Armenian genocide vote: A stinging blow to Turkish denialism

This Armenian boy was the only survivor of a family of 15 in the 1915-1923 genocide. (Shutterstock)
Updated 03 November 2019

Armenian genocide vote: A stinging blow to Turkish denialism

  • US House adopted a resolution on Oct. 29 to acknowledge the 1915-1923 mass killings
  • Resolution seen as a rebuke to Trump as well as Turkey's military assault on Syrian Kurds

DUBAI: October 29, 2019, has become another significant date in the history of Armenians worldwide after the US House of Representatives recognized the systematic killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 onwards in modern-day Turkey as a “genocide”.

The House voted 405-11 on that day, the first time a chamber of the US Congress officially labeled the slaughter as a genocide.

The measure was adopted at a time when Ankara’s military intervention in northern Syria has strained already tense relations between the US political establishment and the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The vote was widely seen as a stinging rebuke to President Donald Trump’s decision to pull American forces from northeastern Syria and the ensuing Turkish military onslaught on Kurdish-administered areas there.

“The adoption of House Resolution 296, which recognizes the Armenian genocide from 1915 to 1923, is first and foremost a victory for truth and justice,” said Levon Avedanian, coordinator of the Armenian National Committee of Lebanon (ANCL) and professor at Haigazian University in Beirut.

“October 29, 2019, is a historical day. This recognition is important for Armenia and Armenians, for Turkey and Turks, and also for the United States, since it places the US on the side of justice, which has, for far too long, been denied to the victims and surviving generations of the Armenian genocide.”

Avedanian described the recognition as a culmination of 35 years of efforts by Armenian Americans, led by the Armenian National Committee of America, to honor the memory of the 1.5 million victims of the genocide.

In addition to the House of Representatives, 49 US states have acknowledged the Armenian genocide, and a resolution in the Senate – Senate Resolution 150 – is currently gathering pace.

“It is our hope that the Senate resolution will also be adopted and, eventually, (lead to) the US government’s change in its complicity-in-denial policy,” Avedanian said.

“The adopted resolution also calls for educating generations about the Armenian genocide in order to prevent atrocities. As Armenians, we regard genocide recognition and condemnation as important factors in preventing future genocides.”

According to genocide scholars, denial of a genocide is its last stage.

“For Armenians, the denial of the Armenian genocide by Turkey is a continuation of the genocidal policies,” Avedanian said. “In that sense, recognition by Turkey and by members of the international community is an essential foundational step on the long path of restoring justice, which would inevitably also include, in addition to recognition, reparations and restitution.”

In response to the Turkish assault on the Pentagon’s Kurdish allies in Syria, the Trump administration slapped sanctions on Turkish defense and energy ministries, as well as several high-profile Turkish officials.

“The House recognition is a major blow to Ankara’s obstruction of justice for the Armenian genocide,” Avedanian said. “The House also adopted another resolution demanding that the US administration impose sanctions against Ankara due to the Turkish incursion in Syria. However, US foreign policy is devised by the State Department and the US administration, so one should not expect that these resolutions will have a lasting effect on US-Turkey ties.”

Although Turkey strongly condemned both resolutions passed by the House, Erdogan has an invitation to meet Trump on Nov. 13. Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, called the vote “null and void,” saying it was revenge for the offensive in Syria.

Many countries, including Lebanon, Germany and France, officially recognize the genocide, which for most Armenians is a deeply felt issue.

The violence began with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople in 1915 and continued with a centralized program of deportations, murder, pillage and rape until 1923.

Ordinary Armenians were then driven from their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water.

Ottoman death squads massacred Armenians, with only 388,000 left in the empire by 1922 — when the genocide ended — from 2 million in 1914. (Turkey estimates the total number of deaths to be 300,000.)

Many Armenians were deported to Syria and the Iraqi city of Mosul. Today descendents of the survivors are scattered across the world, with large diasporas in Russia, the US, France, Argentina and Lebanon.

“My great-grandmother was a child during the genocide and she never knew her family,” said Nayri Kechichian, a Lebanese-born Armenian who lived in Armenia for many years.

“She lost everyone she was related to and was orphaned at a young age. Seeing her pass away aged 92 was the most emotional thing I’ve encountered in my life.

“I hoped she would finally be reunited with her family and find peace knowing that what she went through had been recognized.”

Like many Armenians, Kechichian expressed excitement over the House of Representatives statement. “This is a step forward in realizing our dream of getting back our occupied lands and having closure,” she told Arab News.

“My next wish is to see the US as a country officially recognizing the Armenian genocide.

“We’ve been fighting for years to make our voice heard, and up to this day, governments and parliaments of 32 countries have recognized the first genocide of the 20th century.

“It is high time Armenians got recognition for what they’ve been through and what they have lost – 1.5 million lives and their lands.”

Kechichian said recognition of the genocide gives Armenians the chance to ask for their “occupied lands” back, adding “we have so much history there.”

“I personally would like to go and find my ancestral lands and homes, to finally know what it feels like to belong,” she told Arab News.

“I currently face identity issues because I am a foreigner in Lebanon despite being born here and holding citizenship. And I am a foreigner in Armenia, despite having lived there for nine years and being a citizen of that country. So, where is my home? It hurts to not know where you came from or who your ancestors are.”

Aline Khatchadourian, a Dubai-based Lebanese-French-Armenian, said the genocide is a very painful topic for the Armenian community. “Having this recognition gave me hope that maybe one day, it will not only be recognized by US Congress and 32 other countries, but also everywhere else in the world,” she said.

That “1.5 million Armenians were killed, slaughtered in cold blood should count for something and never be forgotten. This lack of recognition (from other countries) proves to me that, no matter how much people may suffer or endure, there is no justice in the world,” she said.

Avedanian pointed out that the House resolution clearly states that “the US government should reject efforts to associate itself with the denial of the Armenian genocide or any other genocide.”

“Hence, we expect that the US administration will strongly reflect these principles in its dealings with Turkey,” he said.

“It is also our hope that other states, including Arab states, will follow suit by rejecting political blackmail by Ankara and by siding with the truth about the Armenian genocide.”

 


WHAT CONGRESS MEMBERS SAID

The House of Represenatives voted 405-11 on Oct. 29 in favor of a resolution recognizing the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as a genocide

 

We will not be party to genocide denial. We will not be silent. We will never forget. ... This is a vote I have fought for 19 years to make possible, and one that tens of thousands of my Armenian American constituents have worked, struggled, and prayed for decades to see.

Adam Schiff, House Intelligence Committee

 

Recent attacks by the Turkish military against the Kurdish people are a stark reminder of the danger in our own time. Today, let us clearly state the facts on the floor of this House to be etched forever into the Congressional Record: The barbarism committed against the Armenian people was a genocide.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker, House of Representatives

 

This resolution not only honors and commemorates my ancestors who perished but all those who were lost in the first genocide of the 20th century.

Anna Eshoo, Representative from California

 

Recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight. It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics. True acknowledgment of historical crimes against humanity must include ... earlier mass slaughters like the transatlantic slave trade and Native American genocide.

Ilhan Omar, Representative from Minnesota

 

I expect the Senate will ... let Turkey unequivocally know that the United States will not sit on the sidelines as they create problems for us and our allies.

Lindsey Graham, Senator from South Carolina

 



Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

Updated 22 min 36 sec ago

Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

  • At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks
  • More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Ahmed Sabrie woke up to find his house half-submerged in fast-rising flood waters.

Frightened and confused, he herded his sleepy family members onto the roof of their home in central Somalia as scores of thousands of people in the town, Beledweyne, scrambled for their lives. Clinging to an electric power pylon by the edge of their roof, the family watched as their possessions were washed away.

“I could hear people, perhaps my neighbors, screaming for help but I could only fight for the survival of my family,” the 38-year-old Sabrie, the father of four, recalled.

As one of his children, unfed, wailed the family waited for more than 10 hours before a passing rescue boat spotted them.

Authorities have not yet said how many people died in the Somalia flooding last month, the country’s worst in recent history and the latest reminder that the Horn of Africa nation must prepare for the extremes expected to come with a changing climate.

At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks. Local officials have said at least 22 people in all are presumed dead and that toll could rise.

“This is a catastrophic situation,” Mayor Safiyo Sheikh Ali said. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who visited the town and waded through submerged areas, called the devastation “beyond our capacity” and pleaded for more help from aid groups.

With no proper emergency response plan for natural disasters, local rescuers used rickety wooden dhows to reach trapped people while helicopters provided by the United Nations plucked people from rooftops. African Union and Somali forces have joined the rescue operations and the Somali government airlifted food.

“Many people are still trapped in their submerged houses and we have no capacity and enough equipment to cover all areas,” said Abdirashakur Ahmed, a local official helping to coordinate rescue operations. Hundreds are thought to still be stuck.

With more heavy rains and flash flooding expected, officials warned thousands of displaced people against returning too quickly to their homes.

More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Beledweyne town was the worst affected. Several thousand people were sheltering under trees or in tents.

“Floods have destroyed more than three-quarters of Beledweyne and submerged many surrounding villages,” said Victor Moses, the NRC’s country director.

Aid groups said farms, infrastructure and roads in some areas were destroyed. The destruction of farmland near rivers is expected to contribute to a hunger crisis.

The possibility of further damage from heavy rains in the coming days remains a concern, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Parts of the Lower Juba, Gedo and Bay regions, where IOM has supported displaced populations for years, have been affected. Many displaced people were stranded without food, latrines or shelter.

“In Baidoa, people have moved to high ground where they are in immediate need of support,” said Nasir Arush, the minister for humanitarian and disaster management for South West State.

Survivors like Sabrie now must struggle to rebuild their lives.

“We’re alive, which I am thankful to Allah for, but this flood disaster wreaked havoc on both our livelihoods and households so I see a tough road ahead of us,” he said from a makeshift shelter built on higher ground outside town.