The word ‘genocide’ is a recent word that means destroying, either in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. This can be done by killing them all off, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life that are calculated to kill them off, imposing measures on the group intended to prevent births by the group, forcibly transferring children of the group to another group, and trying to breed the group out of existence by systematically raping the women of the group.
The 20th Century has a brutal legacy of genocide- Darfur, Bosnia (1995), Rwanda (1994), Cambodia (1975-1979), the Nazi Holocaust of Jews and Poles and Gypsies (1938-1945), the Ukrainian Famine (1932-1933)- but the first genocide of the last century took was the Armenian Genocide from 1915-1923.
Hitler once justified his Holocaust by asking “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
And what happened to the Armenians was indeed a genocide.
During World War One, Armenian men were drafted into the Ottoman army to fight- and instead were disarmed and put into labor camps, where they were soon starved or killed by the Ottoman government led by the Young Turks who pushed for a more Turkish nation (like the future nation of Turkey is). With all of the men of fighting age killed off, it was easy for Ottoman Turkish leaders to round up all the the community leaders and put them to death on April 24, 1915. After that, as WWI spread and became more confusing and disorganized, armed groups of Turks would come into Armenian villages and kill off the rest of the men or make them go on death marches, or rape or carry off the women to use as slaves, kidnap or enslave the children, loot the village of all valuables, or simply chase off any remaining Armenians who then later would die of starvation, exposure, or brutality.
Out of more than 2 million Armenians prior to 1914, more than 1.5 million Armenians were killed. By 1923, Armenia was simply a memory- 4000+ years of history wiped away like it never existed- churches, monasteries, schools, people, possessions were all destroyed or gone. Even the Armenian names of cities, villages, and rivers were changed.
This was a genocide, and admitting the truth of something and moving on from there is the first step to making this world a better place.
Although now-President Obama refuses to use the word genocide on Armenian Genocide Day (April 24), then-Senator President Obama said it best- when he was a Senator in January 2008 he sent a letter to the Armenian Reporter that said "America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides- I intend to be that president."
Unlike now-President Obama (you can read his 2012 statement here in which he refuses to use the word 'genocide'), in 2006 Mr. Obama noted, "I criticized the secretary of state [Condoleezza Rice] for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, after he properly used the term 'genocide' to describe Turkey's slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with Secretary Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence."
Unlike now-President Obama who has for the fourth time in a row broken his promise to the Armenian community to use the word “genocide” in describing what happened at the hands of the Turks roughly a century ago, forty-two U.S. states and over 20 countries have properly recognized the Armenian Genocide. Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan acknowledged the crime as genocide in 1981. The U.S. House adopted Armenian Genocide legislation in 1975 and 1984 and included reference to the crime in House adopted amendments in 1996 and 2005. More recently, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed Armenian Genocide legislation in 2007 and 2010.
Now-President Obama is correct- "A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all of our interests. Moving forward with the future cannot be done without reckoning with the facts of the past." Sadly, now-President Obama refuses to provide a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts and refused to reckon with the facts of the path and refused to use the word 'genocide' on April 24th.
Today, I hope all of you are willing to admit that what happened to the Armenians from 1915-1923 was indeed a genocide, and that it is important that in the future America puts in place brave leaders who will speak forcibly on this issue so that we can morally respond to all genocides and stop them from occurring wherever or whenever they occur.
In life, liberty, and property all men should be protected from tyrants who would use division, fear, anger, hate, and human passion.