more phone calls were made through joint efforts of the Armenian community in a strong demonstration of unity and grassroots activism.
Texas’ passage of HR 191 follows the Wyoming Governor’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide in April, thus completing universal recognition in the ANCA-WR, which consists of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.