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Erasing History: The Genocide Turkey Prefers You Forget

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Click the player to see the video of today's commemoration ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia.

Tuesday, people around the world gathered and demonstrated in commemoration of the 1.5 million Armenians killed in a genocide committed against them by the Ottoman Empire 103 years ago. 

But Turkey prefers you not call it genocide. 

Two of the largest US gatherings for Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day were held in New York City and Los Angeles. Canadians gathered for their third annual event in Ottawa.

April 24 is the day of remembrance because it was on this day in 1915, during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, that the Ottoman Army began one of the worst mass eliminations of a people group in world history.

The first major event became known as "Red Sunday," a day when 250 Armenian intellectuals and professionals were arrested in Constantinople and some were executed. 

From 1915-1923, other Armenians—many of them Christian--were forced from ancestral lands they had occupied for more than two millennia. Tens of thousands died from disease or hunger as they fled. Others were raped or murdered.

Although the U.S. State Department has termed the mass extermination of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria a genocide committed by the Islamic State, it has yet to declare the atrocities committed against Armenians as genocide. 

Ronald Reagan was the only US president who referred to the mass executions, forced relocations, and atrocities as genocide, but his pronouncement was not considered an official U.S. declaration or policy.

U.S. politicians and government officials are reluctant to refer to the atrocities as genocide because they fear it would harm relations with the Turkish government. At risk is the access US and NATO forces are given to a strategic military air base in Incirlik, Turkey. 

However, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) did issue a statement Tuesday remembering the tragic time in history.

"It's been more than a century since the Ottoman Empire began the Armenian Genocide. At a time when Turkey is falling into anti-democratic darkness, including the brutal beating of President Erdogan's critics on U.S. soil by Erdogan's security detail, Erdogan's continuing denial of the Armenian Genocide is an absurdity and a disgrace," said Nunes who is the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman.

"In light of current developments in Turkey, it's now more important than ever that the U.S. administration commemorate the tragic genocide of the Armenian people," Nunes concluded.

Turkish President Racep Tayyip Erodgan refuses to admit the Ottomans committed genocide against the Armenians.  And he says instead of 1.5-million, only 300,000 Armenians died from fighting and deportations during World War I.

The Turkish president reportedly said the issue is being used as "blackmail" against his country.

If Turkey accepts the genocide declaration, it could become legally liable to make restitution to descendants of the victims. Also, Turks could be forced to return Armenian property seized by the Ottomans.

Twice as many Armenians live outside of Armenia than live in the country. The Armenian "diaspora" or dispersion from their original homeland numbers about 1.5 million in the United States, 8 million worldwide.

Many of those who joined commemoration ceremonies said they gathered not only to honor the victims, but also to help the world learn the truth about what happened to their ancestors, friends, and loved ones. 

Arutyun Vardanyan attended the ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia. 

He said,  "For each Armenian, today is the day of mourning, the day when we commemorate the genocide of 1915. It is a difficult day but today I am happy that people remember this date and I am sure they will remember always."

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About The Author

Gary Lane

Mr. Lane currently serves as International News Director and Senior International Correspondent for CBN News. He has traveled to more than 120 countries—many of them restricted nations or areas hostile to Christianity and other minority faiths where he has interviewed persecution victims and has provided video reports and analysis for CBN News. Also, he has provided written stories and has served as a consultant for the Voice of the Martyrs. Gary joined The Christian Broadcasting Network in 1984 as the first full-time Middle East Correspondent for CBN News. Based in Jerusalem, Gary produced