April 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish government and denied to this day by its successors. Genocide scholars consider the Armenian Genocide the template for all modern genocide.  (To learn more about the Armenian Genocide and its denial by the Turkish government, go to www.RecognizeArmenianGenocide.org.)

Myriad countries and international bodies have acknowledged this unresolved crime against humanity, as have 43 American state governments.  Yet each time Congress has considered affirming the Armenian Genocide, intense lobbying and threats by the Turkish government and its allies have killed proposed legislation. This multi-million dollar campaign of genocide denial perverts historical truth and corrupts our political process.

Genocide denial – the last stage of genocide – threatens everyone.  It fuels current genocides and emboldens those who would commit future atrocities.  Stopping the cycle of genocide begins by speaking truthfully about past genocides.



Photo: Kharpert, Historic Armenia, Ottoman Empire, 1915: Armenians, under the guard of armed Turkish soldiers, being taken to prison in nearby Mezireh, where they were tortured and killed.  (Photo courtesy of Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives, Watertown, Massachusetts, USA.)

Letter to
The President of the United States
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama proclaimed “a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide” that “starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history.” He then explicitly pledged, “As President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide,” reiterating that the Armenian Genocide is “a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy.”

We agree. America’s refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide is an untenable policy for a nation that professes its commitment to human rights. By appeasing the government of Turkey – which has long directed a multi-million dollar campaign of genocide denial and threatens countries that acknowledge the Armenian Genocide – the United States enables Turkey to avoid meaningful reconciliation with its past.

The Armenian Genocide, in which the Ottoman Turkish government massacred 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923, is settled history with extensive documentation. The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), which unanimously affirmed the Armenian Genocide in 1997, has called it the template for the 20th century genocides that followed.

In recent negotiations with Armenia, the Turkish government insisted on establishing a historical commission to study the past, a ploy that was condemned by seven former IAGS presidents who wrote, “Outside of [the Turkish] government, there is no doubt about the facts of the Armenian Genocide, therefore our concern is that [the] demand for a historical commission is a political sleight of hand designed to deny those facts.”

Denial – often termed “the last stage of genocide” – does more than cause anguish to its victims. Denial endangers all humanity, as it fuels ongoing genocide and emboldens those who would commit future genocides. Indeed, on the eve of the Holocaust, Adolph Hitler observed, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Today, the Turkish government denies the genocide in Darfur and supplies weapons to the Sudanese government of Omar al-Bashir, indicted last year by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. We must end this cycle of genocide.

As we confront the specter of genocide and its denial in the 21st century, our government has a duty to ensure that the lessons of the past are not forgotten. The time is long overdue for the United States to stand up to Turkish pressure and join the 43 individual U.S. states and numerous countries and international bodies that have affirmed the Armenian Genocide.

We believe universal human rights and historical truth must guide American foreign policy. We strongly urge the U.S. Congress to pass pending legislation recognizing the Armenian Genocide and call upon President Obama to honor his pledge and unambiguously acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.

cc: President Barack Obama

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