Only in 2019 did the United States pass a resolution recognizing the massacre; yet, as of now, a US president has yet to do so. Are the tides finally turning?
The Biden administration reportedly will recognize the Armenian Genocide in a historic and long-overdue decision by the United States.In a morally inexcusable shortcoming, Israel and many other nations have failed or even refused to recognize the Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 against Armenian Christians.
Only in 2019 did the United States pass a resolution recognizing the massacre; yet, as of now, a US president has yet to do so. Are the tides finally turning?The genocide is seen by many historians as a precursor to the Holocaust, and its lack of recognition has often been cited as evidence for why remembering the Holocaust is crucial to prevent genocides in the future. Despite overwhelming evidence and eyewitness testimonies, there has been controversy over recognition, due to Turkey’s adamant refusal to accept responsibility for the massacre.
In the case of Israel, the government has refused to recognize the Armenian Genocide, due to the volatile yet strategic political relationship with Turkey.For decades, Turkey has blackmailed and threatened nations if they even considered recognizing the Armenian Genocide.Initially, this wasn’t something Israel could politically afford. Israel relied heavily on Turkey as one of the only Muslim states with which it had cooperation and diplomatic relations. Yet through the decades, Turkey has become increasingly hostile to Israel with the dictatorial and Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Not only that, Turkey is increasingly aligned geopolitically with Iran.
Today, Israel is less dependent than ever on Turkey, especially with emerging relations with Arab states. Yet instead of recognizing the Armenian Genocide and unequivocally standing on the right side of history, the Israeli government has sold out the Armenian people even today, by selling weapons to Azerbaijan while it bombs Armenian cities.In the case of the United States, Armenian Genocide recognition has come up numerous times over the decades, yet there was only formal recognition in 2019. Forty years ago, US president Ronald Reagan used the word “genocide” to refer to the event, in a major step forward toward recognition; yet after a Turkish uproar, the US Congress failed repeatedly to recognize it, due to political interests. Similarly, US presidents from the Left and Right have avoided using the term “genocide” so as not to antagonize Turkey.In 2019, the US House of Representatives passed Resolution 401-11 recognizing the Armenian Genocide, followed by a unanimous decision in the US Senate. However, despite the fact that many US presidents have pledged to recognize the Armenian Genocide, none have followed through on their promise until now.This month, White House sources stated that the Biden administration will recognize the Armenian Genocide in a move that rights a historic wrong.It’s important to note that the Armenian Genocide was not simply a horrific event that occurred. It was arguably the most horrific orchestrated genocide the world had ever seen (at the time), and not in the context of a war, but because the Armenians were Christian.Persecution of Christians under the Ottomans occurred for years leading up to the Armenian Genocide, but escalated with the Tehcir Law, under which Armenians were robbed of their property and belongings and deported en masse, and sent on death marches into the Syrian desert in inhumane conditions.The Ottomans rounded up and murdered Armenian academics and intellectuals, they raped and enslaved Armenian women and girls, and those who survived were sent to concentration camps, executed, or left to die. Between 1914 and 1918, 1-1.5 million Armenians were murdered by Ottoman Turks, the direct predecessors of modern Turkey.It absolutely unconscionable that the community of nations has continued to allow Turkey to use its geopolitical position to bully other nations into denying or refusing to recognize the Armenian Genocide. For decades, Turkey has actively censored those who recognize the genocide in Turkey itself, and has even destroyed evidence. Previously, it even imprisoned academics who dared to call the Armenian Genocide a genocide.Whereas in Germany, the world demanded accountability and, even today, Holocaust denial is illegal, Turkey made it illegal not to deny the Armenian Genocide, and the entire world is complicit in allowing it to do so.If even a few of the world’s superpowers had recognized the Armenian Genocide from day one, we would be living in a different reality today, where smaller nations wouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge the obvious historical fact to the detriment of a people that was almost eliminated.The Biden administration recognizing the Armenian Genocide would not only send a morally necessary message to the people of Armenia on behalf of the United States, it also would send a message to the world. The time for recognition is now.The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative and a research fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute.