President Joe Biden on Saturday formally recognized the 1915 massacre and systematic removal of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as a “genocide,” a term that, for decades, the government of Turkey has rejected. Biden’s designation marks the first time a sitting US president has been willing to acknowledge the mass slaughter and deportation of nearly 1.5 million Armenians was ethnically motivated.
“Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” the White House said in a statement marking the annual Armenian Remembrance Day. “Beginning on April 24, 1915, with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by Ottoman authorities, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination.”
The long held resistance by the US government to describe the killings a genocide largely stems from Turkey’s role as a key NATO ally, as well as the country’s persistent refusal to discuss the issue. Turkey swiftly hit back against the declaration on Twitter, writing: “We entirely reject this statement based solely on populism.”
“Words cannot change or rewrite history.”
We have nothing to learn from anybody on our own past. Political opportunism is the greatest betrayal to peace and justice.
We entirely reject this statement based solely on populism.#1915Events
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) April 24, 2021
Biden’s declaration is the culmination of years of campaigning by historians and human rights activists. In a reportedly “tense” Friday phone call, Biden warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of his intention to label the massacre a genocide.