Friday, 24 April 2009

Obama 'recognised' the Armenian Genocide... for Armenians only

As expected, after that 'historic Armenia - Turkey normalisation', Obama backed away from his campaign promise, and referred to the Armenian Genocide as "one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century" and "Meds Yeghern".

In Armenian, Meds Yeghern means genocide, but only in Armenian. Better than nothing, of course, but still not quite the G word. No surprises, though...

Effectively he recognised the Armenian Genocide for Armenians only (who understand the meaning of "Meds Yeghern") but not to the outside world.

Below is his statement in full:

The following is President Obama's statement on Armenian Remembrance Day:

Ninety four years ago, one of the great atrocities of the 20th century began. Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The Meds Yeghern must live on in our memories, just as it lives on in the hearts of the Armenian people.

History, unresolved, can be a heavy weight. Just as the terrible events of 1915 remind us of the dark prospect of man's inhumanity to man, reckoning with the past holds out the powerful promise of reconciliation. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts.

The best way to advance that goal right now is for the Armenian and Turkish people to address the facts of the past as a part of their efforts to move forward. I strongly support efforts by the Turkish and Armenian people to work through this painful history in a way that is honest, open, and constructive. To that end, there has been courageous and important dialogue among Armenians and Turks, and within Turkey itself. I also strongly support the efforts by Turkey and Armenia to normalize their bilateral relations. Under Swiss auspices, the two governments have agreed on a framework and roadmap for normalization. I commend this progress, and urge them to fulfill its promise.

Together, Armenia and Turkey can forge a relationship that is peaceful, productive and prosperous. And together, the Armenian and Turkish people will be stronger as they acknowledge their common history and recognize their common humanity.

Nothing can bring back those who were lost in the Meds Yeghern. But the contributions that Armenians have made over the last ninety-four years stand as a testament to the talent, dynamism and resilience of the Armenian people, and as the ultimate rebuke to those who tried to destroy them. The United States of America is a far richer country because of the many Americans of Armenian descent who have contributed to our society, many of whom immigrated to this country in the aftermath of 1915. Today, I stand with them and with Armenians everywhere with a sense of friendship, solidarity, and deep respect.


Marketing Executive said...

Not only Obama fulfill his promise by calling the event a translation of Genocide, Meds Eghern, but he created, singlehandedly, the brand of Armenian Genocide – Meds Eghern, similar to Holocaust. an equivalent of Holocaust. The first thing Armenians should do is to take the Brand to the heights.

artmika said...

I disagree that Obama fufilled his promise. I think it's too cynical to compare genocide recognition with the marketing campaign: "the brand of Armenian Genocide" (?!).

The Associated Press has good piece in that regard:

PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama, Armenians and genocide

WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama was unequivocal during the campaign: As president, he would recognize the nearly century-old massacre of Armenians in Turkey as genocide.

In breaking that promise Friday, the president did the same diplomatic tiptoeing he criticized the Bush administration for doing. More...

Anonymous said...

If Obama had used that word I would be vey happy...We will see how far Turkish resistance to US and all his policises can go..Turkey one of the champions in being against US policies..
I am also very curious abot US Iraq invasion..1 million Iraqi is death...Is there also word for that?Can we call it Genocide?Or excessive usage make it cheap?Or to say Obama something one has to have a money and lobby?
How about the Gaza killings of 1300 people this year we watched online on TV..Can it be Meds Eghren?
What does Obama think?
Second what do Armenians think about the Russian influence?Do they think that they can continue invasion without help of Russian forces in Azerbaijan?
What is their ambition?

Onnik Krikorian said...

You know, there is a real danger that people get so caught up in semantics that they forget the memory of those that died. Really.

Moreover, this also fits into the context of Turkey owning up to its own past which should be the main objective for everyone.

However, for the nationalists it isn't.

It's about land. And for some others, they've lived with the goal of having a president say "genocide" that they can't think in any other terms.

Perhaps we should all now expend our energy on making sure this road-map is a) disclosed, b) that there is mature discussion of details, and c) that it can work.

Here's hoping. Let the lobbies now promote reconciliation with a realization on the past. They might also want to focus on democracy and human rights in Armenia too.

Haik said...

If SS and the Armenian "diplomacy" puts doubts on the events of Armenian Genocide why one should expect Obama or any other non Armenian to recognize it? Creation of historical forum to study the "genocide accusations" is nothing short of that. This was declared by SS in his Moscow visit some months ago, and now according Sabah it is the 2nd point in the "Road map".

What's the difference between Taliat Pasha and Serjik Sargsyan?

American Citizen said...

Anonymous said...

Well,I very much want to focus on our arguments...For that we must start to gather some information..In first places lets focus on alliances the Armenians made against Turks with big powers...their secret relations..Their ambitions that they make these alliances for..What the big powers promised Armenians for their alliances and how much they get in sevres treaty...
Second nowdays,what is relation between Armenia and Russia?Why do Russian forces fight with Armenia in Azerbaijan invasion?What is the agreement between twwo countries with this alliance?Why do Armenians use big powers to invade the neighbours is it an historical behaviour.
Third the invasion of 20%Azerbaijan..Howmuch of the world people know it?How can we make the public awareness of that incident worldwide?Can not we work for sanctions against this invasion?
How about 1 million Azeris who by armenian and russian forces expelled from hometowns?Do they also have human right?If yes,when will they return to their homeland?What do invaders say?Do they watch Obamas speech?Or does Obama has any word for that?
This is all that comes to my mind..we can enlarge the arguments..If we put money our heart and some good organisation with am arguments I believe that Armenians also face some of the realities that they intentially forget....

Onnik Krikorian said...

Mika, I'm really sorry. With or without that road-map which admittedly the EU and US are pushing to actually allow both nations to resolve their past, Obama would not have used the word genocide anyway.

This is a lesson that you would have thought would have been learned by now. Turkey is a strategic US ally, even more important than ever with a pull-out from Iraq and redeployment in Afghanistan.

At the same time, it is a key NATO member in Europe and considered to be a potentially stabilizing regional power in the South Caucasus as well as an example of a secular democracy for Islamic countries.

You think Obama is going to risk all that because of a campaign promise? Instead, he did something far braver in my opinion. He directly engaged Turkey and said if you want a greater role as well as join the EU, sort it out.

Focusing on this road-map does no good at all apart from give the more extreme elements in the Diaspora lobby (and I assume the ARF-D here) to waste even more time hoping for territory it will never get while purposely overlooking regional peace and stability issues as well as sorting out democracy and human rights concerns in Armenia itself.

Of course, Heritage -- who are now more Dashnak than the Dashnaks -- are also playing the nationalist paranoid card because they've been sidelined by the ANC. Here's hoping that the extra-parliamentary opposition take a more constructive stance on the matter.

What I fear, however, is that playing this Genocide and Karabakh card will overshadow real issues which should be tackled during next month's municipal election. I can imagine the ARF-D doing that, but I hope others won't.

Let's see, but if I hear more crap about Turks and Karabakh during an election for mayor I'll just give up. There will be no democracy because there are no democratic forces in Armenia on any side.

In a sense, the party that can prove otherwise stands a greater chance of winning the support of the domestic and international audience. Well, I hope so anyway.

fool me once shame on you said...

But Onnik - At least don't waste your time looking for democratic voices from the LTP folks. You want to believe that Heritage can be, ok fine. But pls don't fall for LTP's cheap tricks. This man single-handedly ushered in the mess we endure in Armenia today, even as subsequent leaders perpetuated or at least tolerated it.

Onnik Krikorian said...

You know, I won't trust any political force. However, given that we haven't even add many issues articulated properly or at all to the electorate, just for it to happen once would be enough for now. We need people to think and not react.

Meanwhile, I don't suppose any political force is going to be truly democratic for generations simply because of the culture and climate here. On the other hand, if one or a few parties attempted to at least appear fairly democratic...

All too often, nationalist rhetoric is the only way parties try to appeal to voters, and it simply isn't the solution if this country is to become remotely democratic anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

I remember some time ago in parliement several leaders were killed..One was demirciyan from communist party..who did that crime?(not the person the power that ordered that)and did it effect political life?
And it is Petrosyan that initiated change in current Sarkisyan government...

Onnik Krikorian said...

Incidentally, wonderful post on 24 April which is very thought-provoking indeed.

Do not misunderstand me. Genocide recognition is important, but to let it define every fiber of your being, to constantly bash Turkey in our newspaper editorials, to instill hate in the minds of Armenian children and to incite blind nationalism does more harm than good.


[...] I realize that what we need is dialogue.

What we need is to stop playing the victim.

What we need, is to stop using the Genocide as a crutch and focus how we can improve Turkish-Armenian relations, the political and economic standing of Armenia and the discrimination and hostility we perpetuate on other ethnic and marginal groups. particularly liked the comments on the post and wholeheartedly agree:

I am a diasporan. And there are more diasporans out there who would wholeheartedly agree with your post than you might think. But it’s always those who shout the loudest who get heard most easily, it seems…..

It IS time for a major rethink in the way we approach our relations with the Turks…. Engagement may lead to much more in terms of Genocide recognition than confrontation.
And just to with end this excerpt from a post by a foreign journalist in Turkey also caught my eye:

April 24 commemorates the Armenian genocide of 1915-1918. The tragedy of the event itself has become subsumed and obscured by the politics surrounding the issue. It seems like every year more attention is paid to the “will he, or won’t he?” guessing game of whether the American president will utter the word “genocide” in his annual commemoration of the event, than is actually given to remembering what happened., give the nationalists or those seeking to exploit the issue for political gain in Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Diaspora and Turkey their way and it's all for naught anyway.

Ironic to see them all work together to disrupt chances for reconciliation, peace and stability in the region. Strange bedfellows, indeed, but then again, perhaps they have nothing else to offer.

Haik said...

To "fool me once.." et all
I have the feeling you don't understand the basic concepts.The only person who can be blamed is only "You" as a voter. Let me explain:
The only solution to clear the mess is to understand the significance of a single vote. That how precious it is because an individual with his/her vote can shape the future and history. There is nothing else so precious that a person has not even the life. And because it is so precious it can not be trusted to anybody and it should be defended dearly. It has no value hence it can not, should not be sold, left unprotected, rented, bartered or granted.
The amazing thing of a single vote is above mathematics because if 1+1 = 2 in mathematics the 1+1 in voting has a progressive nature which is 1+1=11.
If you are interested you can read my comment ( Armenian) at:

artmika said...

Agree, great post by Ianyan. And here is another very honest personal reflection of the moment by Patrick Azadian writing for Glendale News Press. Highly recommend it too.

Hate the act, not the people

I clearly remember my first April 24 experience. I could not have been any older than 7 or 8 when my mom took me to a protest that was organized at the grounds of our neighborhood Armenian church.[...]

...returning home I burned my first Turkish flag. I did it in the privacy of our balcony under the gentle spring sun. The procedure was intricate. As I did not have a ready-made flag, I had to cut out a small piece of paper, painted it in red and left the star and the moon of the Turkish flag as white. This was not an easy process, as I was intrigued by miniature items. I glued my tiny flag to the mast of a small needle. The sacrifice took a few seconds, but it sent chills down my spine. I was momentarily satisfied.

I did feel some guilt. That would be my last flag burning. I never warmed up to the idea.

The next day, I turned my attention to our grocer. I vaguely knew he was a Turk. I was looking to hold someone accountable for the grand loss. I asked my mom about his involvement in the genocide!

My mom knew where I was going with my line of questioning. She was quick to kill the process.

“Leave Gholam alone,” she said. Interestingly, “Gholam” means “servant” (probably of God). “Gholam is a nice old man,” she continued. Just to make sure that my childhood imagination did not create any false enemies, she emphasized the fact the Gholam was an Iranian Turk.

Despite my parents’ well-intentioned attempts, from that day on, I could not separate the contempt I had for the Turkish people from the one I had for the act of genocide.

It has taken me years to get the rid of the former. It has been consuming.

Many kids and teenagers will have participated in the demonstrations protesting the Armenian Genocide around the world. They will have the same challenges as I experienced with the feelings of contempt when growing up. I think my grandparents would have wished the new generation could only have contempt for the act of injustice.

Given the aggressive denial campaign of the Turkish state, this will be almost impossible.

Anonymous said...

"Given the aggressive denial campaign of the Turkish state, this will be almost impossible."

I dont think there is a campaing of Turkish state but very unfortunate that what we can talk about is incompetent Turkish officials imcompetent defense...
Let me explain it..
Armenians are from head to toe and from childreen to older ones equiped with anthi Turkish arguments.They are very well organized.whereas we Turks dont have any bullet in our weapon.We are disorganized and behave as if we dont have any anthi-armenian arguments.How can this be possible?Are armenians angels that dont have wings that we have no arguments?
Let me first give you an example how armenians are well organized and well equiped..
When Obama came to Turkey what was the very first question the journalist asked in his press conference?The answer is "AG" absoulutely..Good job good calculated manipulation..Well organized!
Yesterday there was a protest infront of the Turkish embassy..Armenians protested with relevant pancartes blackmailing Turkey..They behaved in organisation..whereas in the other side of the road there was Turks,muchly personal,without any arguments without any pancartes,with just flags mourning our anthem,no organisation!...
So we make life easier for armenians,they all win this war..they dont pay any price as long as we say that blakmailing Turkey is not free..
For this we shall work hard,we shall be well organized unite our power we shall decide our arguments and we shall have competent officials prime ministers who dont sell their national interest to Us... Who dont try to make road maps to enemies to make life easier for them..
As long as we dont do these we go on watching the Armenians well organized actions as if we are watching a football match that is played in only one side...

fool me once shame on you said...

Haik - I am sorry, but regurgitated lessons from democracy 101 coming from LTP or his henchman is just laughable.

I cannot take him or the HHSh seriously for instilling an entire generation of cynical, anti-democratic, anti-Armenian, and dehumanizing policies and ideology in Armenia today.

I happily vote for ANYONE else, thank you very much.

spm said...

I dont know who invented this game... but it appears that Armenians made a trap for themselves and fall in that trap every year. What is the GREAT importance of American president calling it genocide, Metz Yeghern? Actually, according to Harut Sasunian, president Raigan called it genocide years ago. Nothing happened, and nothing special wouldn't happen if Obama called it genocide, instead of Metz Yegern. Turkish paper Hurriet got the message, they write"
He Did Not Say Genocide, But Made it Worse.

Stressing that he has consistently expressed his views on the events
of 1915 and that these views have "not changed," Obama said: "My
interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just
acknowledgment of the facts."

...In other words, the US president does not say "genocide," but he does
point out that, during his election campaign, he had characterized the
events of 1915 as "genocide," says "I am of the same opinion on this
issue," and moreover conveys to Turkey and the Turks a message that
"you as well should accept the events in this way.""

So much about Obama. What I dont understand is position of Armenian parties and organizations. Instead of elevating these words, and disclosing their meaning, they declare themselves losers in the game, because the very word was not used or was replaced by its Armenian synonym. The policy of Armenians should be one and only, we have to achieve that Turkey recognizes the genocide, not the USA. And in that pretext message of Obama is very clear and sound.

artmika said...

Apparently, as Newsweek reports, there is this Obameter and it says "Yes", Obama did break his promise to Armenians re genocide recognition. Interesting to track other Obama campaign promises too, so far "Obama is keeping many more promises than he is breaking".

Below is an extract via Newsweek:

Obameter: Did Obama Break His Promise to Armenians?

As 100th day of Obama's presidency approaches, this tracker by Politifact is worth a click. The Obameter, as it is called, has numbered Obama's campaign promises and is tracking which promises have been kept, broken, stalled and compromised. Out of the 514 promises Politifact counted, Obama has kept 27, broken 6, compromised on 7 and stalled on 3. They also identify 63 promises which are "in the works". So overall, it seems that Obama is keeping many more promises than he is breaking.

But deciding whether a promise has been kept or broken can be tricky. The latest promise Politifact has analyzed is Obama's campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian genocide. [...]

Perhaps ironically, this is not a "frank" statement of his belief that the actions constituted genocide, but it's definitely a hat tip in that direction. So is that really a broken promise? Is it a compromise? I wasn't sure, so I emailed a politically savvy Armenian friend for perspective. Here’s what my friend wrote:

[...] The bottom line is this: even though he says his views haven't changed and yes, his previous views did clearly articulate his acknowledgment of the genocide, his campaign promise was that as President he would acknowledge the Armenian genocide. Using Meds Yeghern, in everyone's view, doesn't count. Using that word barely acknowledges the genocide to Armenians and it's not us who need reminding. We need it acknowledged to the rest of the world using the only word that can possibly characterize such atrocities.”

So I’m going to agree with Politifact and count it as a broken promise, but one that may be salvaged in the future. Turns out this promise stuff ain’t easy.

artmika said...

Hurriyet: Implicit 'genocide' threat lies behind Turkey-Armenia breakthrough

[...] An implicit threat by U.S. President Barack Obama to use the word "genocide" in an annual April 24 address to Armenians, followed by increasing frankness from diplomats, was pivotal to strong-arming Turkey and Armenia out of their deadlock. [...]

In the run-up to the April 24 commemoration of the tragedy, which in recent years has included a presidential address, lobbying efforts by all sides converged on the White House to seek use of the word or oppose it. To date, Turks have largely been successful in the annual ritual. But the dynamics changed with the new Obama presidency because he had pledged to use the sensitive word during his campaign. It is now clear that his pledge, and ultimately his nuanced breaking of it by using the Armenian term for the events, "Meds Yerghern" (Great Catastrophe), was the key to the tentative reconciliation. [...]

In those talks the Turkish side insisted on a reference to Nagorno-Karabakh. Ankara specifically sought a pledge to withdraw from at least five of seven regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenia had occupied in addition to the enclave, to use as a bargain chip. Armenians refused to bow to U.S. pressure, however, the Turkish side was asked to accept the deal without reference to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Turkey only swallowed the package after it was made clear that in the absence of a brokered deal Obama would use the word "genocide."

Obama did not and that has angered many Armenians, including one political party that abandoned the coalition government in response. In Turkey, the alternative phrase, and his further words "one of the great atrocities of the 20th century," has not gone down well either, leading some to accuse the president of disingenuousness. [...]

Diplomatic sources told the Daily News that Armenia refuses to withdraw from five regions surrounding the enclave unless there is a complete deal. [...]