WASHINGTON—The White House on Friday issued President Barack Obama’s eighth and final “Armenian Remembrance Day” statement. Obama continues to avoid referring to the destruction of the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 as “genocide,” employing the Armenian term “Meds Yeghern” instead.
White House National Security Council officials informed the Armenian National Committee of America on Thursday afternoon that President Obama would refrain from properly commemorating the Armenian Genocide, as he had promised to do as a candidate, in his eighth and final “Armenian Remembrance Day” statement, set to be released in the next few days.
“It seems President Obama will end his tenure as he began it, caving in to pressure from Turkey and betraying his commitment to speak honestly about the Armenian Genocide,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian, who met with the officials along with Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian.
“President Obama’s unwillingness to reject Turkey’s gag-rule on the Armenian Genocide or otherwise confront the growing regional wave of anti-Armenian aggression – particularly at a time when both Ankara and Baku are placing targets on the backs of Armenians in Artsakh, Armenia, Turkey, the Middle East, and across our Diaspora – represents something far worse than simply a betrayal of his own promise. His reckless retreat from America’s anti-genocide commitments – under pressure from Turkey and Azerbaijan – in the face of their open incitement, outright aggression, and other classic genocide red flags – emboldens Erdogan and Aliyev to escalate their hostility, raising the very real risk of large-scale anti-Armenian atrocities. This, sadly, is President Obama’s legacy – silence on the Armenian Genocide, complicity in Turkey’s denials, and encouragement of Azerbaijani aggression,” continued Hamparian.
Prior to his election to the oval office, President Obama was clear and unequivocal in promising to properly characterize Ottoman Turkey’s murder of over 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children between 1915 and 1923 as genocide. In a January 19, 2008, statement he wrote: “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.”
Below is Obama’s statement.
Today we solemnly reflect on the first mass atrocity of the 20th century—the Armenian Meds Yeghern—when one and a half million Armenian people were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman empire.
As we honor the memory of those who suffered during the dark days beginning in 1915—and commit to learn from this tragedy so it may never be repeated—we also pay tribute to those who sought to come to their aid. One such individual was U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr., who voiced alarm both within the U.S. government and with Ottoman leaders in an attempt to halt the violence. Voices like Morgenthau’s continue to be essential to the mission of atrocity prevention, and his legacy shaped the later work of human rights champions such as Raphael Lemkin, who helped bring about the first United Nations human rights treaty.
This is also a moment to acknowledge the remarkable resiliency of the Armenian people and their tremendous contributions both to the international community as well as to American society. We recall the thousands of Armenian refugees who decades ago began new lives in the United States, forming a community that has enormously advanced the vitality of this nation and risen to prominence and distinction across a wide range of endeavors. At a moment of regional turmoil to Armenia’s south, we also thank the people of Armenia for opening their arms to Syrian refugees, welcoming nearly 17,000 into their country.
As we look from the past to the future, we continue to underscore the importance of historical remembrance as a tool of prevention, as we call for a full, frank, and just acknowledgment of the facts, which would serve the interests of all concerned. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. I have also seen that 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 welcome the expression of views by those who have sought to shed new light into the darkness of the past, from Turkish and Armenian historians to Pope Francis.
Today we stand with the Armenian people throughout the world in recalling the horror of the Meds Yeghern and reaffirm our ongoing commitment to a democratic, peaceful, and prosperous Armenia.