Politics & Government

White House to display Armenian Orphan Rug

The White House has confirmed that it will be displaying the Armenian Orphan Rug, also known as the Ghazir Rug, as part of an exhibit at the White House Visitors Center.

The rug, woven by orphans a gesture of thanks for U.S. help following the horrific loss of Armenian life between 1915 and 1923, will be on display along with other artifacts Nov. 18-23.

The decision follows an extended lobbying campaign, both in public and behind the scenes, by Armenian-American activists, organizations like the Armenian Assembly of America and their allies.

"We have worked to find a dignified way to display the Rug so that Americans can come to see this important artifact, and learn about an important chapter of the shared history of the Armenian and American peoples," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement Wednesday.

Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly, likewise welcomed the White House decision and said he and others will “look forward to the permanent display” of the rug.

Schiff had joined with Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., and 31 other members of Congress in writing the White House to urge display of the rug, which had become caught up a larger debate over terminology.

By some estimates, 1.5 million Armenians died at the end of the Ottoman Empire, between 1915 and 1923. Historians and governmental bodies have characterized the catastrophe as genocide, a term first recognized in international law in 1948 as referring to actions intended to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

Turkey, a key NATO ally, vigorously disputes the accuracy of the genocide term. Last fall, the conflict seemed to stain the rug, after the Washington Post reported that the White House would not allow it to be displayed at the Smithsonian Castle for the launch of a 75-page book titled “President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug.”

The rug will be displayed as part of an exhibit entitled “Thank you to the United States: Three Gifts to Presidents in Gratitude for American Generosity Abroad.”