Suren Sargsyan

Armenian Government Attempts to Avoid the Term Genocide

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On April 24, Armenians worldwide commemorate Armenian Genocide, remembering the 1.5 million innocents people massacred in the Ottoman Empire. Each year on this date, Armenians gather at memorials, churches, and services wherever they are. This year was no exception. Hundreds of thousands of people marched towards Tsitsernakaberd to lay flowers at the Armenian Genocide memorial fire. However, it transpired that the Armenian people are standing alone in this issue, with the Armenian authorities not backing them up.

While the political leadership of Armenia did visit Tsitsernakaberd, it was crucial to ascertain the Armenian government’s stance on the fact of the Armenian Genocide itself. Unfortunately Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s address notably featured the phrase “Armenian Genocide” only 3 times, while “Medz Yeghern [Great Crime]” was mentioned 11 times. In 2023, Pashinyan used the term “Medz Yeghern” only once, while in 2020 and 2022, he used it twice. It is worth noting that the key sentences in the current message emphasized the term “Medz Yeghern” instead of just genocide.

Many will recall US President Barack Obama’s avoidance of the term “genocide,” similar to the actions of Pashinyan’s administration. It is likely that there will be a gradual attempt to eliminate the term from the official position of the Armenian government, which means removing the recognition of the Armenian Genocide from the foreign political agenda of Armenia.

This shift suggests Armenia’s gradual distancing from the term “genocide,” especially in light of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent call for Armenia to abandon its recognition of the World War I events as genocide. And when we consider the Pashinyan team representative’s suggestion to compile a list of 1.5 million Armenian names individually to determine the true number of victims, it is evident that this is a well-defined policy.

Until 2018, the fact of the Armenian Genocide was used as a tool in Armenia’s foreign policy against Turkey. Any aggression towards Armenians by Turks could be branded as another genocide attempt, prompting Turks to refrain from such actions to avoid being labeled as a genocidal nation by the international community.

Genocide is not merely a simple term. It represents a legal and political acknowledgment by various nations worldwide of the events that transpired against the Armenians in 1915. There is a significant legal distinction between the terms Medz Yeghern and Genocide. That is why, Armenian communities around the globe have long struggled for the recognition of the Genocide as such in the countries of their residence, yet Armenian authorities have opted to refer to it as the “Medz Yeghern.” This is a profound blow for any diasporan Armenian fighter for the truth affected by this tragedy, who now is being told that his efforts to recognize the Genocide were in vain.

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These words hold further peril, as now, within nations that have acknowledged the genocide, dissenting voices may arise, questioning the validity of the genocide and its recognition by their own governments. The Armenians who at present endeavor to include the Armenian Genocide in American educational programs or elsewhere around the world find themselves in an exceedingly challenging position.

This stance also complicates matters for US President Biden, who acknowledged the Armenian Genocide by using the term. Critics now point out that even Armenian governmental officials avoid using the word, yet Biden persists. This sets a precedent for future American presidents, influenced by Armenian authorities, to steer clear of the term “genocide” or sidestep the April 24th presidential message on this topic.

It turns out that the Armenian government is repeating Turkey’s long-standing official stance. Settling relations with Turkey has become a top priority for Pashinyan’s government, which appears willing to make significant concessions, even at the cost of upsetting its own people, in order to achieve this goal.

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