Editorial: Officially recognize the Armenian genocide

Editorial Board

Today marks the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of what Armenians across the world refer to as the Meds Yeghern, which translates to “great catastrophe.” The great catastrophe refers to the diaspora of Armenians from their homes and their country (then the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey) and the loss of generations of Armenian and irreparable damage done to their culture.

About 1.5 million Armenians were killed after being forced from their homes and eventually their country. The Meds Yeghern also has another less popular and, yet, more controversial name: the Armenian genocide. The country of Turkey, known as the Ottoman Empire during and prior to World War I, vehemently denies that there was any systematic killing of Armenians, preferring the justification that the mass of deaths were simply an unfortunate consequence of war.

There is a staggering amount of historical evidence which stands in stark opposition to all Turkish assertions that the deaths were merely unfortunate, including documented correspondence from U.S. Ambassadors and representatives present at the time like messages such as, according to www.armenian-genocide.org, “a campaign of race extermination is in progress,” through a “carefully planned scheme to thoroughly extinguish the Armenian race.”

Yet despite firsthand accounts and the further evidence we have gained after a full century of the events, the United States, and indeed most of the world, refuses to recognize the atrocity that resulted in the death of more than 1.5 million people as a genocide. Only 24 countries officially recognize the genocide.

President Obama, during his initial campaign for the presidency in 2008, offered a significant cause for hope in the hearts of Armenian-Americans when he said, “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 historical evidence.” Even going as far as to say that “as president I will recognize the Armenian genocide.”

Seven years and a recent backtrack from following through on that statement make for a painfully hollow promise. However, state governments are allowed to recognize the genocide by either legislation or official proclamation and 43 have done so (not Iowa).

Pope Francis recently made headlines for referring to the events truthfully, labeling it a genocide. His statement prompted Turkey to recall their ambassador from the Vatican City. As part of his speak, Pope Francis said “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”

This is exactly what has been done to the remaining Armenian population, which is now spread worldwide after their diaspora. We have left a group of people, already endlessly pained, bleeding for their ancestors who were long ago condemned to those Ottoman killing fields.

The United States refuses to recognize the genocide because there are fears that doing so would strain relations with Turkey, a key ally in the Middle East, during a time of great instability in the region. There is a true cause for sadness and frustration when geopolitical relationships take precedent over truth. The issue becomes only more political in recent years, as detailed by former Congresswoman Connie Mack who said that Armenian groups are “shooting themselves in the foot,” by consistently advocating against and funding the opponents of politicians who do not refer to their tragedy as a genocide. 

It is time for President Obama to make good on his campaign statements and finally have the United States officially categorize the Meds Yeghern as a genocide. In fact, the designation is long overdue considering the first hand knowledge than the United States and our allies had of the events during years of killing.

This is not a matter of diplomacy. This is not a matter of political correctness. This is quite simply a matter of justice. It is, at its core, a matter of truth.