Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was blasted by lawmakers and political commentators after not backing Tuesday’s House vote for a resolution that recognizes the Armenian genocide. The nonbinding resolution passed the chamber by 405 to 11 votes with overwhelming bipartisan support, leaving Omar just one of three representatives who voted “present.”
Omar’s argument for not backing the resolution is her belief that “accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as a cudgel in a political fight” but should rather “be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics,” according to Fox News.
Fox’s Gregg Re pointed out in a column that Omar was “seeking to communicate a bigoted message while maintaining a veneer of wink-and-nod deniability” even as the Minnesota congresswoman has in fact previously called for a “boycott over alleged Israeli human rights abuses, described the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as an instance in which ‘some people did something,’ and asserted that ‘Israel has hypnotized the world.’”
Political analyst Zaid Jilani dismissed Omar’s claims on the basis that “Congress has passed many resolutions condemning abuses against Native Americans and slavery” and “it has never passed a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide.”
“That’s why Ilhan Omar’s explanation here rings hollow,” Zaid added.
Numerous others were baffled or infuriated by Omar’s words.
Republican political strategist Andrew Surabian was “utterly confused” by Omar’s statement, and asked if she was “suggesting here that there is no ‘academic consensus’ that the Armenian genocide occurred???”
“This is a bizarre explanation,” said journalist Yashar Ali.
“Her explanation doesn’t cut it,” political scientist Ian Bremmer commented.
The Armenian genocide occurred in the Ottoman Empire from around 1915 to 1923, and it is speculated that the event has killed more than 1 million people, Newsweek reports.
The resolution comes amid a critical moment for both Turkey and the United States, where it was passed alongside another bill that imposes sanctions over Ankara’s assault on territory under Kurdish control in northeastern Syria that was made possible through the withdrawal of American forces.
As a member of “The Squad,” Omar is one of the four first-term, progressive Democratic congresswomen widely regarded as racist by their fellow Congress members.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) spoke on the House floor in support of the bill, regarded the resolution as “an important measure to set the record straight on the atrocities suffered by the Armenian people at the hands of the Ottoman in the early 20th century.”
“We know what happened in this dark period of history. Between 1915 and 1923, 1.5 million Armenians were murdered. This was a genocide—and it’s important that we call this crime what it was,” Engel said.
NBA’s Enes Kanter, the center on the Boston Celtics, weighed in to lambaste Omar for voting against the bill. According to The Hill, Kanter is Turkish but a fierce critic of Erdogan.
Kanter said that it was an “absolute disappointment and shame” that Omar was the sole Democrat to not back the “Protect Against Conflict by Turkey Act,” adding that Omar was on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s payroll and “working for his interests, but not for the American people and democracy!”