It is a cause for pause this week as the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide has once again passed. Eyes were upon United States President Donald Trump in curiosity of how he might address the event. However, those looking for Trump to call the atrocity by its widely known name would be disappointed to see that he instead remains status quo with the history of administrations before him that have refused to label it as “genocide.”
On April 24, the recognized anniversary of the genocide, the White House issued a statement in which Trump addressed the actions taken by the former Ottoman Empire as “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th Century,” but instead refers to the Armenian Genocide by its often-used synonym, “Medz Yeghern.”
“I join the Armenian community in America and around the world in mourning the loss of innocent lives and the suffering endured by so many,” said President Trump in the statement. “We welcome the efforts of Turks and Armenians to acknowledge and reckon with painful history.”
The Armenian Genocide began on April 24, 1915, in which the former Ottoman Empire carried out the targeted extermination of an estimated 1.5 million Armenian citizens within the borders of what would eventually become Turkey. Many captured Armenians who were not killed were subject to forced labor and deportation. Despite the atrocities committed, the Turkish government has, even in modern times, been resistant to label the event a “genocide” or a “holocaust” as it has come to be known in many countries the world around.
In a White House press briefing that would follow, Press Secretary Sean Spicer would defend President Trump’s decision not to label the Armenian Genocide. Pressed by The Hill on the matter, Spicer answered that Trump’s response to the genocide was “consistent with previous administrations.”
.@PressSec tells me decision not to call mass killings of Armenians "genocide" is "consistent with statements" of past administrations.
— Jordan Fabian (@Jordanfabian) April 24, 2017
Despite President Trump’s signaling of support for the Armenian community, his response also falls in line with a history of refusal by U.S. leaders to publicly term the atrocity a “genocide.” Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush would not use the term during their tenure and though Barrack Obama promised to label the Armenian Genocide publicly, this never came to pass. Trump never made such a pledge, although the spotty history of his administration in matters of human rights may have left him open to more scrutiny than usual. The Trump Administration continues to deal with backlash from subjects such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and the travel ban, which targeted specific countries of the Middle East.
In almost all of these administrations, the direct reason not to label the Armenian Genocide as such has undoubtedly been Turkey’s value as a strong NATO ally to the United States in the Middle East. Trump in particular has been recently active in maintaining a relationship with current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as reported by NBC. Trump went as far as to call and congratulate Erdoğan on a recent referendum victory that many speculate will give the Turkish leader more authoritative control over the country.
Whatever the reason, there remains a public outcry around the world to not allow the Armenian Genocide be labeled as anything other than what it was. Turkey’s refusal to admit the matter as such and attempts to gag other nations and groups from using the “genocide” label continues to draw mass protest, especially around this, the anniversary of the events. Despite these protests, it appears the need for allies in the Middle East will undoubtedly continue to steer the policies of the current United States administration as it has in the past when it comes to the tumultuous matter that is the Armenian Genocide.
[Featured image by Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images]