On the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, this Saturday President Joe Biden was the first American president to acknowledge the killings of Armenians in their homeland by Turkish and Kurdish citizens as a genocide. Many presidents before Biden tiptoed on calling it the Armenian Genocide for fear of instigating their NATO ally Turkey, who do not recognize it as a genocide but as a ‘civil war’.
This is a step closer to acknowledging the pain and suffering, the generational collective trauma of many Armenians who are now displaced in worldwide diasporas, including American-Armenians.
Thank you to President Joe Biden for properly recognizing the #ArmenianGenocide today. This is extremely important but only a milestone towards the long road of justice ahead with Turkey. https://t.co/nlVMmRpZWg
— Serj Tankian (@serjtankian) April 24, 2021
The history of the Armenian genocide begins before the killings and began when Turks invaded the Romans in Byzanthian times, essentially establishing a new country for themselves and making all Muslims first-class citizens and anyone outside of that religion was deemed second (this includes all Christians and Jewish communities in ancient Anatolia.) This was also a means to colonize and assimilate the land faster by bringing in the Kurds, who already knew the lands very well and were Muslim.
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Greeks, Jewish people, Assyrians, and many more were removed from their homes and killed. The Armenian people lost 90% of their ancient homelands and over 50% of its population had been destroyed by the Ottoman Empire. Many Armenians attempted to flee to neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, others looked for Europe which already had a huge Armenian immigrant population due to European Christian beliefs. Some opted to flee to North America (Los Angeles being extremely popular) whilst others were left to march to their deaths in the desert; many women were used in human sex trafficking as well.
Most of Europe was struggling with WWI, and those that did have an allyship with Turkey (then Ottoman Empire), such as Germany, relied on them to fight the war. Therefore, many Armenians were left to their own demise. After WWI, many Armenians continued to speak out against the Ottoman Empire within Europe but it often fell on deaf ears, and during the rising of WWII, it was Hitler who justified killing Jewish people by saying, “After all, who remembers the Armenian genocide?”*
(*Also many Germans who supported the Turkish cause for the Armenian genocide ended up affilated in the Nazi party.)
It’s not surprising that many Armenians, especially those celebrated, have been rejoicing over something so small yet so impactful to the community. This includes members of the heavy metal band System of a Down, who are from the well known Armenian diaspora city of Glendale, California, or as Armenians in the mainland like to say, “If you wanna see the motherland, you go to Armenia. If you wanna see the second motherland, you go to Glendale.”
Serj Tankian, singer and songwriter who has always been a fierce critic of Turkey and Azerbaijan’s aggression on Armenia wrote on his Twitter to thank Joe Biden. Bassist Shavo Odadjian wrote on his Instagram page to express his thanks to Joe Biden, along with a quote from Biden’s released statement.
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Whilst drummer John Dolmayan also released a statement on his Instagram account, more so acknowledging the powerful step this is, but to also go further asking for some acknowledgment on Turkey’s part though with the current Turkish government and its attack on the Kurdish people it seems like a stretch.
The U.S. is not the first country to acknowledge the genocide, Germany and Netherlands have also stepped up and acknowledged it.
System of a Down have also raised awareness and funds to support the native Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabahk region. The area is disputed by Azerbaijan and has been bombing and destroying the area. The region is landlocked with Azerbaijan and therefore many native Armenians are kettled.
Photo credit Mauricio Alvarado.