U.S. Exercises Double Standard On Holocaust and Genocide

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Harut Sassounian Commentary 2004 December

Next year is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Around 1.5 million prisoners -- most of them Jews -- perished in gas chambers or died of starvation and disease at Auschwitz.

Next year is also the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide during which 1.5 million Armenians were killed or died of starvation and disease during forced deportations by the Ottoman Turks. While it would be appropriate to pay tribute to the memory of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, it would be just as appropriate to recognize both anniversaries and pay tribute to the Jewish and Armenian victims of crimes against humanity.

The United States government, however, is asking the United Nations to commemorate the anniversary of one of these genocides, while ignoring the other. The international community is being requested to respect the memory of one group of victims, but not the other! Last week, U.S. Ambassador John Danforth wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking that the General Assembly convene a special session on January 24, 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. There is no question that the whole world, including the United Nations, should recognize this solemn occasion. It is utterly unacceptable, however, that the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide be overlooked. The U.S. government should not discriminate among victims of genocide. Political games should not be played with the memory of the victims of such horrible crimes.

Armenian Americans should vigorously protest the selective amnesia of the Bush Administration. They should meet with Ambassador Danforth and ask him to make a similar request from the General Assembly for the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Failing that, Armenia should make its own request to the U.N. to commemorate appropriately the anniversary of the Genocide, given the fact that back in 1985, a U.N. human rights panel adopted a report recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

Armenian officials should ask Armenian communities throughout the world to contact their respective governments, so that the Ambassadors of these countries at the U.N. are instructed by their foreign ministries to support this initiative when it is presented to the General Assembly. Thus, the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide would be commemorated by the international community at the United Nations, and not just in Armenian Church halls, by Armenians, for Armenians!

Armenian Genocide Issue Raised in Pakistan

Newspapers and magazines throughout the world have published thousands of articles in recent months regarding Turkey's desire to join the European Union. Every one of these articles, be they for or against Turkey, have presented a valuable opportunity for Armenians worldwide to educate the readers of these publications about the Armenian Genocide and other Turkish violations of human rights. Thanks to the Internet, letters can be sent instantaneously to the editor of any publication, anywhere in the world. A case in point is the commentary published by the Daily Times of Lahore, Pakistan, on December 7, and posted on groong (Armenian News Network).

Titled, "Pakistan should look towards Turkey," the article was written by Ishtiaq Ahmed, an associate professor of political science at Stockholm University.

Prof. Ishtiaq urged his compatriots in Pakistan to emulate Turkey as their role model. He wrote: "The Ottomans practiced wide latitude of communal pluralism which allowed considerable internal autonomy to the various millets (nations) consisting of Armenians, Greeks and Jews while the ruling power remained in the hands of Sunni Muslims." I immediately e-mailed a letter to the editor of the Daily Times that was published in the Pakistani newspaper's Dec. 11 issue. Here are some excerpts of that letter: "I was dismayed that Prof. Ishtiaq glossed over major violations of human rights both by the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey. I am referring specifically to the Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 and the mass murders of Greeks.

More recently, there have been massive violations of the human rights of all Turkish citizens, including the minorities, particularly the Kurds....

Pakistan should not emulate that aspect of the Turkish model." While I am pleased that through this letter the Armenian Genocide issue was raised possibly for the first time in a Pakistani newspaper, I am dismayed that very few Armenians make an effort to write a letter to a newspaper, thereby missing the opportunity to publicize the Armenian cause among non-Armenians.

Last month, when Turkey's Ambassador to the U.S., Faruk Logoglu, appeared on C-Span's call-in TV show, Washington Journal, not a single Armenian called during the 30-minute-long program. No one countered Amb. Logoglu when he said that Turkey is a democratic country and that "anti-Semitism is alien to our culture and traditions." Most Armenians were probably not even aware that the Turkish Ambassador would appear on C-Span.

Armenians need to form a quick response team or hire a public relations firm that would monitor the media and alert them about articles that require an immediate response. The P.R. firm could also write commentaries and arrange to have them published in major newspapers.

A lot could be accomplished with an organized effort, an alert community, and a little bit of money!