WASHINGTON — The statement issued by President Barack Obama on the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide stirred strong reaction among Armenian Americans for its failure to use the term “genocide,” a widelycirculated campaign promise that won him early support from the community.
Released in the afternoon on April 24, the statement used the Armenian phrase Meds Yeghern, or “great calamity,” to characterize the massacres.
“Ninety-four years ago, one of the great atrocities of the 20th century began,” the statement read. “Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The Meds Yeghernmust live on in our memories, just as it lives on in the hearts of the Armenian people.”
The statement then echoed the words he used while addressing the Turkish
Parliament earlier this April.
“History, unresolved, can be a heavy weight,” Obama’s statement continued. “Just as the terrible events of 1915 remind us of the dark prospect of man’s inhumanity to man, reckoning with the past holds out the powerful promise of reconciliation. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts.”
On April 22, Turkey announced talks with Armenia had yielded a “road map” for reconciliation.
In January 2008, while campaigning for president, Senator Obama reached out to the Armenian-American community and enjoyed widespread support after saying he would recognized the Genocide.
Asked on April 24 what he was expecting Obama to say, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said he expected him to avoid the term.
“I believe that (Obama’s statement) should be one that is supportive of our good-intentioned efforts,” he said.
Gul’s words directly contradicted what Obama said in the letter written last year, which is still available on Obama’s campaign website.