On Friday, April 24, Armenians commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian genocide that occurred in 1915. During that year, as the Turkish Ottoman Empire dissolved in the shadow of World War I, the Turks massacred over 1.5 million Armenians. One hundred years later, Turkey denies the event was genocide, claiming it was the unfortunate outcome of a bloody war.
While the Armenians commemorated the genocide, Turkey moved its Gallipoli celebration up one day from April 25. Turkey celebrates the Battle of Gallipoli as its greatest military victory. The Gallipoli campaign began on April 25, 1915. In what was the largest amphibious invasion of the time, the Turks prevailed over the Allied Forces and defeated them. It was fought on the Northern bank of the Dardanelles, a strait which provides a sea route to the Russian Empire.
Although Turkey refuses to apply the genocide label to what happened to the Armenians, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did send a written statement expressing his regret. For the first time, a government minister attended the event, and a religious service was held at the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul to commemorate the lives lost, per the NY Times.
“We are cognizant of the sorrowful events experienced in the past by the Armenian community and I sincerely share your pain.”
Many of the Armenians considered the words of the president to be insufficient to the event. Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, expressed the desires of the Armenians for justice.
“As Armenians we have come to Istanbul in record numbers to memorialize the brutal massacre of our family members, and to remind the Turkish government that 100 years later we are still seeking justice and accountability.”
Israel has also refused to label the Armenian massacres as genocide, a rare move that aligns them with many other Middle Eastern countries that refuse to recognize that the Armenian genocide occurred. One reason Israel might not support labeling the massacres genocide is its close relationship with Azerbaijan, a Muslim state neighboring Armenia. They do not get along. Israel imports 40 percent of its oil from Azerbaijan, and exports weapons and defense systems to Baku.
Nachman Shai, an Israeli lawmaker, and a member of the Israeli delegation that attended the ceremony for the Armenian genocide commemoration, disagreed.
“In foreign policy, there are interests and there are values. In this case I think values should trump interests. As Jews, we must recognize it.”
In an op-ed written for Time, Armenian-American Kim Kardashian called on President Barack Obama to call the massacres Armenian genocide. The United States has never recognized the massacres as genocide, although some states do. President Obama declined.
[Photo Credit CAL POLY POMONA]