102 YEARS LATER, WILL WE RECOGNIZE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE?

[Content warning: rape; genocide; ethnic cleansing; graphic violence; religious persecution; anti-Christian; Christian persecution in the Muslim world]

A.N: elucidation of events comprising the Armenian genocide retrieved from armenian-genocide.org, genocide1915.info and print sources (including but not limited to); Armenia: The Survival of A Nation (1980), The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History (2011), Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide (1993). For complete list of sources, email contact@outsidermag.co.

Written by Zanab J.S. 

In Margadeh, Syria, the bones of Armenian genocide victims dot the desert for miles. For years, farmers in the area crushed and swept away physical remains in order to make room for crops and produce. As Aleksandra Avakian witnessed in 2005 during her trip to document the mass graves, "There was no protection for this neglected and holy place." 

When faced with the question of evidence regarding the genocide, one does not have to look further than Margadeh, where the disrespected remains of Armenians forced to march to their death are still scattered in the dust, each bone a testimony to the destruction faced by Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. 

On April 24, 1915, the planned extermination of 1.5 million Armenians was commenced. Ottoman authorities collected and killed up to 270 Armenian leaders, notable figures, and intellectuals. According to many scholars, this collective murder was the beginning of what is known as the Armenian Genocide. 

The initial phase of the genocide saw the planned extermination of young boys and men. This phase was followed by mass collection and deportation of Armenian women and younger children, the physically disabled, and the elderly to embark on death marches towards the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula in Syria. The death marches were executed by forcing the Armenian people, regardless of physical condition, to walk steadfast towards the desert while deprived of food, water, and medical aid, effectively inducing the death of hundreds of thousands of Armenians. Those unable to keep up were killed. Many portions of the death march were paused for the purpose of raping, killing, and abusing the Armenian prisoners. 

In addition to the overwhelming elements of corroboration in the form of witness testimonies and mapped graves across the Turkish border, there is now proof of correspondence between Ottoman officials regarding the genocide. Uncovered only a few days ago by Taner Akcam, a Turkish academic at Clark University, a telegram from the trials convicting officials responsible for the genocide has resurfaced. Turkey has long used the lack of original documentation from the trials as reason for dismissing the genocide. 

In addition to this discovery, after seeing photographs of what can only be described as mass graves, and lesions in the ground used to hold and bury remains, and the many Armenians who have testified over the years as witnesses, it is unimaginable to think that any emoting human being could possibly reject the notion of such a massacre. 

However unimaginable, the denial is overwhelming, pervasive and very obviously a component of foreign policy. 

Only a handful of countries have officially and formally recognized the Armenian genocide at the parliamentary level, while several sub-governmental bodies have acknowledged the genocide independently--all at the diplomatic displeasure of the Turkish government, which still attempts to export its national denial as a component of its international alliance with other countries. 

Of these countries, the United States is not one. Though 45 out of 50 states in the U.S. have recognized the events of 1915-1923 for what they are, the American government has yet to formally recognize the planned extermination of 1.5 million Armenians as perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire. 

Close NATO allies, the United States and Turkey gracelessly dance around the politics of formal acknowledgment and the fact that the majority of the U.S., by definition of states, has already declared its view. American diplomats bite their tongues while Turkey offers its insistent and unscholarly opinion to the world; the genocide did not happen, the remembrance of these events is not rooted in reality. 

The lengths to which this denial is honoured is unnervingly reflected in the choices of the American government. 

In 2006, the American Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, was fired by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for using the term "genocide" to describe the extermination of Armenians during WWI. 

In 2008, Barack Obama reiterated his criticism of Rice for such an action and stated the following: 

"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. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide."

While the Obama presidency succeeded in 2008, national recognition of the Armenian genocide did not. 

Slowly retracting his statements, Obama eventually cut loose any desire to support resolutions to recognize the Armenian genocide at the parliamentary level in 2009 when he refrained from using the term "genocide" during commemorative speeches. He would continue on to abstain from the term throughout his presidencies.

In strange, and inconsistent fashion, the worldwide consensus of historians, experts of the Holocaust and genocide and international academics was traded in for the contentment of the Turkish government. Naturally, the majority of Turkey's allies have followed suit in their reluctance to formally acknowledge and condemn the extermination of Armenians carried out by the Ottoman Empire. 

In present day, with Donald Trump congratulating Erdogan for his newly established executive powers in Turkey, the premise of Armenian genocide recognition seems intangible. 

It is, at this point, a fallacy to conclude any realistic basis for Turkey's insisted ignorance. With international leaders all but uttering the word genocide, it is obvious this diplomatic formality the Turkish government applies to its allies is embarrassingly symbolic, at best, and not at all related to any factual bedrock of information regarding the events of WWI. 

In 2017, it is unavoidable to acknowledge the significance of such a denial in relation to the reality faced by christians in the muslim world today; as we commemorate the genocide of Armenian christians perpetrated by the muslim Ottoman Empire, a new caliphate seeks the decimation of christians across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and, eventually, the rest of the muslim world. 

The persecution of christians in MENA is historically propagated by muslim empires, and continues today in the form of religious and ethnic cleansing by various terrorist organizations and state governments themselves. 

The topic of this persecution remains largely off the record in the context of western politics where Middle-Eastern christians find themselves caught between an almost unavoidable dichotomy: 

The far right politics of xenophobic and conservative parties which use such information to promote violence against immigrants in the western world, while simultaneously endangering middle-eastern christians. 

And the liberal politics of politicians who water down and belittle the persecution of middle-eastern christians at the hands of muslim states so as to create distance between their parties and those of conservatives, while maintaining favourable relations between allies in the MENA region.

It was only a few days prior to the Palm Sunday terrorist attacks on churches in Egypt carried out by ISIS members that Angela Merkel claimed Egypt's treatment of its Coptic Christian population was fair and that christians in the region lived without persecution. 

When, in 2017, our government is still willing to trade recognition of crimes against christians in the muslim world for positive foreign relations with powerful abusers of human rights, it is unsurprising that 102 years later the world has still yet to value the recognition of the Armenian genocide at the cost of favourable diplomacy with Turkey. 

When so many governments and international bodies have failed to address the crime against humanity enacted on Armenian christians in 1915, and the Turkish government still continues to finance, export and demand the denial of the atrocities committed, it is our responsibility as citizens to ensure the remembrance of the lives so unjustly taken by Ottoman Empire. Take a few moments this week to discuss the events of April 24, 1915, with your friends, family, colleagues and coworkers. Take a few seconds to acknowledge the innocent lives taken, and honour their memory by spreading awareness and information about this horrific campaign. 

As we approach the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide, it is our duty to finally shed light on, and to remember, those so unjustly killed in the Armenian genocide, and to make up for a century of dismissal, disrespect and disregard for the victims of this shameful atrocity. 

In memoriam of the 1.5 million Armenians killed by the Ottoman Empire from 1915-1923 and their loved ones. 

For questions and comments regarding this article contact Zanab J.S. @zanabism. To suggest an amendment, email the writer at contact@outsidermag.co.