This blog will take a rare break from talking about me to make a comment on the kerfuffle surrounding Congress’ proposed condemnation of the Armenian Genocide. This isn’t a new story, by any means, and now it is looking increasingly unlikely that the full House will actually vote on the matter. BUT, I have LOVED watching Turkey get in a snit and the diplomatic delicacy that the executive branch has been using to try and avert a disaster that could have serious consequences for the supplying of the war in Iraq.
I’m not particularly bothered if the House doesn’t vote (although, Congresswoman Carson: vote for it). I know that it would mean a great deal to the few remaining, now extremely elderly, survivors. Judgement has already been rendered and I can’t believe that anyone would think that an up or down vote on a non-binding resolution would suddenly make those events real (or, conversely, that its failure would mean that the Genocide never happened). I think that the discussion the resolution has sparked is a victory for those people around the world who believe that genocide should never be swept under the carpet.
And, most importantly, I think it illustrates what we sometimes forget in the human rights community, when our discipline is under constant attack. No matter how bad they are at respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights, no one wants to be called out on it (even if the incidents in question happened almost 100 years ago)! We see it in the Human Rights Council now, with the difficulty it took to set up a process for the Universal Periodic Review, and with the other review mechanisms set up by the principle human rights treaties. And, haven’t we all observed states getting upset by unfavourable reviews from the big NGOs, i.e. the US’ perpetual reaction to the assessments by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch? This language is powerful, even if the US and others usually want to pretend that it is not.
I am so proud of the House for taking up this issue and for fighting for it. I am proud of the media for devoting so much attention to this story. It’s one of those very, very, very rare moments when I can actually believe that my home country is a force for good in the world. At the same time, I understand the realities of international relations and understand why the Bush Administration would oppose the resolution (even if I don’t approve of their actions…what else is new?).
Whatever happens, the point has been made. The Ottoman Empire did commit genocide against the Armenians. Turkey has been reprehensible in not only failing to acknowledge or apologise for the events, but in continuing to be hostile towards survivors who want their story to be told (one representative called it ‘genocide denial’). And thanks to the actions taken by members of the House of Representatives, the Armenians have finally won.