On April 24, 2021, President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA welcomes the statement by President Biden recognizing the Armenian Genocide, the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, which took place between 1915 and 1923. Such acknowledgment by a U.S. president is long overdue and is clearly consistent with the recognition of the Genocide by both Houses of the U.S. Congress in 2019.
Why is this recognition significant, over 100 years after the fact? In large part, because it sends a clear message to the world about America’s enduring values: an acknowledgment of the organized attempt by a country to destroy its indigenous population, an acknowledgment of the wounds that are left festering even several generations after they took place and the message that human rights and historical truth trump geopolitical considerations. Moreover, this recognition sends a message to the Turkish people, a substantial percentage of whom know the truth about the Genocide from their grandparents and other family members, and/or from their own research, but are afraid to speak about it openly because it is illegal to do so in the Republic of Turkey.
It is not clear if President Biden’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide will lessen the ongoing prejudice and human rights violations against minorities, journalists, academics and others in present-day Turkey. But what is clear now is that the United States has taken a stand for the truth and a recognition of the historic crime of genocide, signaling to any nation or group contemplating the commission of ethnic cleansing that their actions will not be forgotten, even 100 years later, and that there will be an eventual reckoning, if not for them during their lifetimes, for their descendants if they do not acknowledge these crimes.