Editorial: Acknowledging The Armenian Genocide


MONTREAL GAZETTE EDITORIAL BOARDMore from Montreal Gazette Editorial
Board Published on: April 23, 2015 Last Updated: April 23, 2015 4:22

People lay flowers at the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial
in Yerevan on April 21, 2015.


One hundred years ago, on April 24, 2015, an organized campaign of
persecution, torture, deportation, slaughter and annihilation was
unleashed against Armenian Christians living in what was then the
Ottoman Empire.

Over a period of more than two years, 1.5 million Armenian men,
women and children were killed in what has widely been recognized by
historians, many governments and the community itself as a genocide.

Displaced survivors were forced to begin new lives in countries around
the globe, including Canada. But though they have long since picked
up the pieces and built thriving communities, Armenians still bear
the scars of these century-old atrocities.

In Montreal, where the Armenian community is about 45,000 strong
and boasts three vibrant schools, the genocide remains a source of
affliction. Many witnessed the trauma of parents or grandparents. For
younger generations, the stories of their ancestors have been passed
down in such heartbreaking detail, it’s almost as if they exist in
living memory.


The crimes against humanity perpetrated against Armenians are felt
on a very personal scale: by individuals; within families; among the
community as a whole. But it is also some of history’s most urgent
unfinished business as Armenians have struggled over the last century
to have the cruelty that began in 1915 recognized as a genocide.

Turkey, the modern-day incarnation of the Ottoman Empire, has
steadfastly refused to acknowledge it as such — and has managed to
pressure many of its allies to refrain from doing so, as well.

Only in recent decades has the tide has begun to turn. Uruguay was
the first country to call the slaughter of the Armenians a genocide,
in 1965. Quebec, with its large Armenian diaspora, first did so in
1980 and a memorial to the tragic events was dedicated in a Montreal
park in 1998. Canada acknowledged the genocide in 2004. Pope Francis
recently labelled the campaign against Armenians “the century’s first
genocide.” Austrian parliamentarians this week joined in characterizing
the persecution as a genocide, and Germany is expected to do likewise
on Friday. But U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to stop short
of using that term.

Turkey now admits the historic suffering of the Armenians during the
waves of violence unleashed as the empire crumbled. But it attributes
the brutality to civil strife in a time of war and categorically
rejects it was part of a state-sponsored policy.

This is most unfortunate and disappointing. Not only does Turkey’s
abject refusal deny Armenians the truth and justice they crave to
help them heal, it aggravates their suffering by forcing them to
constantly fight to have the historical record set straight. Denying
genocide also signifies a failure to come to terms with events that
trigger mass bloodshed, atone for it and prevent such barbarism from
happening again.

If there is a silver lining in this situation, it is that many ordinary
Turks are parting ways with their government to acknowledge past
wrongs and make amends. These individual efforts are encouraging in
that they show a century of misinformation and minimization of the
genocide within Turkey have not succeeded in burying the past.

The grief and loss of Armenians, both personal and collective, cannot
and must not be silenced, nor should painful historical truths be
avoided. Rather, they must be acknowledged by all humanity.