Breaking with predecessors and risking to anger Turkey, Biden calls mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I genocide

U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Saturday described the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I as a genocide, fulfilling a campaign promise he made in October.

President Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide was a break from a decades-long tradition of U.S. Presidents and a major victory for Armenian Americans who have been lobbying for the term for many years.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. REUTERS/Umit Bektas 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Many American leaders refrained from using the term genocide for fear of angering Turkey and jeopardizing relations with a key ally.

“Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” President Biden said in a statement.

He added: “Beginning on April 24, 1915, with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by Ottoman authorities, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination. We honor the victims of the Meds Yeghern so that the horrors of what happened are never lost to history. And we remember so that we remain ever-vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms.

“Of those who survived, most were forced to find new homes and new lives around the world, including in the United States. With strength and resilience, the Armenian people survived and rebuilt their community. Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history that brought so many of their ancestors to our shores. We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.

“Today, as we mourn what was lost, let us also turn our eyes to the future—toward the world that we wish to build for our children. A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are able to pursue their lives in dignity and security. Let us renew our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world. And let us pursue healing and reconciliation for all the people of the world. 

“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today.”

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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