THE WORLD PAUSES Friday to remember the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide. On April 24, 1915, Armenian intellectuals and public figures were detained and summarily executed in Constantinople — the beginning of the systematic purge of the Armenian population at the hands of the Ottoman government. By 1917, 1.5 million Armenians were murdered. The sheer scale of the murders in Turkey was so overwhelming that Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin later devised the word “genocide” to grapple with the carnage.
Among the many public events, memorial services, and awareness campaigns that mark the genocide of 1915, Pope Francis gave a spirited speech during a Mass earlier this month to commemorate the scars on Armenia’s national memory. “It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes,” Francis said, decrying “the complicit silence of others who simply stand by.” Most notably, and not for the first time during his papacy, Francis called the events of 1915 what they are: genocide. The address sparked outrage from the Turkish government, whose foreign minister fired off tweets lambasting the Pope’s message as “unacceptable” and “out of touch with both historical facts and legal basis.” But on April 15, the European Parliament joined Vatican City and 22 other nations in recognizing the Armenian genocide and called upon Turkey to do the same.
The United States should be next. On March 18, Representative Robert Dold introduced a bill with 55 co-sponsors calling for “the Republic of Turkey’s full acknowledgment of the facts and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide.” While many are reluctant to question Turkey, given its relatively moderate and open policies in the Middle East, each passing day is another opportunity lost for American political leaders to live up to the refrain of “never again” and recognize the genocide.
While any government can rail against its enemies, it takes an exceptional nation to be critical of its allies. Considering the monstrous threat genocide poses to the values that the United States holds most dear — a threat that continues into the 21st century — there is a clear responsibility to step up to the historical moment, call this crime by its rightful name, and declare it intolerable.