April 24th is the day that the many commemorate the Armenian Genocide committed by Turks in 1915. Amid the upheaval of World War 1, when countless villages across the Ottoman Empire became killing fields as the desperate leadership of this region, having lost the Balkans and facing the prospect of losing its territories as well, saw an imagined threat at home.
Worried that the Christian Armenian population was planning to align with Russia, the then primary enemy of the Ottoman Turks, officials embarked on what historians have called the first genocide of the 20th Century.
Nearly 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed, becoming tragically part of one of the biggest atrocities of the Great War. Initially intellectuals and community leader were rounded up, one by one, then thousands were instantly slaughtered, there were reports of mass burnings, others put in concentration camps, to be tortured and gassed, others left to die of starvation, exhaustion and disease. Rape was frequently reported too. All this occurred between 1915-1923, to further add to this misery, the great bulk of the Armenian population were forced from Armenia to Syria, where the vast majority were sent into the desert to die of thirst and hunger.Armenians have since called these events Medz Yeghern (the great crime) or Aghet (catastrophe)
In 1919, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Grand Damat Ferid Pasha officially declared that a crime had been perpetrated against the Armenians and the foreign mininster admitt that some 800,000 Armenians had been deported..When Mustafa Kemal Ataruk, the father of modern Turkey opened his new country's parliament in Ankara on April, 24,1920, he called the genocide of Armenians a "shameful act of the past."
On the same day, the Armenian community that had survived held a commemoration ceremony at the St. Trinity Armenian church in Constantinople. Following its initial commemoration in 1919, this date became the annual day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide.
This horrific moment in time has since though with great shame been bitterly contested by Turkey, under President Erdogan the successor of the Ottoman Empire, who has consistently denied the word genocide, as an accurate term for what happened. Despite pressure from Armenians and social justice advocates throughout the world, it is still illegal in Turkey to talk about what happened to Armenians during this era. After the Ottomans surrendered in 1918, the leaders of the Young Turks fled to Germany, which promised not to prosecute them for the genocide. Ever since then, the Turkish government has denied that a genocide took place.
Years later the issue of whether to these killings a genocide remain raw and emotional, both for the Armenians, who are descended from those killed, and the Turks, the heirs to the Ottomans. For both, the question touches as much on national identity, as it does on historical facts.
Whilst at the same time for geopolitical reasons the U.S.A too, has never labelled the atrocities committed by Turkey as genocide, being close friends with Turkey, their allies in the NATO alliance, .U.S. presidents have at least for decades acknowledged Remembrance Day, though it should be noted that Robert Dole in the Senate once introduced a mild resolution commemorating 1990 as the 75th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, at the time when the Israeli government worked with the Turkish government to lobby against it. ( The resolution was subsequently defeated in the Senate)
President Obama himself, pledged in his Presidential campaign to call it genocide, but two terms into to his Presidency,but he remained silent.
However in positive news President Joe Biden today recognized the Armenian genocide, fulfilling a campaign promise and taking a step that his recent predecessors have avoided while in office and. , signals the president’s desire to prioritize human rights despite potential fallout in the U.S. relationship with Turkey.
President Joe Biden on Saturday recognized the Armenian genocide, fulfilling a campaign promise and taking a step that his recent predecessors have avoided while in office. Biden’s designation, signals the president’s desire to prioritize human rights despite potential fallout in the U.S. relationship with Turkey.
“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide,” Biden said.
"!Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history that brought so many of their ancestors to our shores. We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”
The full statement can be read here ;- https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/04/24/statement-by-president-joe-biden-on-armenian-remembrance-day/
Biden’s designation, which coincided with Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, signals the president’s desire to prioritize human rights despite potential fallout in the U.S. relationship with Turkey. it has been said that he plans to follow through on a campaign pledge to formally recognize that atrocities committed against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire more than a century ago in modern-day Turkey were genocide, according to U.S. officials.
During a telephone call Friday, Biden informed Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of his plan to issue the statement, said a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to publicly discuss the private conversation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Separate statements afterward by the two governments made no mention of Biden’s plan. The White House said Biden told Erdogan he wants to improve ties and find “effective management of disagreements.” The two also agreed to a bilateral meeting at the NATO summit in Brussels in June.
Biden, who pledged as a candidate to recognize the massacre as genocide, arguing that “silence is complicity,” wanted to speak with Erdogan before making the formal recognition, according to officials familiar with Biden’s deliberations and plans. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter before Biden issued the proclamation and they spoke on condition of anonymity.
Friday’s call was the first between the presidents since Biden took office more than three months ago. The delay had become a worrying sign in Turkey. Erdogan had good rapport with President Donald Trump and had been hoping for a reset despite past friction with Biden.
The fact that Israel has continued to this day to be very strongly opposed to efforts being made to recognise the Armenian genocide, for me is really quite astonishing. Especially from a country founded in the aftermath of its own genocide, holocaust. There are growing calls from within Israel for them to finally recognise this historical fact , and not to be in denial, which would be good, since both peoples, the Armenians and the Jewish people having suffered the same fate, the same terrible tragedies. But at the end of the day the Turks are their allies, and you don't want to alienate allies, do you, because that's much too important. Israel thinks it's not their business, lets simply not talk about the Armenian holocaust, but any conciliatory offerings, I am sure will be welcomed.
Sadly the British government will not recognise it, despite ironically Winston Churchill hilst making war on Turkey, ton Turkey, who used the Greek word Holocaust - originally meaning a sacrifice by fire - to refer to reported burning of Armenians in a pit, and thus gave the word its modern meaning of genocide and also wrote "There is no reasonable doubt that this crime was planned and executed for political purposes." He also used the phrases "Administrative Holocaust" and "clearance of race".
Yet countries like Canada, Argentina, France, Greece and Russia, Poland and Switzerland where the survivors of the Armenian genocide and their descendents live have officially recognised the Armenian genocide, thus helping the process of healing.
I believe the voices of the people killed and those haunted should not be forgotten, we should mark their identity, and the psychic wounds that have passed through generations.
Years later Hitler would use this model of genocide for his own tools for a Holocaust. Hitler and Himmler, guided by the same evil, were inspired by the Ottoman Empires own methods of quiet extermination. Mass genocidal maniacs since like Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot followed suit with their own reigns of terror and slaughter of millions.
We should recognise the sad fact that Turkeys lack of contrition leaves descendents struggling to reconcile loss and renewal. It is simply implausible that we should still question the reality of this appalling terrible injustice.
It is a moral necessity that we continue to condemn these massacres and ethnic cleansing of Armenians, that began on this day. To continue to deny this truth amounts to a criminal lie. We need to enshrine in our collective memory this crime against humanity, so as to ensure that it is understood, learnt and transmitted to future generations. We need to recognise the wounds that have never been able to be healed.
Armenian refugee children 1915