Turks in US increase pressure over 1915 events

RAGIP SOYLU @ragipsoylu
ISTANBUL
Published 20.04.2016 00:13

Turkish-American organizations this year are trying every possible way to influence public opinion about the 1915 incidents that sparked a historical division between Turkey and Armenia.

There are dozens of billboards all over the United States that have already caused uproar in Boston due to its message. Armenians call it "genocide denial," whereas the Istanbul-based Turkic Platform accused Armenia and its ally Russia of lying over the tragedy that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The billboard that was placed near Armenian Heritage Park in Boston at the beginning of this month, following Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan's visit, led to protests and forced the company that owns the billboard space, Clear Channel Outdoor, to take it down. Although the company said it placed the billboard near the park by mistake, Turkic Platform officials said that the location was chosen specifically.

Thousands of Turks are also expected to march from the White House to the Turkish Embassy on April 24 while a 24-hour vigil is organized on Massachusetts Avenue where Armenian claims were protested.

The coordinator of the march, the Turkish American Steering Committee (TASC), which represents more than 140 nongovernmental organizations, sent a letter to the White House on Monday and asked President Barack Obama not to characterize the events of 1915 in terms of any crime. The letter, co-signed by prominent Turkish-American lawyer Gunay Evinch and businessman İbrahim Uyar, said Obama should give the Turkish-American community the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge Turkish and Muslim suffering while encouraging honest dialogue and reconciliation.

Obama has stopped short of using the word "genocide" to describe the 1915 events since he has come to office, despite promising to do so. He only used the term "Medz Yeghern," Armenian for the "Great Catastrophe," to describe the Ottoman government's decision to exile hundreds of thousands of Armenian civilians, which ended in their deaths in circumstances Turkish and Armenian scholars do not agree upon. Armenians accuse the Ottoman Empire of committing genocide in 1915 by killing 1.5 million Armenian Ottoman subjects.

There has been speculation since last year over Obama's April 24 statement. Some commentators in Turkey anticipate a change in Obama's stance on the issue since he is leaving office this year. Yet Obama still needs Turkey's cooperation on a wide-range of issues, including the war on DAESH.

A bipartisan group of U.S. representatives last year introduced the controversial, Armenian-lobby-backed Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution, aiming to officially recognize the Armenian genocide and call on Obama to work with the Turkish and Armenian governments to bring about reconciliation based upon full acknowledgment of the historic fact of the Armenian genocide.

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