About a week ago, Armenian communities across the globe were holding hands, tilting their heads down for the victims and lives that were put through a murderous period in the 20th century.
24 April, 1915 marks the day when the Ottoman Empire began to arrest Armenian intellectuals living in Turkey, and its border regions. Later on, 1.5 million women, men and children were executed, stripped down their identities, and left lifeless.
The Greek and Assyrian communities were reflecting with them on their Remembrance Day, as they were victims of this dark era between 1913-1924 and had ancestors which crossed paths with the Armenians. These three communities all shared a history that removed their families, their homes and their integrity, hence a genocide.
Many Facebook posts and tweets were shared to commemorate the survivors and victims. The Armenian National Committee of Australia expressed their respect and justice on Facebook. However, these were not the only type of posts shared online about the genocide. Unfortunately, there are larger and complicated discussions towards the recognition.
Although we reflect in mourning and pay our respects, the world has always found it difficult to properly acknowledge what happened to the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians.
For 105 years, this genocide has been politicised, with governments and leaders struggling and choosing not to properly describe the mass killings of these three races. It is devastating to encounter this repetition.
President Donald Trump released a statement on 14 April 2020, acknowledging the Armenians that suffered and paid his respects to their community. Although this was a significant acknowledgement, especially from a prominent leader, this statement received backlash on social media.
American writer Alexander Nazaryan tweeted Donald Trump’s statement, expressing that there is no mention of the word genocide. His tweet received a fair bit of attention and started conversations about the language matter, whether it was important for Trump to use the word genocide as acknowledgement.
Trump’s statement literally screams genocide. He titled it as “Remembrance Day”, but what are we actually remembering? This gives great miscommunication to the public.
Leaders and governments can reflect every year on anniversaries, make connections with the descendants of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian genocide and be respectful. However, in order to move forward and to make progress, the next step is to describe this period for what it actually is.
Proper acknowledgement could further those connections and start greater conversations, especially positive ones. Positive conversations which could involve educating the youth in high school and portraying it more within media such as documentaries and literature.
Raphael Lemkin, a key developer of the word genocide would have wanted to see this progress in this day and age. Language significantly matters.
However, language is a major factor to why it is so hard to properly acknowledge the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian genocide.
A solid argument that prevents this acknowledgement is the harm it could do to a country’s connection with Turkey.
Countries that have a relation with Turkey fear to use the word genocide or imply genocide was committed by Turkey. That bridge between the countries will be lost and resources such as trade, communication and respect will fade. This is why Trump may have not mentioned genocide in his statement.
This is unfortunately a bipartisan issue for most presidents. They cannot afford to offend Turkey. However, taking a risk can be the right step.
In Australia, using the word genocide would mean no access to Gallipoli. It is one massive game of monopoly. Even though Australia have these ties, there have been major progress, as politicians have been urged to properly recognise the genocide. It is clear why some countries have not titled it as genocide, considering this could mean political war with Turkey.
There have been cases where Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened other countries such as America to not imply the word genocide, as Turkey views this as an attack. This should not be the case. Turkey should view this as a responsibility and an opportunity to develop connections with other countries.
Hopefully the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocide will be properly acknowledged for what it is one day.
Pam Kiriakidis is a second-year student at La Trobe University studying a Bachelor of Media and Communications (Journalism). You can follow her on Twitter @pam_kiriakidis