The genocide you don’t know about (but should)

Ottoman Armenians are marched to a prison in Kharpert, Armenia by armed Turkish soldiers in April 1915.

1.5 Million Armenians were killed during the Armenian Genocide. This photograph shows some of those forced on the death marches. (Photo courtesy of the Toronto Star.)

When I was in high school, I had an Armenian friend. I went to her house once and found a book. The title escapes me now, but it was somewhere along the lines of “the Forgotten People.” I asked her about it and she explained it to me.

On April 24th, 1915, hundreds of Armenians were arrested and deported from Constantinople. This catalyzed what is known today as the Armenian Genocide. Countless Armenians were tortured, beaten, placed in concentration camps, and forced on a death march by the Ottoman Empire. 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman empire. We know it happened. There is photo documentation. There is even damning evidence from the former Ottoman empire itself.

The kicker? Certain countries, including the United States and Turkey, the country which succeeded the Ottoman empire, refuse to acknowledge its existence.

Why should I care? I am not Armenian.

My fiancé is Armenian. His family is Armenian. His late grandmother’s mother was among the thousands of people who was forced to march. I remember hearing stories about how her earrings were ripped out of her ears and how she was starved and beaten during the march.

Yesterday, on the 102nd anniversary of the genocide, I wanted to post my thoughts about it on Facebook, but something stopped me. I felt weird posting about it. It felt a little wrong. I kept asking myself, is it appropriative to do so, because I am not Armenian? If none of my non-Armenian friends are posting about it but all of my Armenian friends are posting about it, should I continue with the trend?

Now, I’m sorry that I didn’t post about it and will use my final blog post of the class to do so.

One of the main reasons why the United States does not recognize this event as a genocide is that Turkey is technically an ally of the United States. A bill was set to pass in 2007 in Congress officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide. The Bush Administration, however, maintained that Turkey was an ally, and the bill was pulled. Trump, of course, did not even mention the word “genocide” on the 102nd anniversary yesterday during an address meant to express solidarity with the Armenian people, which fell flat. Even the Obama Administration failed to use the term to describe the event. This is especially egregious, because President Obama vowed to use the term “genocide” on the campaign trail almost ten years ago. Samantha Power, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. apologized on behalf of the Obama Administration yesterday via Twitter regarding the Administration’s non-use of the term.

Samantha Power Twitter

A series of Tweets posted on 4.24.17 from former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power (Photo courtesy of Armenian Weekly)

Is this part of the reason why non-Armenians don’t post about the genocide? Because our leaders won’t speak frankly about the issue?

Let’s also look at the issue in Turkey. Turkey just held a referendum which secured Recep Erdogan’s position as President. Among several other “reforms,” Erdogan plans to extend term limits for the presidency, which could mean that he will serve as president until 2029. Staring down the business end of a possible dictatorship, how can Turkey break this cycle? Turkish Historian, Taner Akcam, who has dedicated his career to studying the Armenian Genocide and has uncovered incredible amounts of evidence confirming its existence, has a theory which he shared with the New York Times: “My firm belief as a Turk is that democracy and human rights in Turkey can only be established by facing history and acknowledging historic wrongdoings.”

I know there is a lot of ignorance about the issue…I personally wasn’t aware it happened until my friend told me about it years ago as a high school student. Perhaps it’s time that people such as myself try to make this issue common knowledge. Hopefully the new film which addresses the issue of the genocide and was released in the U.S. this past weekend, The Promise, will spread awareness.

So why do I care? I care because it’s true. I care because some of the closest people to me are Armenian. I care because high time the United States acknowledge the atrocities the Turks committed against the Armenian people. I care because I am a citizen of the world.

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One Response to The genocide you don’t know about (but should)

  1. sydhavely says:

    You were right in posting about the Armenian genocide, despite initial feelings about not posting something. In addition to your fiance, there is a Penn connection through Vartan Gregorian. He was founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Penn in 1974 and four years later became its twenty-third provost until 1981. He had important things to say about the genocide as well and did not shrink from saying them, despite the controversy, real or potential, it created for him. One was the strong possibility of his becoming Penn’s president. Your courage and honesty about the issue is welcomed and valued.

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