YEREVAN and JERUSALEM (NY Daily News, Guardian, Jerusalem Post) —
For decades, Turkey has resisted pressure to recognize the brutal killings of 1.5 million Armenians under Ottoman rule as genocide. But can the Turks keep up with the Kardashians?
Armenia’s efforts to win over public opinion on one of history’s lesser known black episodes got a major boost from an unlikely source last week: Kim and Khloe Kardashian. The sisters’ visit to their ancestral homeland — their late father, Robert, was third-generation Armenian-American because of ancestors who fled the violence — is, strange as it may sound, a crucial development in Armenia’s campaign to have the genocide recognized.
The tiny country in the Caucasus is doing all it can to draw the world’s attention to the genocide as its 100th anniversary approaches next week. Serge Sargisian, the country’s president, looked on approvingly at the Vatican this weekend as Pope Francis called the killings “the first genocide of the 20th century” and urged world leaders to recognize it as such. Leaders of some of the 25 countries that recognize the genocide, including France’s François Hollande and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, are expected at a ceremony in Yerevan on April 24, the official genocide remembrance day.
Turkey angrily denies having organized the mass deportations and killings of Armenians, which began in Istanbul in 1915 during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. Though Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, offered Armenians an unprecedented message of condolence last year that hinted at responsibility, the country continues to say the tragedy was the result of inter-ethnic violence during World War I rather than a systematic campaign.
Much to Armenia’s chagrin, Erdogan rescheduled the commemoration of the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign, a key Allied victory in the war, to coincide with the Armenian memorial and draw world leaders to Turkey instead.