By Stephan Pechdimaldji
As a grandson of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, the Senate race in Pennsylvania between Dr. Mehmet Oz and Lt. Governor John Fetterman holds a special meaning for me, and thousands of Armenian-Americans. For years, Armenian-Americans have fought for recognition of the genocide, when more than 1.5 million Armenians were systematically exterminated by the Ottoman Turks — a crime that Turkey denies to this day.
It is also an event that Mr. Oz has not fully addressed. When asked, his campaign delivered a meaningless statement saying the candidate “opposes genocide” and “the evils of World War I should be commemorated.” These are the kinds of euphemisms and verbal gymnastics the Turkish government has long used to deflect attention from its particular crimes.
Pennsylvania voters need to know whether Mr. Oz stands with Turkey, or if he believes that families like mine were victims of the first genocide of the 20th century.
I grew up hearing stories of how my grandparents survived the Armenian Genocide. Of how at the age of 15 my grandfather, Haroutin Toufayan, hid in a haystack for more than forty days to avoid Turkish soldiers. Of how his own father and brother were taken away, never to be seen or heard from again. Of how he fled through the deserts of Syria and made his way to Aleppo, where he worked as a welder to make enough money to eventually settle in Cairo.
His story is not a lie — but Turkey has never accepted responsibility, even embarking on a decades-long campaign to pressure the U.S. government not to recognize the Armenian Genocide. And for the most part, they had been successful, by using the cover of NATO to persuade lawmakers that recognition would not be in the interests of the United States.