The Collegian
Friday, August 14, 2020

Armenian genocide

One week before the German invasion of Poland, Adolf Hitler outlined his official plans in a widely unknown speech. It was in this speech that he first told his men that the only way to gain the land necessary for German survival and prosperity was to completely eliminate the enemy.

I can just imagine the people in the room when this happened, in full support of their Führer but, at the same time, worried as to how they could get away with it. Hitler was one step ahead of them, and in his closing line said, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

It has been 70 years since then, and it is both sad and disgusting to think that we have proved Hitler right. Today, almost 100 years after the Armenian Genocide, we still live in a world where recognition of this genocide is rare.

To date, only 23 out of the 195 officially independent nations have formally declared these atrocious acts as genocide. And no, the United States is not one of them. I note the United States because as the land of freedom and as the country that the rest of the world looks to for leadership, we have turned our backs on the Armenian people and have done nothing but politicize this terrible page in history.

In the years leading up to World War I, the Ottoman Empire was in a terrible state. It knew of the coming war and that there was no way the already weak Empire would make it through intact. On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman Turks, fearing an alliance between the Armenians and Russians, uprooted the Armenian people from their homes and forced them to march through the desert, without food or water. Women were beaten, men were forced to join the army and young girls had their eyes gouged out with swords.

By 1917, 1.5 million Armenians had died. When speaking in terms of such a small Armenian population (which today barely surpasses 3 million), we are looking at the murder of HALF A NATION. Why then, is this an event that is rarely mentioned in history classes and, worse yet, used as a political platform by politicians? Our response to the Holocaust has become something sacred, yet our response to the Armenian Genocide is the same as spitting in the face of the Armenian people.

Most recently, we have seen President Obama renege on his pledge to officially recognize these crimes as genocide. Is he the first president to do this? No, but he is the first one to exploit it on the campaign trail. During the course of his campaign he continually pledged that, if elected, he would finally pay tribute to the million and a half who died at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. He swore that he would, once and for all, recognize these brutal acts as genocide.

But the Oval Office is a much different place than a campaign podium. He is now backing away from these words, saying that Turkish-U.S. relations must remain on good terms if we wish to see victory in the Middle East. I find it odd that when someone, such as Iranian President Ahmadinejad, says that the Holocaust never happened, we laugh him off as nothing more than a lunatic. But when the very same thing is happening to the Armenians, we must be willing to understand this ridiculous "other side."

Both Obama and Turkish President Guel have said that we must leave this up to the historians, not the politicians. Well, the historians have spoken and the only ones who seem to still deny the Armenian Genocide are Turkish ones. This would be like waiting to decide if the Holocaust was real based on the findings of a Neo-Nazi group.

Furthermore, how can a man, such as President Obama, who knows and understands what it is like to be an oppressed minority, possibly tell millions of Armenians that they must wait until the political climate has cooled before we can admit that terrible acts even happened? Maybe it's because the Armenian population does not have as large a voting bloc as other minority groups. Have I struck a nerve yet?

I'm sure many of you are wondering why this matters so much. I mean, after all, it has been 100 years and the Turks and Armenians have coexisted peacefully since. The problem is that by doing this, by rewording the facts and ignoring the evidence, we are setting precedence.

If you don't believe me, just look at the Rwandan Genocide. Cameras were there. We all knew what was happening, yet not one country intervened. Some will say that it is more complicated than just intervening. I say that there's nothing complicated about preserving innocent life; you either do it or you don't. Eventually the world recognized these crimes in Rwanda, but only after it was too late.

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Sadly enough, it is happening again in Africa, this time in Darfur. The region is in crisis, and they need outside help to fix the problem, yet we decided that what is going on there is only "genocide-like" not genocide. Better luck next time, Darfur.

Just because these nations are small does not mean their people are worth any less. By running away from genocide and not confronting it head on, we are ensuring a future full of it. And let's be serious, the more money that disappears in this recession, the more likely it is that it will happen again. Blood may be thicker than water, but money is thicker than all, and as money disappears so does rational thought.

Contact columnist Mike Padovano at mike.padovano@richmond.edu

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