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Biden formally acknowledges WWI killing of Armenians as ‘genocide’

Statement goes against previous U.S. Presidents who prioritized foreign relations with Turkish leadership

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Kevork Joulhayan marches with others from the Armenian community during a demonstration on April 24, 2006, at the Bennett Federal Building in Salt Lake City to mark the anniversary of the Ottoman Empire’s slaughter of over one million Armenians in 1915. Joulhayan is a second generation survivor of the genocide, which is still not acknowledged by the Turkish government.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

President Joe Biden acknowledged on Saturday what other sitting U.S. presidents have not — calling the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1917 a “genocide.”

“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’s statement, released Saturday from the White House, said.

His words mark 106 years since the actions of the Ottoman Empire began, aiming to rid the region, which now makes up the majority of Turkey, of Armenian people. Its then-leaders saw any Armenian resistance as a threat.

Biden’s official recognition comes after long-standing advocacy by Armenian-American groups and breaks with his predecessors, could damage America’s already strained relationship with Turkey. The nation’s President Tayyip Recep Erdogan fervently denies the genocide ever occurred.

“Armenians here in Salt Lake City, and all over the world are grateful that President Biden has joined other world leaders publicly acknowledging the Armenian Genocide,” Miriam McFadden, a local realtor and member of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Salt Lake City, told the Deseret News.

“It’s only through such honest recognition of the historical truth that the healing and resolution process can continue,” she said.

Biden said, “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.

“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.

Of those who survived, most were forced to find new homes and new lives around the world, including in the United States. With strength and resilience, the Armenian people survived and rebuilt their community. Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history that brought so many of their ancestors to our shores. We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.

Today, as we mourn what was lost, let us also turn our eyes to the future — toward the world that we wish to build for our children. A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are able to pursue their lives in dignity and security. Let us renew our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world. And let us pursue healing and reconciliation for all the people of the world. 

The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today.”