April 24 is the remembrance day of the Armenian genocide, and to mark the date, a group ran a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, implying that Turks and Armenians lost a similar number of lives in 1915.
One hundred and one years ago, between 664,000 and 1.2 million Armenians were systematically massacred or died from abuse by Ottoman officials. Survivors who fled have kept the story alive of what many call the 20th century’s first massacre.
“Rape and beating were commonplace,” David Fromkin wrote in A Peace to End All Peace, a history of World War I. “Those who were not killed at once were driven through mountains and deserts without food, drink or shelter. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians eventually succumbed or were killed.”
But the ad that appeared in the Wall Street Journal ignored these reports. As Sam Biddle noted in Gawker, the ad “contains a URL for the genocide-denial group FactCheck Armenia, the unfounded arguments of which boil down to 1) It wasn’t actually that many people, and 2) The Armenians started it. That group is itself a part of Turkic Platform, a pro-Turkey group that attempts to distract from discussion of the genocide with events like Times Square dance routines.”
— Gary Bass (@Gary__Bass) April 20, 2016
While the Armenian genocide is widely acknowledged by the historians, Turkey has denied it for years, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said in recent years that Turkey will not accept the use of the word genocide.
“The word for what happened had not yet been invented,” said University of Michigan historian Ronald G. Suny. “At the time, those who needed a word borrowed it from the Bible, and called it holocaust. My great-grandparents were among the victims.”
In an effort to maintain strong relations with NATO-ally Turkey, the United States doesn’t officially recognize the genocide either, despite having the largest Armenian diaspora in the world.
“In the United States, a powerful Armenian community centered in Los Angeles has been pressing for years for Congress to condemn the Armenian genocide,” the New York Times reported. “Turkey, which cut military ties to France over a similar action, has reacted with angry threats. A bill to that effect nearly passed in the fall of 2007, gaining a majority of co-sponsors and passing a committee vote. But the Bush administration, noting that Turkey is a critical ally — more than 70 per cent of the military air supplies for Iraq go through the Incirlik airbase there — pressed for the bill to be withdrawn, and it was.”
When Gawker asked the WSJ why they would run such an ad, they were told, “We accept a wide range of advertisements, including those with provocative viewpoints. While we review ad copy for issues of taste, the varied and divergent views expressed belong to the advertisers.”
Overshadowing genocide may hardly seem like mere provocation, especially when in 1939 Hitler told his generals prior to invading Poland, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”