The Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923 led to the death of over one million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. It shattered the vibrant Armenian culture and destroyed the lives of countless thousands of people. In fact, most genocide experts consider it to be the first modern genocide and the evidence for such is numerous and well documented.
However, there are some who, to this day, deny that the Genocide was just that: genocide.
Turkey itself does not acknowledge the genocide, claiming that the use of the term is a heinous accusation. This claim would be understandable if the death of one million ethnic Armenians was merely a casual byproduct of the First World War, and not actual genocide, because a label of government-directed genocide is a serious insinuation. The evidence, however, strongly indicates otherwise.
Only twenty-one nations have officially acknowledged that the Armenian Genocide was just that: genocide. That is less than 15% of all the nations in the world, and the United States and Israel are not among that pitifully small percentage. Israel, of all nations, should understand the distress that the denial of genocide causes the Armenian peoples, and the United States, the self-appointed defender of world justice, should be consistent in its principles and acknowledge the truth.
Why do these nations not acknowledge that the “Armenian Massacre” was genocide? Sadly, the answer is politics. Turkey is a stalwart of peace and security in the unstable Middle East and an important ally of both Israel and the United States. An acknowledgment of the Genocide would most assuredly damage foreign relations between the countries, a risk that neither nation is willing to take on behalf of truth.
Issues surrounding the acknowledgment of the genocide are not just a thing of the past either. In January 2007, a resolution was submitted to the House of Representatives calling for their acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide. There was a large uproar in response to this resolution, and Turkey was outraged. The resolution does not call for prosecution of the Turkish government or even reparations, simply an acknowledgment. The bill has been postponed and it is doubtful that it will pass. Angering Turkey is not a step the government wants to take, especially since it is deeply embroiled in Iraq and Afghanistan and needs a local friend.
Yes, U.S. acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide would greatly effect relations with Turkey. So why is it so important to acknowledge the truth of the Genocide, even at the risk of loosing a vital ally?
Denying that it was genocide is an injustice to the Armenian people. Not only is does it dismiss the pain of the Armenians, but it is an attempt to kill the memory of the pain: pain caused by deliberate ethnic cleansing. More importantly, it is crucial that the Genocide be acknowledged because of one simple reason: truth.
The Armenian Genocide is true. It was genocide, not a corollary of a war. Calculated. Conscious. Cruel. If we have not an unshakable adherence to truth, but rather to our own political whims, there is no strong and unchanging authority to guide our national path. This very quickly leads down a path of relativism, a path that, sadly, we are already headed down and another more dismissal of truth takes us further down that path.
Cambria Aviles is a double major in History and English Literature at Biola University. ‘