Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

April 24, 2008

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Liturgy in Armenian church marking anniversary of WW I mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

Today, Armenians around the world commemorate the 93rd anniversary of the genocide they suffered during World War I.

1.5 million Armenians were killed as the Ottoman Empire faced invasion from Russian armies in the Caucasus Mountains.

Debate over what to label their deaths has been a source of controversy and anger for decades. Was it genocide? Was it premeditated and deliberate?

Legislatures in 20 countries have officially recognized the events from 1915 to 1923 as “genocide”. Today, Armenia's President said international support for the “Genocide” characterization “is an appropriate and inevitable part of Armenia's foreign policy agenda.”

Turkey doesn't like the label “genocide”, and they have gone to great diplomatic lengths to stop the word from being used. Twice in the last several years, Turkish lobbying efforts prevented non-binding Congressional resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide from receiving a vote. 

France went further. It passed a law criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide. The law has cost French businesses billions of dollars as they lose deals.

The dispute could also affect the terms of the planned Six billion-dollar natural gas pipeline between Turkey and Austria.

Taner Akcam is a Turkish sociologist and historian, currently a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota. He's author of A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility.

Although it relies on primary sources from Ottoman, UK and US archives, his conclusion deviated from the position of the Turkish government. Since it was published a year and a half ago, Professor Akcam has dealt with threats and intimidation.