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Omar says acknowledging suffering is 'personal' after controversial vote to recognize Armenian genocide

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Minnesota's Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar appeared at presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' rally at the University of Minnesota's Williams Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. Sarah Mearhoff / Forum News Service

MINNEAPOLIS — Days after the U.S. House passed a resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide , Minnesota’s U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minneapolis, briefly alluded to her controversial "present" vote on the near-unanimously passed resolution.

The U.S. House on Oct. 29 passed House Resolution 296 by a vote of 405 yeas to 11 nays , with three including Omar voting present. Per the resolution text, HR 296 sought to recognize the Ottoman Empire’s killing of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923, and “reject efforts to associate the U.S. government with efforts to deny the existence of the Armenian Genocide or any genocide.”

At her Sunday, Nov. 3, political rally alongside Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in Minneapolis, Omar said "acknowledgement of pain and suffering is personal for both of us” as a Somalian refugee, and as the son of a Jewish immigrant.

"When we recognize injustices of the past and present, whether it is genocide against Jewish people, Armenians, Rwandans, Bosnians or Native Americans or more, we realize that that recognition isn’t about punishing our political votes but leading within a moral obligation," she said.

The District 5 representative did not elaborate on her vote any more on Sunday. Upon receiving backlash for her present vote last week, Omar said in a statement that “accountability for human rights violations — especially ethnic cleansing and genocide — is paramount.”

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“But accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight,” she continued. “It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics.”

She went on to say that a “true acknowledgement of historical crimes against humanity” should also include human rights violations such as U.S. slavery, or the genocide of American Indians.

Matthew Wallo, 23, stood in line outside the rally Sunday, holding up a poster referencing Omar’s vote. The undergraduate student from Los Angeles said he had profound concerns about that vote.

"She's implying that there isn't an academic consensus, which is completely false," Wallo said. "It really, really bothers me."

Forum News Service's Dana Ferguson contributed to this report.

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