Taner Akçam

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide with an overwhelming majority of 450 votes against 11. The decision is not binding at the moment; it’s more of a symbolic move. But if it passes in the Senate, it will become binding in the American court of law. This is a new situation that has never happened before.

The U.S. House passed similar decisions in April of 1975 and September of 1984. According to these bills, April 24 was marked as a remembrance day for the Armenian genocide and American presidents were tasked with making special speeches regarding the issue.

Because of this, it had become tradition for American presidents to give a statement about the events of 1915 on April 24. 

Each year, it became a subject of curiosity whether the speech would include the word genocide, and this also caused tension for Turkey. 

American presidents don’t want to damage relations with Turkey, and have never used the word genocide until today.

The only exception was Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Since 1984, efforts have been made to pass similar bills, but all initiatives have been blocked by both Democrat and Republican governments. 

The rule is very simple: If you make it a crime to use the word genocide in your own country; if you start investigations against members of parliament with immunity just because they uttered the word genocide; if you create a climate in country within which Hrant Dink is murdered for merely saying “I’m Armenian” and “let’s reveal historical truths”; if you still cannot find who was behind Dink’s murder after 12 years; and if you detain and torture those who commemorate the genocide on April 24, other states will use these against you.

In our age, it has become a very important rule to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries due to human rights violations. This means you can’t just say, “I’m a sovereign nation, no one can interfere with me. I will do what I want and punish whom I want.” It’s difficult to meddle with powerful states, but maybe you can interfere with a country like Turkey.

In addition, through the steps it took to become a full member of the EU, Turkey has declared its intention to accept the universal principles of international law above its own laws and has amended its constitution. It has promised to abide by international norms.

So Turkey needs to decide now: Either it will become a democratic country, or it will open the door for more foreign intervention by trampling on all kinds of laws. It will be pressured economically, politically and militarily. 

If we don’t like the U.S. Congress deciding about 1915, let’s face 1915 and discuss it ourselves. 

Even our own archives are full of extermination orders

Even our archives are full of documents contain extermination orders. The first such an order was given on December 1, 1914. The document is in our own archives. The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) member Bahattin Şakir, on March 3, 1915, said, “We have decided to exterminate all Armenians in the country.” We can now authenticate the originality of the telegrams sent by Talat Pasha to “exterminate Armenians,” which were claimed to have been forged. 

Even our own archives are very clear about what happened in 1915.

But we still choose to ignore the facts and deny the existence of the documents even from our own archives. We call people who want to discuss the issue are traitors; we put them in front of judges and send them to prison.

The reality of this issue can’t be covered up anymore.

The time to acknowledge the fact of 1915 is long overdue. It’s not a bad thing to face history. It’s good — it brings democracy and peace. It helps to create a regime which respects human rights. If we face the events of 1915, we clear the way for developing better relations with our neighbors.

There is no need to be afraid. We have been in denial for 100 years, and the point we’ve arrived at is clear. 

The point is that the hundred years of denial, should teach us that there’s beauty in facing truth. 

I say myself that the U.S. Congress did a good thing by passing this delayed resolution. It means that we would finally be done worrying about what the American president would or would not to say.

This decision is important because it reminds us how and where to resolve this issue.

The late Hrant Dink would always say the same thing when the issue came up in foreign legislatures: “The genocide happened on Anatolian soil and it will be resolved on Anatolian soil.”

So let’s start thinking in that direction.