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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Turkey Continues to Deny Armenian Genocide


The Turkish government continues to deny that what happened 100 years ago to Armenians, when 1.5 million lost their lives, is genocide. Their denial campaign has ties to former U.S. congressman Dick Gephardt. His consultancy group, the Gephardt Group, had a contract with a Turkey and was paid $1.4 million a year to lobby for Turkey in Washington.

Yet as a U.S. House member, Dick Gephardt supported the recognition of the Armenian genocide. Clearly, that's now a thing of the past.

The California Courier, a weekly newspaper published for Armenians in English, recently reported that the Gephardt Group filed documents with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agent Registration Act which show that the former congressman has been lobbying congressional members against resolutions on the Armenian genocide.

Armenian groups, including the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region, are pushing for companies to stop doing business with the Gephardt Group. A few months ago, Los Angeles World Airports, owned by the city of Los Angeles, announced the termination of its contract with the Gephardt Group. Last month, the Port of Oakland refused to renew its contract with the company.

The message is clear to Gephardt and all who lobby for genocide denial: The Armenian diaspora, particularly Armenian-Americans, will do some lobbying of its own -- and the lobbying will be straight to your clients.

The darkest time in Armenian history

This week Armenians all over the world will remember their murdered ancestors. If you live in a city with an Armenian community, you have probably seen billboards around your town about the centennial of the beginning of the Armenian genocide. The first genocide of the 20th century began on April 24, 1915, when Turkish soldiers arrested and executed hundreds of intellectuals and prominent Armenian men. It marked the beginning of the darkest time in Armenian history, a history filled with invasion and occupation.

From 1915 until 1923, about 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives. Forced out of their homes and ancient land, they were made to walk death marches to the Syrian desert. Most died along the way. At the start of the genocide, there were about 2 million Armenians living under Ottoman rule. The horrendous events of a 100 years ago gave rise to the Armenian diaspora which is scattered around the world, and stripped historic Western Armenia of Armenians, save for a very small remnant.

Recognition tsunami hitting Turkish government

“The tsunami of the centennial of the Armenian Genocide [that] Turkey was so afraid of is already a fact,” said Giro Manoyan, political affairs director for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

Over the past few weeks there has been a virtual recognition tsunami. Over a week ago, Pope Francis said the “g word” during a mass at the Vatican commemorating the genocide. He had the courage to declare that what happened to Armenians is “generally referred to as the first genocide of the 20th century.” Country after country has also dared to use the “g-word.” The European Parliament recently adopted a resolution commemorating the 100th anniversary of the genocide. This week, Germany and Austria have also recognized the genocide. It seems every day you hear about another country that has publicly recognized it.
“Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,” said Pope Francis, speaking to Armenians at the Vatican.

The Armenian part of my family tree is full of blanks and dripping with blood. The pain Armenians feel concerning the events that took place 100 years ago is fresh and can’t abate until the murder of our families is called the “g word."

Meanwhile, the Assyrians and other Christian minorities in Iraq and Syria are being slaughtered by Islamic State rebels. History is repeating itself. From 1914 to 1923, about 750,000 Assyrians were killed: victims of genocide by the Turkish government. Turkey denies their genocide, also. But genocide denied is genocide repeated.

Image credit: Mike Brown

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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