Every April 24, Armenians gather to mark the killings of ethnic Armenians in Anatolia which took place in 1915-1921. The mass killings occurred during the bloodiest days of World War I when Ottoman Empire was fighting several fronts.
In its dying days, the “Sick Man of Europe” was most most challenged on its eastern front where it fought its old-time foe, the mighty Russian Empire. Armenians who are said to have lived under the Ottoman rule for over 600 years but eventually sought independence of their own, sided with the Russians. The revolt resulted in mass deportations and killings of Armenians throughout eastern Anatolia.
Thousands of Armenians who had been deported from parts of Ottoman Empire bordering Russia, marched south to what is today Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. On their way to the unknown, they were frequently attacked by various armed detachments and systematically killed. But most died of hunger and lack of accommodation.
It is commonly accepted that close to 1.5 million Armenians died in the period of deportations. Turks claim the number is much lower. It is also a fact that hundreds of thousands of Turks, Kurds and other Muslims also died during the Russo-Ottoman war and in constant skirmishes between Armenian and Turkish armed groups. Turks maintain thousands of Armenians died during the war and admit there have been massacres throughout the peninsula but adamantly deny this was a government-orchestrated “genocide.”
Ever since Armenians who left Anatolia settled in the Middle East, Europe, the United States and South America, they fiercely fought the political battle of recognition of the killings of formal level. The campaign for recognition in the United States started in 1980’s, yet neither the Congress nor the administration has classified the killings as genocide.
At times when the House of Representatives was close to passing a bill for recognition of the killings, the administration wary of not insulting its strategic ally Turkey, would step in and stop the bill from passing.
According to the Armenian groups, President Obama has pledged to recognize the events in Anatolia as ‘genocide’, but has failed to deliver the promise after he was elected. Unlike other presidents, President Obama did not just fail to keep his promise. Instead, he introduced a new term “replacing” the pledged G-word: “Meds Yeghern,” which in Armenian means “The Great Calamity”, signifying the atrocities committed against Armenians in Anatolia in the beginning of the last century.
Just like in previous years, President Obama used the same word this April in regards to the mass killings of Armenians at the beginning of the last century. Below is the 2014 address of the president on the Armenian Remembrance Day:
“Today we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and honor those who perished in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. We recall the horror of what happened ninety-nine years ago, when 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, and we grieve for the lives lost and the suffering endured by those men, women, and children. We are joined in solemn commemoration by millions in the United States and across the world. In so doing, we remind ourselves of our shared commitment to ensure that such dark chapters of human history are never again repeated.
I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all of our interests. Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past. We continue to learn this lesson in the United States, as we strive to reconcile some of the darkest moments in our own history. We recognize and commend the growing number of courageous Armenians and Turks who have already taken this path, and encourage more to do so, with the backing of their governments, and mine. And we recall with pride the humanitarian efforts undertaken by the American Committee for Syrian and Armenian Relief, funded by donations from Americans, which saved the lives of countless Armenians and others from vulnerable communities displaced in 1915.
As we honor through remembrance those Armenian lives that were unjustly taken in 1915, we are inspired by the extraordinary courage and great resiliency of the Armenian people in the face of such tremendous adversity and suffering. I applaud the countless contributions that Armenian-Americans have made to American society, culture, and communities. We share a common commitment to supporting the Armenian people as they work to build a democratic, peaceful, and prosperous nation.
Today, our thoughts and prayers are with Armenians everywhere, as we recall the horror of the Meds Yeghern, honor the memory of those lost, and reaffirm our enduring commitment to the people of Armenia and to the principle that such atrocities must always be remembered if we are to prevent them from occurring ever again.” (The White House)