President Joe Biden formally declared the systematic killing and deportation of hundreds of thousands of Armenian Americans by Ottoman Empire forces in the early 1900s to be “genocide,” according to Armenian Americans, who said the recognition was long overdue.
His action followed decades of activism, the majority of which took place in California, the state with the country’s largest Armenian community.
“He is the first president of the United States to speak out about it. I’ve never understood why the US took such a long time to act after learning of the crisis. Varoujan Kioudjian, 74, said, “It’s amazing.” “I’m grateful for what he did.”
Hundreds of people flocked to a hilltop monument in Montebello, about 10 miles (16 kilometres) east of Los Angeles, to commemorate the Armenian Genocide.
They laid flowers around a tomb and said prayers for the estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed in the events known as Metz Yeghern beginning in 1915, dressed in black for the solemn ceremony.
Kioudjian said that every April 24th, his late father, who grew up in an orphanage after his parents were killed in the genocide, has taken him to memorials and demonstrations. On that day in 1915, Ottoman authorities in Constantinople, now Istanbul, began arresting Armenian intellectuals and community leaders.
Thousands of people blocked Wilshire Boulevard, the city’s main thoroughfare, outside the Turkish consulate in Beverly Hills, demanding that Turkey recognise the events of 106 years ago as genocide. Demonstrators held up the Armenian national flag and demanded compensation.
Biden’s proclamation, she said, had made her happy.
Turkey’s consul general in Los Angeles, Can Oguz, stated emphatically that his country rejects Biden’s remarks.
In an email, Oguz stated, “None of the international law conditions that would justify the use of the term “genocide” in relation to the events of 1915 have been met.” “Today’s statement will sour our bilateral relations and jeopardise regional efforts to maintain peace and stability.”
For decades, the White House avoided using the word “genocide” for fear of alienating Turkey, a NATO ally and key Middle Eastern power. Biden kept a campaign promise to prioritise human rights in his foreign policy. Last year, he argued that failing to recognise the Armenian genocide would pave the way for future mass atrocities.
In a statement, state Senator Andreas Borgeas, a Republican from Fresno, said, “Today is a historic and emotional day for the Armenian people, including members of my own family who are descendants of genocide survivors.” “Despite the potential political consequences with the Republic of Turkey, the United States has mustered the courage to acknowledge the truth after more than a century.”
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, a Democrat, praised Biden for keeping his word.
“For thousands upon thousands of my Armenian American constituents who have spent their entire lives working, advocating, and praying for recognition, this is a watershed moment – and I am heartened that this announcement comes at a time when some genocide survivors are still alive to witness it, albeit in small numbers,” he said in a statement.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared Saturday a “day of remembrance of the Armenian genocide,” honouring the survivors, many of whom were orphaned and brought to the United States.
“In the face of unimaginable tragedy, Armenians bravely forged ahead, compelled to build new lives in every corner of the world. The proclamation states, “Thousands have made California their home, and we are stronger as a result of their efforts.” “Let us renew our commitment to remembering the Armenian Genocide today and every day, as well as to speaking out against hatred and atrocities wherever they occur.”