Some Southland elected officials lashed out Tuesday at news that President Barack Obama would not use the term “genocide” this week when commemorating the 100th anniversary of the killings of about 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks.
“I’m deeply disappointed that the president, once again, will fail to properly describe the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923 for what it was — genocide,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, said. “How long must the victims and their families wait before our nation has the courage to confront Turkey with the truth about the murderous past of the Ottoman Empire?
“If not this president, who spoke so eloquently and passionately about recognition in the past, whom? If not after 100 years, when?” he asked.
According to a Los Angeles Times report out of Washington, the Obama administration made the decision to preserve chances of Turkish cooperating on Middle East conflicts, particularly in the civil war in Syria.
Obama has taken heat in previous years over the issue, although previous presidents of both parties have also declined to use the term “genocide.” When he was campaigning for president, however, Obama indicated he would recognize the genocide, saying it is “not an allegation, a personal opinion or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence.”
Los Angeles County is home to the largest population of Armenians in the United States, nearly 194,000 people, according to 2010 U.S. census estimates. About one-third of Glendale residents are of Armenian descent.
The genocide is commemorated April 24 because that was the day in 1915 that about 300 Armenian leaders were rounded up and deported or killed, and about 5,000 poor Armenians were killed in and around Istanbul.
Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan told KNX Newsradio that the failure to use the word “genocide” is a major shortcoming for Obama.
“President Obama has had some major achievements during his presidency, but his inability to properly acknowledge and recognize the Armenian Genocide really casts a dark cloud over his presidency,” Sinanyan told KNX. “We pride ourselves in being the moral voice of democracy and human rights in the world. But when we play politics and fail to take a principal position on human rights issues it certainly diminishes our moral authority in the world.”
Schiff echoed that sentiment, saying the U.S. boast of being a “beacon of human rights” is offset by “a policy of complicity in genocide denial by the president or Congress.”
“Last week, the pope spoke powerfully of the need to bind the wound that continues to bleed in the absence of recognition. I only wish Washington had been listening,” he said.
— City News Service