YEREVAN (AFP) — An Armenian veteran of World War II decided to return the medals he earned as a British pilot after Britain’s ambassador denied that “genocide” was committed when the Ottoman Empire killed up to 1.5 million Armenians, according to Armenia’s count, at the end of World War I.
“I was deeply insulted by the British ambassador qualifying these events as an atrocity, not genocide. I decided to return the medals I received from Britain’s government, in protest,” Harutun Shiklanian told reporters Friday.
Shiklanian’s parents fled their homeland after the massacre, which had killed his grandparents, he said.
Shiklanian, who served as a pilot and photographer in the British air force during the World War II, was awarded Britain’s Defense Medal and War Medal last year.
“During the war I fought for human rights, but now I am disappointed. I know you were not voicing your own opinion, but that of the British government, and I feel it necessary to return my medals,” the 81-year-old veteran said in a letter to Ambassador Thorda Abbott-Watt.
The issue of whether various nations recognize the “genocide” is one of the most sensitive in Armenia.
The episode also remains one of the most controversial in Turkish history. Turkey recognizes that 300,000 Armenians had died along with a large number of Turks at the end of the war.
Abbott-Watt recently told the ***California Courier***, an English-language weekly run by the Armenian diaspora in the United States, that “the British government had condemned the massacre as an (atrocity) at the time.