Armenian Genocide: 95 Years Later, It Must Be Recognized

Today, on the 95TH anniversary of the genocide perpetrated against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire, tens of thousands of people gathered in the Armenian capital Yerevan. There were also commemorations worldwide, including in Beirut, France and the United States. In Istanbul, human rights activists organized a rally at Haydarsa train station where the first convoy of deported Armenians left on 24, April 1915.

Protesters in Yerevan chanted “recognize” and carried Armenian flags alongside flags of nations who have recognized the massacre as genocide including Canada, France, Poland and Switzerland.

“We thank all of those who in many countries of the world, including Turkey, understand the importance of preventing crimes against humanity and who stand with us in this struggle. This process has an irreversible momentum which has no alternative,” said Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian.

Countries such as Canada, Argentina, France, Greece, Russia, Poland and Switzerland, where the survivors of the Armenian genocide and their descendants live, have officially recognized the Armenian genocide. However, the present day Republic of Turkey still adamantly denies that a genocide was committed against the Armenians during World War I.

Further, and for geopolitical reasons, the United States has never labeled the atrocities committed by Turkey a genocide. Turkey is considered by Washington to be a key partner in NATO. While candidate Obama made numerous promises to call the massacre a genocide, President Obama failed again to do so today. The President commemorated Armenian Remembrance Day, and called the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians “one of the worst atrocities” of the 20TH century and “a devastating chapter in history”, but he did not call it a genocide.

“It is a devastating chapter in the history of the Armenian people, and we must keep its memory alive in honor of those who were murdered, and so that we do not repeat the grave mistakes of the past,” said President Obama.

A Brief History Of The Armenian Genocide

On the night of April, 24 1915 the Ottoman Empire government placed under arrest 200 leaders of the Armenian community in Constantinople, hundreds more were arrested soon after. All of them were sent to prison in Anatolia and were summarily executed. The Ottoman Empire had been planning the Armenian genocide for a while, and reports of atrocities committed against Armenians had been filtering in during the first months of 1915.

The Ottoman Empire’s army had acted ahead of time on the government’s plan by disarming the Armenian recruits, and by reducing them to labor battalions and working them under conditions similar to slavery. These acts were committed by the Ottoman Empire under the cover of a news blackout on account of World War I.

Part of the international community condemned the Armenian genocide from the start. In May 1915, France, Great Britain and Russia advised the Ottoman Empire leadership that they would be held personally accountable for crimes against humanity. But despite the moral outrage of part of the international community, no strong actions were taken after the end of World War I against the Ottoman Empire, either to sanction its brutal policies or to salvage the Armenian people still alive from extermination. The genocide went on until 1923, and no sanctions were ever taken against the post war Turkish governments to recognize the crimes of the Ottoman Empire, and make restitution to the Armenian people for their incredible losses.

It is estimated that one and half million Armenians died between 1915 and 1923. Right before World War I, there were an estimated two million Armenians living within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. Well over one million were deported in 1915. Hundreds of thousands were slaughtered right away while others were put in concentration camps and died of starvation, exhaustion and diseases.

The United Nations Convention Charter defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. This definition clearly applies in the case of the atrocities committed against the Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, and should be recognized as such by the United States and Turkey. In Germany, it is a crime to deny the Holocaust. The same rule should apply in Turkey regarding the Armenian Genocide.


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