An Armenian-American group that backed Barack Obama in the election is now urging its members to call the White House to protest the president’s failure to recognize the “Armenian genocide.”
As many as 1.5 million Armenians living within the Ottoman Empire perished beginning in 1915 as the Turks fought World War 1. Armenians and most historians regard the deaths as state-sponsored mass killings, or genocide, while Turkey insists the death were the result of a civil war coupled with disease and famine.
During his presidential campaign, Obama pledged to recognize the deaths as genocide. He spoke in a January 2008 statement of his “firmly held conviction that the Armenian genocide 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.”
The Washington, D.C.-based Armenian National Committee of America endorsed Obama, delivering large blocs of votes in swing states and tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations, according to Politico.com.
But at a Monday press conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and in a later address to the Turkish Parliament, Obama declined to recognize the Armenian deaths as genocide.
Obama “missed a valuable opportunity to honor his public pledge to recognize the Armenian genocide,” Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee, said in a statement.
In his address to parliament, Obama did refer to the “terrible events of 1915” and said “the best way forward for the Turkish and Armenian people is a process that works through the past in a way that is honest, open and constructive.”
When asked by a reporter if he had encouraged President Gul “to recognize the genocide by name,” Obama did not answer directly and instead praised Gul for taking part in “a series of negotiations … between Armenia and Turkey to resolve a whole host of longstanding issues, including this one.”
Hamparian complained that Obama’s comments fell “far short of the clear promise he made as a candidate that he would, as president, fully and unequivocally recognize this crime against humanity.”
His group on Monday urged its members to call the White House to urge Obama “to be a man of his word and honor his pledge to recognize the Armenian genocide.”
Some Armenians are hoping Obama will make a more forceful statement on the issue on April 24, which Armenians mark as Martyr Day to commemorate the deaths.
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