BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Last week, President Donald Trump issued his third April 24 statement “on Armenian Remembrance Day.” For three consecutive years, he did not muster the courage to use the correct term—genocide—to describe the annihilation of 1.5 million innocent Armenian men, women, and children by the Ottoman Turkish government!
Trump basically repeated the same words that he used in the past two years, with very minor changes. Again he used the Armenian term “Meds Yeghern” (Great Crime) to avoid calling the mass killings genocide! Meds Yeghern is simply a description that Armenians used before the word genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin in the 1940’s, whereas genocide is a term of international law and has legal consequences. Besides, if Trump insists on using an Armenian word, he should have said “Tseghasbanoutyoun” (genocide)!
Since his election as president, many Armenians had been hoping that Trump would rely on his unpredictable impulses to describe the Armenian mass killings as genocide, ignoring the counsel of his advisors and the position of his predecessors. Unfortunately, Trump knows very little about Armenian-Americans and can care less about their interests. The only time Trump will pay attention to the genocide issue is when Armenian-Americans gain more political clout.
It should not take much courage for Trump to use the term Armenian Genocide, because Ronald Reagan previously used it in his Presidential Proclamation on April 22, 1981. If he cannot call it genocide, Armenian-Americans do not need Trump to say anything on April 24. The Armenian Genocide has already been recognized by the United States several times. In addition to Reagan’s statement, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted two resolutions in 1975 and 1984 acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, and the U.S. government sent an official document to the International Court of Justice (World Court) in 1951 recognizing the Armenian mass killings as a case of genocide.
Nevertheless, Trump’s inadequate statement has a couple of secondary benefits to the Armenian Cause:
1. It irritates the hell out of Turkish leaders who seem to be ashamed and outraged that the President of the United States is reminding the world of “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century,” and asserting that “beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.” Both Turkish President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reacted with indignation and denial to Trump’s April 24 statement.
2. The statements of Pres. Trump and his predecessors cause each year a major political reaction around the world, generating mass publicity in the international media which is further fueled by the Turkish leaders’ denials.
On April 24, 2019, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan issued an important statement on the 104th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Surprisingly, his statement did not mention Turkey or the Ottoman Empire as the perpetrator of the Armenian Genocide! This must have been an unfortunate oversight on the part of the Prime Minister and his aides. I do not think it was done intentionally, particularly since the statement does include a strong reference to Armenians losing their homeland in addition to the human losses. In the past, Armenia’s leaders have refrained from raising the issue of Armenian territorial demands from Turkey.
Meanwhile, Erdogan issued a particularly disgraceful statement on April 24, speaking at a Symposium in Ankara: “The relocation of the Armenian gangs and their supporters, who massacred the Muslim people, including women and children, in eastern Anatolia, was the most reasonable action that could be taken in such a period.”
Erdogan is shamefully accusing the Armenian victims of committing a mass crime against the victimizing Turks. This is an outrageous lie which is the equivalent of accusing Jews of killing Germans during the Holocaust! Erdogan must be suffering from a serious mental illness!
In a surprising development, Prime Minister Pashinyan responded forcefully to Erdogan’s pathetic lies. Pashinyan described Erdogan’s statement as “hateful” and called on the international community to respond: “On the day when Armenians around the world mourned the innocent victims of the Ottoman Genocide, Turkey, this country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated a statement denying the greatest crime of the 20th century, calling it only, ‘the deportation of Armenians.’ To call the extermination of the entire Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the massive forced deportation of Armenians (death caravans) ‘Armenian bandits and their accomplices,’ and the massacre of 1.5 million indigenous people, ‘the most logical behavior’ is not only a new level of denial of the Armenian Genocide, but also an excuse for the destruction of an entire nation. Such a statement on April 24, on the day of the anniversary of the Genocide, is a deep insult to the Armenian people and all of humanity, and an expression of extreme hatred personally by Erdogan. The world should not be silent.”
We are heartened that Prime Minister Pashinyan raised the issue of the Armenian territorial demand from Turkey, a demand that the Armenian government should pursue officially at the International Court of Justice!