Armenian Genocide Recognition: Necessary But Not Sufficient

Harut Sassounian


With the approaching Centennial of the Armenian Genocide in 2015, Turkish leaders are coming under increasing pressure from the international community to face their country’s sordid past and acknowledge the Genocide. Significantly, public statements regarding the Armenian Genocide were made in the last few days by heads of three European states: France, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

During his last month’s visit to Turkey, French President Francois Hollande, without using the genocide term, called on Turkish leaders to confront their history: “Memory work is always painful… but must be done. What we need is to carry out reconciliation through research and recognition of what has happened…. By recognizing the historical events you will be elevated not only in your own eyes, but also in the eyes of the world.” Pres. Hollande also held a private meeting with Rakel Dink, the widow of martyred Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

Similar wise counsel was offered last week by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan: “Turkey must come to terms with its history.” Ironically, Erdogan was the one who brought up this issue by complaining that Germany was planning to allocate funds for the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial.

The President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, went even further than the French and German leaders by actually using the term Armenian Genocide during Pres. Serzh Sargsyan’s visit to Prague two weeks ago: “Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. In 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were killed.”

While international pressure on the Turkish government is expected to become progressively more intense with the approach of the Genocide Centennial, Armenians should be wary not to be misled by such well-meaning, but at times, self-serving statements. If such pressures would prompt a Turkish leader to admit the Ottoman government’s guilt in committing massacres or even genocide, that would be insufficient to satisfy the just demands of the Armenian people. In fact the raising of expectations for Turkish recognition could be counter-productive because if and when Turkey does acknowledge it, everyone including Armenians may wrongly assume that their long-anticipated objective has been realized!

Several decades ago, when the world was still unaware of the basic facts of the Armenian Genocide, its recognition by the international community and the Turkish government was imperative. However, at this stage, when over two dozen countries, many international organizations, and the International Association of Genocide Scholars have acknowledged the Armenian Genocide, mere recognition is no longer the ultimate goal.

Rather than recognition, Armenians and all people of goodwill now seek justice for the genocide committed by Ottoman Turkish leaders. Just as Germany paid compensation to Holocaust survivors, the government of Turkey, as successor to the Ottoman Empire, has to pay billions of dollars in restitution, and return the stolen Armenian properties and occupied lands.

To strive for restitutive justice, Armenians should use every possible means — political pressure, economic boycotts, public protests, and lawsuits — to convince Turkey’s leaders that they would be better off to negotiate with representatives of the Armenian government and Diaspora, seeking a just resolution for this long-lasting injustice. As there are considerable disparities between the political, economic and military capabilities of the two sides, Armenians may not be able to obtain all their demands overnight, but should insist that Turkish officials offer them as much restitution as possible in a phased manner towards eventual full justice.

The just settlement of the Armenian Genocide issue would have many benefits for Turkey which would be hailed by the international community as a progressive and civilized country. Its leaders may even be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize. Recognition followed by restitution would also facilitate Turkey’s entry into the European Union. Otherwise, the continued refusal to come to terms with the Armenian Genocide would prolong the Turkish people’s embarrassing predicament of being constantly reminded of the crimes committed by their forefathers and continuously humiliated before the entire world as genocide denalists.

Should Turkish leaders have the courage to resolve their Armenian conundrum, the Armenian people would finally begin obtaining long-awaited compensation for their losses, enjoy an economically and geopolitically more viable and secure homeland, with the expectation that a repentant neighbor would be more inclined toward peaceful coexistence.

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  1. bigmoustache said:

    turkey funnels money and arms into Azerbaijan to use against us, I don’t see why we don’t help the kurds militarily by supplying them.
    you mentioned the military difference between Armenia and turkey. currently, the majority of the people living there are kurds and they have repeatedly acknowledged the genocide and asked for forgiveness. if this is genuine or a bid to get more allies, I don’t know. but so far things look good and we should start building better relations with them.

  2. Ari said:

    Very correctly stated, “the government of Turkey, as successor to the Ottoman Empire, has to pay billions of dollars in restitution, and return the stolen Armenian properties and occupied lands.”

  3. Abal said:

    The Armenian army must be readied at maximum alert and kept updated with sophisticated ,technologically advanced offensive weaponry. The historical lands will not be restored around a table having a chat with Turks. The former historical lands will be recovered by force of arms. Diplomacy needs to continue arm in arm with the aggrandizement of our army. Like our President remarked, this generation recovered Artsakh, the next generations’ duty is the recovery of the territories occupied by the Turks.

  4. Sarkis said:

    I agree with Mr. Sassounian, particularly when he states that those pushing for Genocide reaffirmation, mainly in the west but occasionally among turkey’s Middle Eastern rivals, only do so for their own self-interest.

    I’d just like to add that instead of wasting resources on lobbying these foreign politicans for “blessing” us with recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Armenians in Armenia and in the Diaspora should be focused on strengthening the Republic of Armenia so that Armenia will be able to compel the turks to pay restitution and reparations by force, because we all know that we will get nothing out of the turks by asking them nicely, or trying to cut deals with more liberal (by turkish standards) turks or kurds, or through legal cases or ancient treaties. The two keys to strengthening Armenia are: 1) supporting the Armed Forces of Armenia; and 2) securing the strategic Russian-Armenian military-economic-sociocultural alliance to keep out NATO and Western globalism. All progress for Armenia flows from these two pillars; they are Armenia’s tactical and strategic advantages, respectively. Armenia’s Armed Forced and the Russian-Armenian alliance are infinitely more important than the dangerous distractions that the thousands of western-funded NGOs and subversive groups like the Heritage Party, PreParliament, Civilitas and others are pursuing; and more important than anything the Armenian Diaspora can accomplish through lobbying and/or protesting.
    The political situations in the South Caucasus, Middle East, and Europe are as tense as they have ever been. The situation inside turkey is far from stable. During these crucial times, Russia is on the rise and rebuilding itself militarily, economically, socially and spiritually. Armenia has secured close relations with Russia through the CSTO and Customs Union. Armenians have a chance to turn Armenia into a regional military and economic powerhouse, and we have seen very positive developments in the past few years, despite the worst efforts of western-funded regime-change “revolutionaries” in Yerevan like LTP and Raffi Hovannisian, and despite non-stop doom-and-gloom reporting by western-funded opposition media in Armenia as well as the Diaspora aimed at demoralizing the Armenian people. It’s no longer enough to merely recognize that foreign politicians calling for recognition of the Armenian Genocide are merely self-interested, we Armenians today need to roll up our sleeves and work on developing Armenia into the kind of country which forces justice for the Armenian Genocide directly from turkey, without the need for any self-serving third parties, particularly those from the west who are in a tight military alliance with turkey through NATO and have time and again proven their readiness to sacrifice Armenia to the turks without hesitation and without notice.

    Ps it might interest the readers here that a few days ago the “democratic” British Parliament held discussions on – get ready – discrimination against Muslims in Georgia because there are not enough Mosques on Georgian territory, including in Javakhk. I say the opinion of such governments are NOT EVEN WORTH CONSIDERATION because their values and objectives are so far gone from those of Armenia.

  5. john said:

    Armenian genocide recognition is very important but backstabbing among Armenians is another great crime that needs to be stopped. When you have a backstabbing Armenians like Anahit Misak Kasparian who is co-Host of the YOUNG TURKS Radio, the ultimate insult to the memory of the Armenian genocide victims, we should not be suprised that more progress is not being made in Armenian genocide recognition. When a backstabber like Ana Kasparian exist , no wonder the Turks are successful. Kim Kardashian is another backstabbe who has destroyed the reputation of the Armenians.