Will Joe Biden keep his word?
This month US President Joe Biden, who pledged to recognize the Armenian genocide in 2020, has an opportunity to use the most honest and accurate terminology when describing the murder of more than 1 million people in the Ottoman Empire.
Memorial Day is celebrated in Armenia annually on April 24th. On this day in 1915, the authorities of the Ottoman Empire gathered hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in what is now Istanbul. Many were hanged in the street. Although the Armenians had been severely oppressed in the Ottoman Empire before. This execution marked the beginning of a campaign of much broader and more serious attacks and forced deportations. When it was over, the number of Armenians living in Turkey dropped from 2.1 million to 389, 000.
On the anniversary of the massacre, Joe Biden can and should call it genocide. This term was previously used by only one president in relation to Armenians - Ronald Reagan. Even then, Reagan made the reference as a digression in the proclamation of another atrocity, the Holocaust.
The topic of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide has been repeatedly used by the candidates for the US presidency. Every time the expectations were not met.
Consequently, this issue has proven to be particularly acute for the United States. Recognizing the mass murder of Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century as genocide could harm relations with Turkey, the US NATO ally and Washington's partner in the unstable Middle East region. In fact, relations have deteriorated in recent years for various reasons. This broke a dam in Congress, which voted to recognize the Armenian Genocide in 2019.
But Congress is not the White House that determines US foreign policy. President Barack Obama had a great opportunity to fulfill his election promise in 2015, but he did not, despite the fact that he used the Armenian term for it - Metz Yegern, and stated that since 1915, the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire have been deported, killed and sent to death. Their culture and heritage in their ancient homeland were obliterated. As a result of the terrible violence, one and a half million Armenians died. The Trump administration has also taken this position.
Armenia has not yet lost hope that Biden entered the Oval Office with the deepest and broadest understanding of US foreign policy. Although he has also historically positioned himself as a moderate pragmatist.
Of course, foreign policy can be a multidimensional chess game. But truth and honest recognition of history are important here. And Biden still has a chance to name the Armenian Genocide by his own name. American Armenians know all too well what happens when politics supplants human rights. This breeds mistrust and cynicism towards elected officials and leaders in government. It would be wise for Biden to break the vicious circle of the past and take this worthy step.
President Biden's full recognition of the Armenian Genocide is especially important not only for demonstrating support for a democratically governed country surrounded by dictatorships. It is also a matter of trusting the United States.