WHICH PARLIAMENT RECOGNIZED THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE FIRST?
Armenia Public TV correspondent in the United States
International efforts directed to the recognition of the Armenian
Genocide have a century-long history. About twenty countries recognized
Armenian Genocide over the last 50 years. Over that period documents
about the recognition of the Genocide were passed at the local levels
either, e.g. by 43 states in the U.S., by Brazil’s biggest state –
San Paulo, by the municipality of Rome, in Wales, by the municipality
of Edinburg (Scotland), in the Basque Country, Crimea, Australia’s
New South Wales state, etc.
Universal recognition of the Armenian Genocide especially in the 21st
century reached the extent where considerable growth of awareness
has been observed not only at political but also at public levels.
Hitler’s words said in 25 years after the Genocide “Who does remember
Armenians today?” have become senseless70 years later.
In this aspect words of the Belgian Turk political figure Sait Kose:
“There is no political party in Belgium which does not believe in the
fact that there was the Armenian Genocide”1 are worth mentioning. The
last voting on the Armenian Genocide in the U.S. Congress took place
on March 4, 2010 in the Foreign Relations Commission. The document
was approved by 23 votes for and 22 against. Hence none of those who
voted against the document rejected the fact of the Armenian Genocide
in their speeches.
Looking back to the Armenian Genocide recognition campaign many
remarkable facts can be seen. The half-century long process of the
Armenian Genocide international recognition can really become a
subject of special study.
In 1965 the beginning of the process of international recognition
of the Armenian Genocide was marked in faraway Uruguay where on
April 20, 1965 historical resolution on the Genocide was passed. Of
course Uruguay’s decision was not the only initiative coincided
with the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Even under
the totalitarian Soviet regime thousands of Armenians who flooded
the street of Yerevan were shouting “Our lands”. After that the
legislative body in Montevideo passed first resolution No13.326 titled
“The day of Remembrance for the Armenian Martyrs”. On that day neither
representatives of the Armenian communities nor the Turkish politicians
could imagine what kind of foundation of far-reaching and extensive
process was laid by the Latin American politicians.
The Uruguayan resolution is historical. Hence it should be mention
that it did not specify the word “genocide”. This historical resolution
The Decree “Declares the following 24th of April “Day of Remembrance
for the Armenian Martyrs”, in honor of the members of that nationality
slain in 1915. The stations of the Official Radio Service must on that
date conduct part of their broadcast in honor of the mentioned nation.
Armenian descendants who are public servants are authorized to miss
work on the mentioned date. Designate with the name of “Armenia”,
the 2nd Grade School, No. 156, in the Department of Montevideo.
President of Senate: Martin R. Echegoyen; secretary: Jose Pastor
The official text of the decree is placed at the web-site of the
The absence of word “genocide” is the resolution does not coincide
with today’s logic. Today the head of the White House and different
international politicians prefer to avoid using it and substitute
word “genocide” with equivalent descriptive formulations or “Mets
Yeghern” Armenian phrase as the incumbent U.S. president Barak Obama
did. The parliament of Uruguay would not face any difficulties while
carrying out this resolution in 1965. Later Uruguay at least four
times condemned the Armenian Genocide. On the 90th anniversary
of the Armenian Genocide Uruguay appealed to the UN to initiate
profound recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Till now there is no
Turkish embassy in Uruguay which nullifies possibility of any Turkish
opposition. The diplomatic relations with Uruguay are maintained
through the Turkish embassy in Buenos Aires. In May 2005 during
the meeting with the head of the foreign relations commission of
Uruguay the ambassador of Turkey to Argentina Sukur Tufan repeated old
statement of Erdogan about the necessity to study history together. On
other occasion the Turkish ambassador said in jest that while the
ambassador will get from Argentina to Montevideo the law would be
passed so any anti-lobby made no sense.
Sometimes the president of Uruguay participates in the events organized
in memory of the Armenian Genocide. The correspondents of the Turkish
service of BBC accept that the Armenians carry weight in the political
life of Uruguay3.
Taking this all into consideration, why is there no formulation
“Armenian Genocide” in the 1965 document? It should be mentioned that
in those years the process of international recognition of the Armenian
Genocide only started. Under the newly formed circumstances there was
no distinct idea of what conceptual provisions the Armeniancy would
take as a guideline. Even the idea of recognition had not been shaped
yet. In practice conceptual gaps can still be observed today and it is
natural that in 1960s under the absence of statehood and on the initial
stage of the Armenian lobby formation most of the efforts were rather
in the reminding phase than in the phase of political recognition.
Another remarkable example: in the same 1965 in Boston by the efforts
of the local Armenian community the audio records of the witnesses of
the Armenian Genocide were issued. The records were titled “Turks’
Genocide” and not “Armenian Genocide”. At that stage the American
Armenian unions took it as a genocide perpetrated by Turkey i.e.
Turkish genocide instead of the Armenian Genocide. Nevertheless in
our days no such formulation is used though it was possible in 1965
when the process was just initiated.
This is one of the reasons that, in terms of chronology, the facts
of the recognition of the Genocide decades ago were not of active
character. After the 1965 historical resolution another document
condemning the Genocide was carried in 1975, i.e. in a decade, on a
60th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
And which parliament passed a document characterizing what happened
in 1915 as the Armenian Genocide?
Here we speak about… the United States of America. On April 9,
1975 the Congress passed document No148 reading the following:
“To designate April 24, 1975, as “National Day of Remembrance of Man’s
Inhumanity to Man”. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives
of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That April
24, 1975, is hereby designated as “National Day of Remembrance of
Man’s Inhumanity to Man”, and the President of the United States
is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon
the people of the United States to observe such day as a day of
remembrance for all the victims of genocide, especially those of
Armenian ancestry who succumbed to the genocide perpetrated in 1915,
and in whose memory this date is commemorated by all Armenians and
their friends throughout the world”.
The similar document containing even more strict formulations
was passed in 1984 (resolution No257). By that time the Armenian
Genocide had been condemned by the parliament of Cyprus in 1983. So,
American legislative body was one of two parliaments which condemned
Armenian Genocide first. It is also known that in 1981 president
Ronald Reagan characterized the events in which happened in 1915 as
genocide. Later on, in 1987 when a draft of the Armenian bill was
again on the agenda Reagan wrote in his diary: “August 6. Our Turk
friends are getting nervous. Congress again discusses a resolution
which demands from the Turks to assume the responsibility for the
persecutions of the Armenians under the Ottoman Empire rule” 4. In
the years to follow the stance of the U.S. became even more evasive
and the calling back of the ambassador John Evans for calling the
1915 events Genocide was the climax. And all this happened when a)
president George W. Bush promised to recognize the Genocide during
his electoral campaign, b) the father of the latter – George Bush
Senior – while being vice-president also used term Armenian Genocide,
c) during George Bush Senior’s vice-presidency the Armenian Genocide
was condemned both on Congress and parliament levels.
It is open question whether today the institutional memory still
remembers the aforementioned facts of the Genocide recognition. In
2009 during the meeting with the Armenian community in Washington the
then U.S. ambassador to Armenia Marie Jovanovic stated that Barak
Obama took it a step further in his April 24 speech as compared to
any other president before. On April 27, 2012 I asked Barak Obama’s
press-secretary Jay Carney about institutional memory. In his oblique
answer Carney mentioned that Barak Obama’s stance on this issue is
known. But the pause which followed the question and surprised look
leaved an impression that Carney did not even know anything about this
fact and this was expectable. Ambassador Jovanovic’s formulation also
proved the absence of institutional memory as the ambassador did not
even know that before Obama there was recognition on the presidential
level. We guess that it is the Armenian party that should underline
by means of propaganda and other mechanisms that the Congress of
the United States of America was the first legislative body in the
history that passed a resolution condemning Armenian Genocide.
Such an information activity may also promote the process of a
re-recognition, thus allowing the Genocide recognition process
advocates in the American governing system to use the precedent
counterargument against the machinations of the Turkish lobby.
1 “Ermeni SoykÄ±rÄ±mÄ± yasa tasarÄ±sÄ±na karsÌ§Ä± iceriden mucadele
ediyoruz”, , 27.10.2006.
2 Dia de Recordaction de los Martires Armenios,
3 1915 olaylarÄ± ve Uruguay, BBC, 27.01.2012
4 The Reagan Diaries, Harper Collins Publishers, NY, 2011, p. 524.
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