Taking Grassroots Activism to the Next Level

Obama’s Visit to Turkey Strong Armenian and Political Support for Genocide Recognition

April 3rd, 2009 by

By Daren Djirikian

Remarks by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in early March signaled President Barack Obama’s intent to speak before the Turkish Parliament leaders on April 5, 2009. The projected meeting comes at an important time for formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United States. During Clinton’s visit to Turkey, she stated Obama’s visit would be to “emphasize the work the U.S. and Turkey must do on behalf of peace, prosperity, and progress.” Many diasporan and native Armenians view his trip to Turkey as a way for Obama to declare that he will formally recognize the Armenian Genocide which was perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire and led to at least 1.5 Armenian deaths. Obama’s track record is strong on the Armenian Genocide. He does not see it as a “question.” It is indeed fact.

Obama’s stance on the Armenian Genocide is clearly backed by at least two speeches he made as a senator and on his presidential campaign. In January 2008, presidential candidate Obama stated “The Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of evidence. America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that president.” In a statement on relations between the United States and Armenia on January 19, 2009, President Obama said “As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

Several U.S. representatives are backing an Armenian Genocide resolution that is intended to recognize the Armenian Genocide rather than just mass killings or slaughter, as U.S. presidents have previously stated. In a letter to President Obama, Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), George Radanovich (R-CA) , Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (D-IL) commended him on his record of supporting the truth of the Armenian Genocide and are “urging the President to make a strong statement of recognition on April 24,” which is the annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day.

The letter comes in advance of Obama’s trip to Turkey. The congressmen backing the resolution voiced their opinions. Said Radanovich, “Over the years, the President of the United States, regardless of political party, has done a great disservice by refusing to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide. As a proud representative of the Armenian American community, and co-author of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, I commend President Obama for his previous commitment to the truth and I eagerly await the fulfillment of his promises to recognize the Genocide as President.” Representative Pallone corroborated Radanovich’s stance by adding, “As a senator and as a candidate, President Obama demonstrated a clear record of supporting recognition of the Armenian Genocide. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, I am hopeful that both the President and Congress will not waiver in their efforts to discuss the past openly and honestly.” The letter by these representatives further states, “During your upcoming trip to Turkey and in discussions with your advisors over how to commemorate the events of 1915-23, you will doubtless be counseled by some to continue the practice of avoiding the truth in favor of short-term political expediency. We do not minimize Ankara’s threats of adverse action when you recognize the genocide, or when Congress takes action to formally recognize the genocide, but we believe that our alliance is strong enough to withstand the truth.” The period of 1915-1923 encompasses the Armenian Genocide, which spanned 1915-1918. During that period, Young Turk leaders including Talat and Enver Pasha, Behaeddin Sakir, and Jemal Pasha, orchestrated genocide and en masse deportations of Armenians throughout the Middle East and present day Armenia and Turkey. After 1918, when the Turkish republic was established, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk continued to murder hundreds of thousands of Armenians. It is worth understanding that Armenians were not able to defend themselves, as the Ottoman and later Turkish law forbade Armenians to possess weapons. Adding insult to these murders is the fact that Turkey denies the Armenian Genocide to this day. To paraphrase Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, perpetrating and denying the genocide and mass murders that occurred before and after World War I is a double killing of the Armenian people, their culture, heritage, and furthermore prevented a progressive growth in Armenian population.

Radanovich, also added that that America must stand up for the abuses incurred by the Ottoman Empire on the Armenians. “As a nation we must hold ourselves to the utmost moral standards, which includes having the courage to appropriately recognize atrocities of the past to prevent future occurrences,” said Radanovich. “The facts surrounding the Armenian Genocide are clear and it benefits no one to continue the denial of grotesque human rights abuses.” These facts are well represented in history books, literature, newspapers during and after the Armenian Genocide, and modern-day congressional records. While it is obviously in the best interest of the U.S. to prevent future genocides, Obama’s formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide could start the ball rolling for a formal Turkish apology.

The Armenian National Committee of America, a potent Armenian issues lobbying organization, weighed in on the congressmen’s letter. Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America, articulated “Representatives Schiff, Radanovich, Pallone and Kirk are right on the mark in commending Barack Obama’s clear and unequivocal stand against genocide and its denial. We join with them in welcoming the President’s pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide.” Referring to the Jewish Holocaust, enslaved African Americans, and modern genocides such as Rwanda, the congressmen concluded the letter to Mr. Obama by stating, “The importance of speaking unequivocally about a matter as grave as genocide is a human rights imperative affecting us all. Whether it is today’s Sudanese government or yesterday’s Ottoman Empire, the perpetrators of genocide, as well as the victims, must know that the United States will not shrink from confronting the truth.” Armenian-Americans believe that Obama’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide has its best chance since Ronald Reagan recognized it during the 1980s based on the current political demography.

Armenian-American campaigners are more confident of passage of the resolution than they were in 2007 based on the fact that 94 percent of candidates now in the administration and Congress were endorsed by the Armenian National Committee of America. Said Hamparian, “Now – with longstanding advocates of this noble and necessary cause in the White House, leading the State Department, serving in the Cabinet, heading up both Houses of Congress, and chairing key Congressional committees – we are set to overcome the final barriers to full and formal U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.”

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • del.icio.us
  • Google

This entry was posted on Friday, April 3rd, 2009 at 6:18 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply