New Delhi: Ilhan Omar, the Democratic United States Congresswoman from the state of Minnesota, may have slammed India over alleged human rights violation in Kashmir during a Congressional hearing on human rights, but when it came to the Armenian massacre of 1914-1923, she refused to recognize the historical incident as “genocide".
The United States House of Representatives, of which Omar is a member, voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to recognize the systemic extermination and expulsion of ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I as a genocide.
The resolution passed on the floor of the house with near unanimity, by a 405-11 vote. Omar, however, found herself in the minority when she voted “present", which essentially means she did not support the resolution titled ‘H.Res 296, the resolution Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide’.
Omar’s office issued a statement later, giving her justification, “I believe accountability for human rights violations – especially ethnic cleansing and genocide – is paramount. But accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as a cudgel in a political fight. It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics. A true acknowledgment of historical crimes against humanity must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide, which took the lives of hundreds of millions of people in this country. For this reason, I voted ‘present’ on the final passage of H.Res 296, the resolution Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide."
The 37-year-old Congresswoman from Minnesota has achieved almost a celebrity status in the US since her election to the House of Representatives back in January 2017. She is, along with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, one of two first Muslim women to serve in the US Congress. She is one of the members of a group of four Congresswomen of colour known as ‘The Squad’ (The other members are Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley).
Omar has taken tough positions on issues of human rights, calling out regimes across the world. She has criticized the Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses in Yemen and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, even calling for a boycott of the Saudi regime. She has called out China’s excesses on the Uyghur population in its Xinjiang province as well as attacks on Sri Lankan Christians during the 2019 Easter bombings. Her sharpest attacks, though, have been directed at the State of Israel and its military campaign in Palestine. In fact, her opponents have even claimed that she holds “anti-Semitic" views.
In April this year, she was accused of downplaying the 2001 September 11 attacks by saying 9/11 was an incident when “some people did something".
Omar has been critical of not just India’s decision to put Kashmir under severe restrictions, but also India’s rollout of the NRC in Assam which could potentially disenfranchise millions. Last week, after a US Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia, she tweeted, “Kashmiris have been restricted from communicating outside their country for 50+ days. In Assam, almost 2 million people are being asked to prove their citizenship. This is how the Rohingya genocide started. At what point do we question whether PM Modi shares our values?"