For our families, Armenian Genocide recognition is one step towards justice

Formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Biden administration is key to stopping widespread disinformation and a step toward reparation.
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Armenian descendants of those massacred, displaced and in exile from the Armenian Genocide have been organizing for U.S. recognition for over three generations. I am one such Armenian, whose family has been fighting in the United States, unfortunately, since they were displaced from these events. 

I am the descendant of eight of the survivors, from Van, Hadjin, Istanbul and Kharpert — cities and villages whose Armenian presence was all but destroyed. I carry them in my name, Armen the orphan boy from Hadjin who watched his family massacred in front of him, and Rakel the mother who hid her daughter from gangs of Turkish soldiers raping, looting and murdering Armenians on caravans of forced exile into the Syrian desert. Thousands of Armenian-Americans have these stories. 

The author’s family from Hussenig, Kharpert, Turkey. (WNV/Sophia Armen)

Justice for the Armenian Genocide, a recognized historical fact by experts and scholars around the world, has been denied for over 100 years. And despite overwhelming consensus in the international community, the Armenian Genocide continues to be denied by the highest office in the country of my birth, the United States. 

But in 2019, the compounded impact of generations of Armenian-American organizing finally came to fruition. Thanks to our decades-long day-in and day-out activism, U.S. resolution HR 296, the resolution for official United States recognition of the Armenian Genocide, was brought to the floor and passed overwhelmingly. As noted in the community, this was not a coincidence — but born out of an alignment of community activism, geopolitical timing, and the election of the most diverse group and the most women in Congress in history. Then followed the Senate, despite Republican efforts at the request of Trump, to stop unanimous passage three times. 

President Joe Biden must strike a sharp divide between his administration and Trump. While Trump rolled out the red carpet and invited President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the White House directly after Congressional passage to deny the genocide on the world stage, Biden must side with the enduring pursuit of truth over the temporary and often shifting priorities of geopolitics. 

Candidate Biden promised to the Armenian community in a tweet that this would be the year, that our voices would finally be heard. Armenian-Americans and Assyrian-Americans await nervously for his upcoming speech on April 24. We have heard the same promises before, from then-candidate Obama, who uttered similar statements on the campaign trail. But our families watched eight April 24ths go by, each one shattering our hopes. 

For 100 years, what has stood in the way of our families finally receiving reprieve, has not been lack of evidence nor momentum, but U.S. policy as a powerful shield for the Republic of Turkey’s own goals.

Armenian boys in the then-Armenian populated city of Kharpert, now Harput, Turkey, playing outside a school. From the author’s family archive. (WNV/Sophia Armen)

As our world today grapples with issues of racism, erasure of Indigenous communities, and injustice, we know we must be vigilant in the fight for human rights and peace no matter where and however they appear.

Genocide is not an isolated event, but a structure of race and power built on years of human action and inaction. Biden must act to break this cycle for our families, for their memories and for ours. 

This story was produced by War Resisters

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