President again Avoids Saying ‘Genocide’ in April 24 Statement


WASHINGTON — On April 24, President Barack Obama issued a statement in honor of the day, yet again, he refrained from using the phrase “Armenian Genocide.” Instead, he used the Armenian term “Meds Yeghern,” which translates into the Great Calamity.

Armenians used the phrase primarily before the coining of the word “genocide” by Raphael Lemkin in the 1940s.

Said Obama in his statement, “We solemnly remember the horrific events that took place 96 years ago, resulting in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. In 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire.

“I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. A full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests. Contested history destabilizes the present and stains the memory of those whose lives were taken, while reckoning with the past lays a sturdy foundation for a peaceful  and prosperous shared future. History teaches us that our nations are stronger and our cause is more just when we appropriately recognize painful pasts and work to rebuild bridges of understanding toward a better tomorrow. The United States knows this lesson well from the dark chapters in our own history. I support the courageous steps taken by individuals in Armenia and Turkey to foster a dialogue that acknowledges their common history. As we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and pay tribute to the memories of those who perished, we also recommit ourselves to ensuring that devastating events like these are never repeated. This is a contemporary cause that thousands of Armenian-Americans have made their own.

“The legacy of the Armenian people is one of resiliency, determination and triumph over those who sought to destroy them. The United States has deeply benefited from the significant contributions to our nation by Armenian Americans, many of whom are descended from the survivors of the Meds Yeghern. Americans of Armenian descent have strengthened our society and our communities with their rich culture and traditions. The spirit of the Armenian people in the face of this tragic history serves as an inspiration for all those who seek a more peaceful and just world.

“Our hearts and prayers are with Armenians everywhere as we recall the horrors of the Meds Yeghern, honor the memories of those who suffered, and pledge our friendship and deep respect for the people of Armenia.”

The statement did not make all Armenians happy.

“Words do matter, and today’s statement on the eve of Easter and the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide was a missed opportunity to help heal the open wounds of the past,” stated Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “Genocide and its denial are pernicious, and the US needs to squarely address the consequence of genocide denial through unequivocal affirmation of this historical truth.”

The Assembly’s statement suggested that some have urged Obama not to use the term Armenian Genocide under the misguided belief that this will help promote normalization between Turkey and Armenia. “Last year,

Turkey had every opportunity to honor its public commitments as embodied in the Protocols signed between Turkey and Armenia, but instead consistently undermined and derailed normalization efforts,” the statement read.

Also unhappy was the Armenian National Committee, whose chairman, Ken Hachikian said in a statement, “Despite his repeated, detailed and unambiguous pledges to recognize the Armenian Genocide, the president offered only euphemisms and evasive terminology to describe the murder of over 1.5 million men women and children — effectively keeping in place the gag rule imposed by the Turkish government on the open and honest discussion of this crime. In refusing, under foreign pressure from Turkey, to his honor his pledge, he again fell far short of his own view, as voiced during his campaign, that America deserves a president who uses the term ‘genocide’ to convey the full factual, moral, legal and contemporary political meaning of this crime against all humanity.”

While the Armenians were not happy, neither was Turkey, whose foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the use of the term “Meds Yeghern.”

(Today’s Zaman contributed to this report.)