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Геноцид Армян. Почему это важно после 100 лет, и почему это важно не только для армян
aram_hakopian
This year Armenians commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire. It is remarkable that recognition and condemnation of the massacre of innocent Armenian lives is not complete after 100 years. In fact, the Armenian Genocide became a precedent of successful criminal denial that inspired perpetrators of other massacres such as the Holocaust, and the genocides in Rwanda, Sudan and other places.

The commemoration of the Armenian Genocide is about justice. In general, justice directly relates to the promotion of human rights. While often hypocritically understood in non-ideal real world, justice is a foundation of human life. It evolves and matures as human civilization does. Western civilization continuously rethinks and redefines what justice means. In particular, the US legislative branch consistently improves laws, while the judicial branch promotes justice in the courts. Even so, the system is not perfect; people want to see a fairer world, but one cannot deny how far we have come in the past decades.

As a short historical overview, the Armenian population was one of the native nations inhabiting the Ottoman Empire. Native, but deprived of basic rights as a Christian minority in a religiously discriminant and nationalistic country that was skillfully manipulating its Muslim population against Christian minorities. The 1844 census reported about 2 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire despite attempts to show smaller numbers to the external world. Christians were subject to higher taxes, and the administration and courts treated them as second class citizens. Displacements and massacres of Armenians were common in late 19th century in Ottoman Empire. But starting in 1915 the brutal killings and expulsions reached their peak. First, the intellectual elite were arrested and executed, and then the Armenian population was massively deported and forced to perish while marching towards the Mesopotamian deserts. The tragedy was widely covered by the US press, and has been documented by the US ambassador to the Ottoman Empire - Henry Morgenthau.

Present-day Turkey, the successor of the Ottoman Empire denies these tragic events. The government of Turkey justifies the massive deaths of Armenians as a consequence of common war-time casualties. The denial attempt is obvious – unlike others the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist, being 2 million strong just 70 years before these events. The casualties in the so-called war-times for some reason were disastrous for Armenians, but not for others.

One can wonder, why did the government of the Ottoman Empire commit this crime? First, it did not consider Armenians loyal to the government. One cannot expect loyalty from a population deprived of basic religious and ethnical rights. The government was afraid of Western countries and Russia meddling in support of Armenians and other Christians.  Second, by deporting Armenians, the Empire was able to redistribute their property and wealth among loyal ottomans of the “correct” religion and origin during challenging World War I times. Destroying Armenians solved both tasks.

One can further wonder, why this issue is important and relevant today, after a hundred years. It was a long time ago, and similar atrocities and inhuman behavior were common in many areas in the past. After all, even in the US, white settlers had taken land from the Native Americans and killed many of them. The African American population in this country also faced grave human rights violations. What makes the events of 1915 important enough to be remembered, a century later?

The answer to this question is the following. By expressing our attitudes with respect to the past events, we claim our current identity, and how we relate to each other. The people who deny past injustice antagonize themselves to the present peaceful coexistence and mutual respect. That is how the past relates to future.

Here in the US, Americans recognized injustice with respect to Native and African Americans, and significant efforts are made to correct the wrongdoing. It was done to establish fairer society, where the rights of all citizens are protected by law and by a redefined cultural code. Only such just attitude towards our past may ensure a safe society for people of all races, origins, ethnicities, and beliefs. Manipulation of history and denial of past injustice leads to mistrust, and to a danger of hidden supremacy-driven aggressiveness. The US citizens originate from almost all the corners of the world. And Armenians and Turks live here together as well. By sincerely claiming the truth of historical events, both US federal and state authorities will promote justice. Only justice heals wounds, and makes the society united and safe. The social health of our nation should not be manipulated by foreign governments that do not want to accept their own past and antagonizing their people against Armenians by denying these events.

Solidarity with the Armenian people in recognition of atrocities committed 100 years ago is not a struggle against the dignity of the descendants of those who committed these crimes. It is not about revenge – it is about social health in today’s society. The descendants are not related to those events. But it should be clear, that when the descendants deny the historical events for whatever hypocritical reason they share the responsibility for the crimes. Denial of the past transforms to the denial of peaceful and respectful coexistence.

The issue is in fact broader than the Armenian Genocide. Nowadays, the whole world is volatile and many interests of our country are also at stake, including our safety. The root cause of the common unrest is rooted in the fact that human rights are endangered by the supremacy of some other interests such as specifically interpreted “chosen” religions, origins, race, ethnicity or any other factors which divide humans. Justice is perhaps one of the strongest ways to counter these challenges, and one should not sacrifice it because of short-sighted political considerations. Justice promotion heals problems in the long run.

In conclusion, one can quote the President Rivlin of Israel, from his speech on January 28, 2015, at the UN General Assembly:
“…In 1915, when the members of the Armenian nation were being massacred, Avshalom Feinberg .. wrote the following and I quote, “My teeth have been ground down with worry, whose turn is next? When I walked on the blessed and holy ground on my way up to Jerusalem, I asked myself if we are living in our modern era, in 1915, or in the days of Titus or Nebuchadnezzar? Did I, a Jew, forget that I am a Jew? I also asked myself if I have the right to weep ‘over the tragedy of my people’ only, and whether the Prophet Jeremiah did not shed tears of blood for the Armenians as well? Avshalom Feinberg wrote that exactly one hundred years ago, one hundred years of hesitation and denial. But in the Land of Israel of that time, in the Jerusalem in which I was born, no one denied the massacre that had taken place.  The residents of Jerusalem, my parents and the members of my family, saw the Armenian refugees arriving by the thousands – starving, piteous survivors of calamity. In Jerusalem they found shelter and their descendants continue to live there to this day…”

Just condemnation of massacres such as the Armenian Genocide, Holocaust, etc. is the least effort to prevent similar future crimes and stop asking - "Who's next?

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