Armenian genocide remembered today

Dylan Boyle

Ninety-three years have passed since the beginning of the Armenian genocide, and the Armenian people are still seeking recognition for the massacre of Armenians.

Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day is held April 24, the anniversary of the arrest of 250 Armenian leaders by Ottoman Empire authorities in Istanbul, Turkey, and the beginning of an Armenian relocation movement leading to thousands of Armenian deaths.

The day is commemorated around the world, and domestic ceremonies include rallies in Times Square, a memorial service in Los Angeles, a genocide walk in Philadelphia and a demonstration in front of the Turkish Embassy. Armenian churches will also hold memorial ceremonies during their Sunday masses.

These events are intended to raise awareness of the genocide and put pressure on the Turkish government, which refuses to recognize the events of 1915 as genocide.

“The Turkish-American community looks at the events as part of a larger conflict,” said David Saltzman, a member of the Turkish Coalition for America. “We do not deny the atrocities – we just don’t like the word ‘genocide.'”

Saltzman said the events in question should not be considered genocide because the arrests in Istanbul were a response to an Armenian revolution in the city of Van and were not racially motivated.

“It was an Armenian revolt and an Ottoman military response, not a racially motivated genocide,” Saltzman said.

Taniel Koushakjian, associate grassroots director of the Armenian Assembly of America, disputed this argument, saying that the revolution took place in May 1915, after the arrests on April 24.

“This is a commonly used argument,” Koushakjian said. “When the people of Van got word that the surrounding villages where being burned and massacred, and the Ottomans where heading toward Van, they decided to defend themselves.”

Koushakjian said that, if the Ottomans were only trying to stop a revolution, they wouldn’t need to relocate and deport Armenians who did not live in the city of Van.

Historians from Armenia and Turkey have very different accounts of these events. Turkish historians claim 100,000 Armenians were killed, but Armenian historians claim a death toll of 1.5 million. Western historians and the Encyclopaedia Britannica cite 600,000 Armenian deaths.

Saltzman said disputes such as this are not making the problem any better, but he hopes Armenians and Turks can settle their differences in the future.

“Armenians and Turks have lived together for centuries. We share a history – a painful history – but we have a tremendous opportunity to move forward,” Saltzman said.

“The extremes of both sides need to back away from entrenchments so intellectual discussions can occur.”

Koushakjian said Armenians have already been pushing for better relations, but the Turkish government insists on preconditions for discussions, including not discussing whether the issue should be considered genocide.

“There has to be dialogue,” Koushakjian said. “But there has to be an honest introspection into the past. We have to move forward for the sake of our children.”

There are currently no Armenian students enrolled at Iowa State.