While many would argue that there are plenty of other issues for President Joe Biden to acknowledge, over the weekend, the 46th president became the first in U.S. history to formally recognize an Ottoman-led genocide and deportation campaign against Armenians between 1915 and 1925.
According to Fox News, the atrocities that took place — known by Armenians as Meds Yeghern — resulted in the death of some 1.5 million Armenians and the deportation of roughly 2 million more. Former U.S. presidents have shied away from formal recognition of the tragic events reportedly in order to maintain a non-disruptive relationship with Turkey, a top NATO ally.
What did he say?
In a statement marking what’s known as Armenian Remembrance Day, the president made good on a 2020 campaign promise to acknowledge that such events took place.
“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,” Biden said, according to Fox.
“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,” the president added, before tying in his statement with what he feels is a rise in hate across the country.
“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,” Biden continued.
It was revealed that Biden called ahead on Friday to let Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan know that he was preparing to make the remarks, however, the situation isn’t sitting well with some of Turkey’s top officials.
It didn’t take long for the Turkish Foreign Minister to react to Biden’s statements on Twitter. The leader blamed “populism” and political expediency for Biden making the remarks in the first place, before going on to essentially deny that the horrific events ever took place.
“Words cannot change or rewrite history.”
We have nothing to learn from anybody on our own past. Political opportunism is the greatest betrayal to peace and justice.
We entirely reject this statement based solely on populism.#1915Events
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) April 24, 2021
In its own official response, the Turkish foreign ministry condemned Biden’s remarks and expressed his very obvious anger that the United States president would even consider such a statement.
“We reject and denounce in the strongest terms the statement of the President of the US regarding the events of 1915 made under the pressure of radical Armenian circles and anti-Turkey groups on 24 April,” the ministry said, according to Reuters.
Some of the responses to the controversy on Twitter included accusations that Biden put U.S. interests aside in order to appease certain special interests groups by making the statement that no other president has made, likely for what they believed were thought-out, strategic reasons.