Armenians should see the hypocrisy over ‘meds yeghern’

Armenians should see the hypocrisy over ‘meds yeghern’

It was actually predictable that after the French supreme court’s ruling to annul the French government’s decision to criminalize saying the 1915 massacres in which hundreds of Armenians were killed in the declining Ottoman Empire was not genocide, this year’s anniversary would somehow have a lower profile.

Yesterday, April 24 is the day that Talat Pasha, the interior minister of the Ottoman Turkish government, ordered local administrators to forcibly deport all of the Armenian population to southern parts of what was then the country (now Syria). The campaign was implemented cruelly, especially on the eastern front where some Armenian armed groups were collaborating with the invading Czarist Russian armies killing and plundering the Muslim population under the circumstances of World War I. The date has been taken as the start of the “Armenian genocide” widely and roughly following the Nuremberg trials of the Nazis because of the genocide (or Holocaust) of the Jewish population during World War II.

The Armenian diaspora wants to get this date recognized as ‘Armenian Genocide Day’ by other countries to put pressure on the Turkish Republic as the inheritor of the Turkish Empire. The purpose is to get a formal apology from Ankara and compensation as well.

Many governments have already adopted the “genocide” rhetoric, despite protestations from Turkey. But what matters for the Armenians is to get it recognized by the U.S. Not only because the U.S. is the dominant political power in the world, but because then it would be possible for the inheritors to make claims for their lands and properties left in Turkey through insurance companies. The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a court case a few years ago saying that they do not have the authority to rule against state policies.

For decades up until this year, it was like a congressional sport in Washington, D.C. to submit a bill for the “Armenian genocide,” causing fierce debate which could only be stopped by the U.S. president. But this year, there wasn’t even a bill organized by Armenian lobbying groups. That is most probably because of the French effect.

It is true that Nicholas Sarkozy has decided to be the first French President to join the commemorations in Paris. But even the French press is criticizing both him and his rival François Hollande -- who does the same -- for competing for Armenian votes in the second round of the presidential election on May 6.

And American President Barack Obama’s ‘Meds yeghern’ statement yesterday made neither Armenians nor Turks happy; the term is synonymous with genocide in Armenian, but does not have any meaning in international law.

Now both Armenians and Turks are looking to 2015 as the 100th year of “meds yeghern.” One is trying to make it a big event to knee Turks down and Turks are trying to avoid it as one of the important strategic partners of the U.S. in the Eurasian theater, probably by putting more into that partnership basket.

Perhaps it is time to leave the maximalist approach aside for the Armenian diaspora to hear the Turkish state saying sorry on behalf of their predecessors; the political climate is ready for that.