BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
In recent years and months, Arab countries have been liberating themselves from the nefarious political influence of the Turkish government and are beginning to take an honest position on the Armenian Genocide.
The Arab governments, despite their long-standing sympathy and support for survivors of the Armenian Genocide who sought shelter in various Middle Eastern countries, had been reluctant to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide due to their shared Islamic faith with Turkey.
The first Arab state to break the yoke of the Turkish blockade to acknowledge this genocidal crime was Lebanon. On April 3, 1997, the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies (Parliament) adopted a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. A second resolution was adopted by the Lebanese Parliament on May 11, 2000, stating that it “recognizes and condemns the genocide perpetrated against the Armenian people and expresses its complete solidarity with demands of its citizens.”
Since then, Syria’s President and various Parliament members have spoken about the Armenian Genocide several times, but have yet to adopt an official Parliamentary resolution recognizing it as genocide.
There have been similar moves in Egypt where a lawsuit was filed against Turkey in regards to the Armenian Genocide. However, no formal resolution has been adopted by the Egyptian Parliament.
In March, the Interim Libyan government that is attempting to overthrow Libya’s central regime issued a statement recognizing the Armenian Genocide. This came as a complete surprise since there is no Armenian community in Libya.
Another Arab country is rumored to be considering the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide, but I prefer not to name it in order not to alert the Turkish government and prevent it from lobbying against it.
More recently, an unexpected acknowledgement was made on April 25, when The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee issued its first official statement recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
According to its website, “ADC is a civil rights organization committed to defending the rights of people of Arab descent and promoting their rich cultural heritage. ADC was founded by former U.S. Senator James Abourezk in 1980. Today, ADC is the largest Arab American grassroots organization in the U.S. ADC supports the human and civil rights of all people and opposes racism and bigotry in any form.”
Here is the full text of ADC’s sympathetic statement: “Over 100 years ago, the Ottoman Empire systematically massacred 1.5 million Armenians and forcibly displaced the Armenian people from their historic lands. Today, we remember the Armenian Genocide and commemorate all of those who lost their lives and homes. The ADC stands in solidarity with the Armenian people. Following the systematic massacre that took place between 1915 – 1918, many Armenian survivors fled to nearby Arab lands to seek refuge to later build new homes. Over the centuries, Armenians established thriving communities in Arab countries, particularly in the Fertile Crescent. The Armenian community has been an intrinsic part of Arab society, existing in Palestine for centuries, as well as in Lebanon and Syria. As we mark our moral stain on our global society, the ADC stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our Armenian brothers and sisters. Our communities know too well the price of systematic dispossession and oppression, and together we will continue to defend those facing injustice and persecution.”
I am sure Armenians worldwide thank ADC for its compassionate stand. In response to an email I sent to ADC, Abed Ayoub, ADC’s legal and policy Director, wrote that this is the first time that ADC has issued an official statement on the Armenian Genocide.
In response to my question as to what prompted ADC to issue such a statement this year, Mr. Ayoub stated: “Over the course of the past couple of years we have had the privilege of working with young Armenian-Americans on issues that impact us all, and as a result of this relationship we began exploring the idea of issuing a statement as a show of solidarity. Additionally, many of our members have connections and roots to the community. Finally, with the rise of hate and bigotry across the world we felt now is an important time to issue a statement.”
When I asked if ADC is planning to issue a similar statement on next April 24, Mr. Ayoub responded affirmatively.
I also asked Mr. Ayoub if ADC had received any criticism for its statement from the Turkish government, and Turkish or Islamic groups in the United States; he stated that ADC had received no such criticism. However, “our membership was overwhelmingly supportive of the statement.”
Finally, when I asked what ADC thought about President Trump’s refusal to use the term Armenian Genocide, Mr. Ayoub answered: “Most of what President Trump does is troubling, however, his refusal to use the term Armenian Genocide is in line with prior Administrations. Failure to use the term is a failure to recognize the pain and suffering inflicted on millions of innocent lives.”
Naturally, I welcome ADC’s statement on the Armenian Genocide and Mr. Ayoub’s answers to my questions. I suggest that Armenian organizations send ADC’s statement to Embassies of all Arab countries in Washington, D.C., asking them to urge their governments to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.