By Soseh Yepoyan || Contributing Writer
Being Armenian is the most important and influential part of my identity; without it, I do not know who I would be. As the great-granddaughter of Armenian Genocide survivors, I have been fighting for justice and educating others about it for as long as I can remember. There are pictures of me in a baby stroller in Washington, D.C., with a poster in hand, demanding its reaffirmation. Every April 24th, we, the descendants of genocide survivors, commemorate worldwide, gathering and marching in cities around the world to bring attention to the fact that our wounds are still open due to Turkey’s long history of denial. This date is significant, as it signifies the start of the Genocide with the rounding up of hundreds of Armenian intellectual leaders in Constantinople, who were arrested, deported, and killed.
However, the April 24th marches this year, particularly throughout the U.S., were palpably different, as a long-awaited official statement was finally entered into the historical record as President Biden became the first U.S. president to stick to his campaign promise and speak the truth by recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915. After decades of struggle for justice, the United States joins 29 other countries in its official recognition and ending Turkey’s gag rule. 106 years later, my great-grandparents can finally rest in peace knowing the country in which they sought refuge acknowledged the truth of their experiences and history.
To grasp the full importance of President Biden’s statement, it is necessary to understand the history of the Armenian Genocide. By definition, “genocide” is the coordinated, systematic attack of a nation or ethnic group, with the aim of annihilating them. The Armenian Genocide was perpetuated by the Ottoman Empire, now modern-day Turkey, from 1915-1923. The Armenian people were subjected to deportations, rape, torture, massacre, and starvation under the Young Turk regime and the infamous triumvirate masterminds: Talaat, Enver, and Djemal. They began creating a modern state that reflected Turkish nationalist ambitions and saw little place for the empire’s Christian minorities, including Armenians. In calling for a ‘Turkey for the Turks’, they sought to generate public support for their racist and eliminationist program. By the end, 1.5 million Armenians were systematically murdered, perished from starvation and death marches. Those who survived were dispersed all over, creating a worldwide diaspora, and almost half a million Armenians live in the United States alone.
To this day, Turkey adamantly denies the Armenian Genocide ever happened. It refuses to admit that this was a systematically planned genocide by the Ottoman Turks, and condemns those that do within Turkey as unlawful. Failure to recognize the atrocities committed against the Armenians have had consequences. Most famously, days before invading Poland, Adolf Hitler said “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” A genocide not recognized is a genocide repeated. Official recognition of the Armenian Genocide on the 106th anniversary has finally put the United States on the right side of history, after a resolution to recognize and commemorate the Armenian Genocide passed in both the Senate and House back in December 2019, but was denied by former President Trump.
Although this is a step toward justice, there is still much more work to be done. The statement from President Biden gives Armenians from all over hope that the United States will continue to engage with and push justiciable policy, and encourage more countries to follow suit. Unlike my great-grandparents and grandparents, I am fortunate to have been able to be witness to this long-awaited affirmation of the truth, and in the words of President Biden, we must “turn our eyes to the future”. As for present day Armenia and for Armenians all over the world, we survived and will thrive.
President Biden’s statement can be found here:
Junior Soseh Yepoyan is a contributing writer. Her email is email@example.com.