The Orphaned Rug


In 1925, a group of orphans who had lost their parents to Turkey's genocide of Armenians presented this ceremonial rug to President Calvin Coolidge. Despite the exertions of many activists and historians, the rug has been kept away from public view since the mid-1990s.

Armenian Americans have long suspected that the rug was warehoused because the government of NATO ally Turkey does not want to see or read any official-sounding communication that even broaches the g-word. So when the publishers of a slim new volume titled President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug asked the White House to release the Ghazir artifact for a private book party in December, the terse response was, "We regret that it is not possible to loan it out at this time."

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) responded by planning a historically appropriate event that he hoped even the White House couldn't refuse. But Schiff's initiative probably will end up in the same place as the annual congressional drive to get the president to use the word genocide on Armenian Remembrance Day (April 24): nowhere. As long as Washington feels it has foreign policy needs that only Turkey can supply, the orphan rug is likely to remain orphaned.