Genocide: Remembering the past for the sake of the future

Published April 27, 2004
Genocide: Remembering the past for the sake of the future
by Veronica Adamson

One and a half million people were murdered between 1915 and 1923, while the
U.S. sat on the sidelines — determined to stay neutral. But was allowing
countless innocent people to be murdered really remaining neutral? American
Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Sr. Henry Morgenthau certainly didn’t
think so. In 1915, Morgenthau sent this urgent message to the State

“Deportation of and excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing and
from harrowing reports of eye witnesses it appears that a campaign of race
extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against rebellion.”

Although as an ambassador Morgenthau was expected to act supportively
towards his host country, he refused stay neutral, and asked the U.S.
repeatedly to take steps to end the “race extermination,” he perceived to be
taking place.

This race extermination in Armenia falls, as Morgenthau, and later his
successor Abram Elkus described it, under the category of genocide.
Genocide, later defined by the U.N. as the purposeful and systematic
extermination of a national, racial, political or cultural group, is a term
that is much debated when put in conjunction with the word Armenian. Many
governments, including the U.S. government, do not formally recognize the
Armenian genocide as a historical fact.

The Armenian Diaspora, which was spread around the world as a result of the
tragedy, is now a powerful group working to get the Armenian genocide
recognized as a historical fact everywhere.

Last Tuesday the Tufts Armenian club invited the Holocaust Museums chief of
staff, William Parsons, to speak at Goddard chapel about remembering
genocide for the sake of the future.

In reference to this event, I have asked president of Tufts Armenian Club,
Dzovinar Derderian, a few questions concerning the Armenian genocide, the
Armenian lobby, and William Parsons’ lecture last Tuesday.

Why do you think that the Armenian genocide should be recognized? <$>”The
Armenian genocide shouldn’t be recognized just to remember the one million
people who were murdered. It is important to know about it because it was
the first genocide of the 20th century, has crucial links to the Holocaust,
and by accepting the Armenian genocide Turkey will be taking a first step
towards bettering its human rights conditions.”

What do you mean it would be taking a step towards bettering Turkey’s human
rights conditions? <$>”If Turkey were to accept the Armenian genocide, it
would help the government reduce its human rights violations. It may, for
example aid the different ethnic minorities in Turkey such as the Kurds who
currently do not have the right to speak their own language, and are forced
to call themselves ‘Mountain Turks.'”

Which countries do not accept the Armenian genocide?<$> “There are many
countries who do not accept the Armenian genocide, but most crucial to my
eyes are the United States, Israel, and Turkey.”

What have the efforts of the Armenia Diaspora been in regards to getting the
Armenian Genocide recognized? <$>”I’m most familiar with the efforts of the
Armenian American community; however I’m certain that the efforts of
Armenians world wide are as effective. In Washington D.C., Armenians have
two lobby groups; one of their main tasks is to consistently mobilize
American Armenians to draft letters to politicians, urging them to recognize
the Armenian genocide.”

Have these efforts been successful?<$> “The efforts of the Armenian Diaspora
have been successful in multiple countries. Most recently, these efforts
have come to surface in Canada, where the parliament accepted the Armenian
genocide on April 21st. As for the United States, the House of
Representatives passed a bill accepting the Armenian genocide, however due
to Turkish pressure; Bill Clinton chose to veto the bill.”

In your opinion, which countries does the Armenian Diaspora prioritize in
their efforts to get the Armenian genocide recognized, and why? <$>”For most
countries, the reason that they do not accept the Armenian Genocide is
because of political reasons. Mainly because of Turkey’s geo-political
location, the United States and Israel do not accept the Armenian genocide.
In the case of the United States, it is crucial that it recognizes the
Armenian genocide because it is the most powerful country, and will set a
precedent for other countries. As for Israel, I think that out of common
history, it would be not only rational, but also beneficial to the progress
of recognition, if they were to recognize the Armenian genocide. Well, in
case of Turkey it is always good for a country to reflect on its own
mistakes in history, so that it can understand it, and therefore prevents it
from happening again.'”

Were you disappointed with the turn out for the Armenian Lecture last
Tuesday? <$>”I was not disappointed by the number, since Goddard chapel was
almost full, but I was disappointed to see that most of the people present
were adults from the greater Boston Armenian community, rather than

Bill Parson, in his lecture, spoke very little about the Armenian genocide.
How do you, and how do you think the audience, regards his decision not to
focus on that issue?<$> “I think that the audience was disappointed that
there was such little time devoted to talking about the Armenian genocide,
since after all, the lecture was in light of the Armenian genocide. As for
me — if the majority had not been Armenian, I would have been also
disappointed with his limited focus on the Armenian genocide. I believe,
however, that it is important that Armenians be aware of other genocides, as
much as they are of the Armenian genocide.”

The Armenian genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century. 1915
sounds as if it was too long ago to be of any relevance to our daily lives,
but this year marked the beginning of a pattern of “neutrality” towards the
tragedy of genocide. After the Armenian genocide, the U.S. would go on to
witness the same events unfold over and over again. As global citizens, we
cannot allow this to occur again.

Recognizing genocide is important for many reasons, but most importantly, in
preventing it from ever occurring again. Genocide is a never-ending
phenomenon and constantly needs to be monitored. William Parsons said in his
lecture that by the end of the summer we may very well be sitting in Goddard
Chapel mourning yet another genocide — a genocide in Sudan; on a far larger
scale than imagined. For the sake of innocent life, research the Armenian
genocide and push the U.S. into action regarding Sudan. For further
information of Armenia, please visit

Veronica Adamson is a freshman who has not yet declared a major.