President Barack Obama will refrain from referring the manslaughter of more than a million Armenians as “genocide” in an event commemorating 100 years of the massacre, the White House said.
The decision, announced to the Armenian-American activists by White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes on Tuesday, was in contradiction to Obama’s 2008 campaign that promised to “recognize the Armenian genocide.”
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will be visiting Armenia at the commemoration of the genocide. The atrocity that lasted years – and is memorialized on April 24 – began in 1915, marking 2015 as its 100th anniversary.
“We know and respect that there are some who are hoping to hear different language this year,” an administration official was quoted saying, according to CNN.
“We understand their perspective, even as we believe that the approach we have taken in previous years remains the right one — both for acknowledging the past, and for our ability to work with regional partners to save lives in the present.”
The widespread slaughter of Armenians occurred under the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Almost 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives in the massacre. However, using the term “genocide” infuriates Ankara, which denies that the Ottoman Turks had any role in the barbarity.
Armenian-American leaders are disappointed with the decision, especially after Pope Francis called the mass killings a “genocide.”
According to Politico, Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America attending the White House meeting, said, “This is a betrayal of the truth, a betrayal of trust, a disgraceful national surrender to a foreign gag order being imposed by the government of Turkey.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was quoted as saying, “I’m deeply disappointed that the president, once again, will fail to properly describe the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923 for what it was — genocide.
“How long must the victims and their families wait before our nation has the courage to confront Turkey with the truth about the murderous past of the Ottoman Empire? If not this president, who spoke so eloquently and passionately about recognition in the past, whom? If not after 100 years, when?”
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