According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, the term genocide is defined as the “deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group.”
In April 1915, during World War I, the Ottoman Empire began systematically annihilating Armenians, by first ridding the intellectuals, men, elderly, women and then children in the Eastern Anatolia and Western Armenia region, in what should be known as the first genocide of the 20th century.
The Turkish government has continuously refused to accept responsibility for the atrocities that have taken place, and it also refuses to acknowledge the existence of this “alleged” genocide.
The Turkish government makes claims now that the Armenians who were killed during that period died as wartime casualties and that many Turks were killed as well. This is false because only the Armenians that were living in that region in Turkey were being “relocated” for safety. Why weren’t the other residents of that region being relocated? It was a deliberate destruction of a specific group of people.
Who alleges the massacres of 1.5 million people? How could the destruction of a substantially large number of people be alleged? The evidence is in the death toll. There are also photographs, hundreds of chronicles from American newspapers and documentation depicting the massacres as they were taking place not to mention countless horror stories passed down generations.
The issue of the Armenian genocide is less than ten years shy of being a century- long struggle for recognition. Ninety years might seem like ages ago, but I, as an American born Armenian, still feel the effects of the massacres. My grandfather was a survivor of the genocide. I hold knowledge of eyewitness accounts and experiences of the genocide that were passed down through him. It pains me to be a third generation Armenian after the genocide and to see that the struggle for recognition continues to this day.
There are numerous advocacy groups, such as the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian Assembly that are seeking justice on behalf of the Armenian people. These activists dedicate their time and effort to spread awareness of the genocide and to gain recognition for its occurrence.
In a letter sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Oct. 5, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian voiced the profound moral outrage of Armenians over the Bush administration’s ongoing complicity in Turkey’s campaign of genocide denial.
Turkey has also been trying to gain admission into the European Union, yet they continue running into complications. European Union foreign ministers have attempted to agree on terms for Turkish membership, but many countries, like Austria, have refused to agree on full membership. They are only willing to offer Turkey a “privileged partnership” with the EU until such claims as the Armenian genocide have been resolved. If the EU is unable to agree on terms with the Turkish government, there must be a reason. For being just an “alleged” claim, the Armenian genocide is a substantial cause for concern among many European countries.
This is not the first attempt by Armenian-Americans to gain a political voice regarding this issue. Many bills have been presented to Congress, each of which would have been instrumental toward the fight for justice, but none have been passed yet.
Instead, all these bills have been shot down. Armenian activists have also organized many public events, such as marches, protests, vigils and pickets at the Turkish embassy in Los Angeles as well as all over the world.
Throughout the years, these activities have gained some local media exposure. None, however, have had a national effect on legislation. Many of the local media outlets are familiar with the commemoration of April 24 due to the heavily concentrated Armenian community Los Angeles, but the voice is barely heard.
As the years pass the story gets old and people begin to forget. This is the goal of the denial.
This situation may change with another attempt to pass legislation. On Sept. 15, after nearly three hours of debate, the House International Relations Committee, voted overwhelmingly in favor of two measures calling for proper U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide (H.Res.316 and H.Con.Res.195) and urging Turkey to end its decades-long denial of this crime against humanity.
The Senate should finish the work started by the House and call for recognition of the Armenian genocide. Only with the support of the United Sates will the movement to have the Turkish government recognize the past crimes of the Ottoman Empire succeed.
Justice needs to be served and not withheld because of politics.
Mona Karaguozian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.