Today we commemorate the Armenian Genocide with solemn remembrance of the 1,500,000 men, women, and children who were slaughtered by Ottoman Turks in one of the worst atrocities in human history. We remember the sadistic acts of torture, the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Armenian lands, the desecration of ancient churches. We remember the Turkish attempt to erase a culture that had been enriching the world long before Socrates was born.
President Biden’s unambiguous declaration that this crime against humanity constituted genocide is a long overdue confirmation of undeniable historical truth. Much more important, it is an overdue confirmation of our American values. It is a clear statement that the United States will stand for human rights and for justice, even in the face of threats from autocrats like Turkish dictator Erdogan. Today, President Biden liberated the truth from the shackles of Turkish bullying. For that, every American should be grateful.
Still, it is also true that there has never been a time since the Armenian Genocide when the Armenian people have faced a more serious threat from the racist hatred of those who wish to exterminate us than we do right now. In an outrageous aggression just months ago, Azerbaijan, with the active support of Turkey, attacked Armenian villages and cities in Artsakh with advanced weaponry and banned munitions like white phosphorous and cluster bombs. With clear echoes of the Armenian Genocide, Azeris joyfully celebrated their murder and torture of civilians, their destruction of historical and cultural treasures, and their desecration of churches. To this day, Azerbaijan continues to hold kidnapped Armenian civilians and prisoners of war as hostages in violation of international law.
The leaders of both Turkey and Azerbaijan have stated, clearly and repeatedly, their intention to destroy the Armenian population of Artsakh and even the Republic of Armenia itself. The dictator of Azerbaijan recently celebrated as a national hero an Azeri terrorist who beheaded an Armenian soldier in his bed during a NATO peace program in Hungary. He has created a park in Baku to celebrate the death of Armenians and to teach Armenophobic hatred to a new generation of Azeri youth. If the lessons of history teach us anything, we should know that when autocrats encourage racism and threaten genocide, we should take them at their word. And the United States must act assertively to stop them.
Today is a day of gratitude for President Biden’s courageous decision to do the right thing. It is not, however, a day for celebration. Instead, it should be a day when each of us, Armenians and non-Armenians alike, recommit ourselves to the causes of fighting bigotry and racism, protecting the people of Armenia and Artsakh from ongoing racist aggression, and preventing genocide and crimes against humanity everywhere in the world.