Men, women and children were roped together by the edge of a river, so that shooting the first person caused the rest to drown. Women were routinely raped, killed and genitally mutilated. Some were crucified. Two million Armenians were forced out of their homeland and then murdered, exiled, tortured or starved.
During World War I, from 1915 to 1918 and 1920 to 1923, over 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks.
Since then, historians have debated as to whether this was a massive genocide or the consequence of a war that cost the lives of many of the world’s citizens.
Today, the debate has hit the White House and it is no longer up to only historians to fit the pieces together. The United States and the Bush administration must now take a stance and decide whether we as a country believe these killings should be called “genocide.”
California has already spoken up.
For years, the state has gone on record in condemning the barbaric act. Two years ago, the legislature passed Senate Bill 424 by former Senator Chuck Poochigian, to declare April 24 of each year as the official day of remembrance in California for the Armenian genocide. Now it’s time for the United States to join in these efforts to recognize the atrocities that happened some 92 years ago.
Members of the House Foreign Relations Committee have approved House Resolution 106, a human rights legislation authored by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), that will put U.S. government on record in recognizing the mayhem committed by the Ottoman Turks following WWI as a mass genocide against innocent people in an act of ethnic “cleansing.” The House of Representatives is then expected to review this bill in November.
Gareth Jones of Reuters, an international news source, reports, “NATO member Turkey has recalled its envoy to Washington for consultations and has hinted it might halt logistical support to U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan if the bill passes. It may also deny U.S. firms lucrative defense contracts.”
Although one of America’s strongest allies, Turkey is known to take the talk of genocide personally.
“Turkey suspended its military ties with France last year after the French Parliament’s lower house adopted a bill that would have made it a crime to deny that the Armenian killing constituted a genocide,” National Public Radio reported last week.
Although most bills accurately describe that the genocide was in fact not carried out by the Republic of Turkey—because it did not yet exist—but was instead the responsibility of the ruling party of the collapsing Ottoman regime, the Turkish government has made it clear that “Armenians were simply unfortunate victims of a chaotic civil war, that only 300,000 to 600,000 died, that Turks actually died in greater numbers, and that the Armenians brought their fate on themselves by collaborating with the Russians.”
The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment and Crime of Genocide describes genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”
Clearly, that is what happened during World War I, and clearly the United States should not take any threats as an excuse to not hold an opinion on what happened.
If Congress passes the bill, the United States will be the 24th country to declare the historical, barbaric event as a genocide, joining countries such as France, Greece and Canada.
Let us not forget the atrocities that bear witness no more than a decade ago in Rwanda, Africa. Rwanda’s genocide took place in 1994, taking the lives of one million people at the hands of the Hutus, who believed that getting rid of Tutsis would bring peace to their country.
The reoccurrence of genocide in the 20th century is a clear reason why the United States needs to pass the HR 106 in November. Declaring the atrocities that occurred in World War I to the people of Armenia as genocide, takes our country one step to closer to setting an example as the home of the free and the land of the brave.
If we say this is what we are, let’s mean it. It is up to the people of this world, the survivors, the descendants, and anyone who agrees with these words today to ensure that never again will innocent people be persecuted because of their ethnic background, religion or race.