In the United States, the media is historically viewed as the public’s ally in the pursuit of truth and justice. But all too often, a comprehensive analysis of significant events is overlooked in the name of political expedience. Such is the case with the recognition of the Armenian Genocide – an event of international significance that has shaped my life and the lives of Armenians around the world but whose place in history is to this day still questioned.
On April 24th, 1915, the Ottoman Turks led by the newly formed Young Turk Party began a collectivized effort to ethnically cleanse all Armenians throughout the Ottoman Empire, beginning with the arrest, torture and murder of 250 Armenian intellectuals in the Turkish capital, Istanbul. What followed before and throughout World War I was the first genocide of the 20th century where 1.5 million Armenians were deported, persecuted, robbed, starved, raped, burned and ultimately slaughtered. Under the false pretext of “relocating” Armenians to other parts of the empire due to the ensuing war, Armenians were rounded up and marched out of their villages systematically and driven towards the deserts of Syria where they were left to perish. Along the way, they were prey to bands of Kurds and robbers who pillaged, raped and killed them. Instead of giving aid and protection, Turkish soldiers charged with marching Armenians allowed and often partook in executions and rape and in fact shot those who could not continue due to exhaustion and starvation.
The enormity of the scale of atrocities did not go unnoticed and in fact was regularly reported on in “The New York Times.” Westerners were outraged with the stories they heard, and diplomats such as Henry Morgenthau, Sr., then U.S. ambassador to Turkey, regularly reported on events he witnessed and had heard from others. Millions of dollars in aid was sent to Armenians through the American Near East Relief Committee and similar organizations, but ultimately less then 100,000 Armenians remained as a result of the massacres.
Despite the overwhelming evidence supporting this holocaust, Turkey and the United States have yet to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Politicians shudder at the thought of even referring to the events by their proper name; and to this day, Turkey threatens to halt support of U.S. operations in the Middle East should a resolution be passed acknowledging the historical facts. Among the 22 nations that have officially acknowledged the Armenian Genocide is France, which is one of many nations that today demands that Turkey accept its past truthfully before being allowed to join the European Union. Being an Armenian, this issue is personally paramount among unresolved conflicts in the world, and with public support for the war in Iraq dwindling, is more relevant then ever. Governments cannot continue to dictate international policy to meet an agenda at the expense of an entire nation. If we continue to cast a cold shoulder in reviewing and acknowledging authentic history, then we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. Prior to his invasion of Poland, Hitler was quoted as saying, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” The most important issue to me internationally is the one where justice is the longest overdue.