Last October, the U.S. Congress caused an international firestorm by considering a resolution that labeled the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks "genocide." But the resolution stalled on the House floor, averting a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Turkey.
The incident serves to spotlight complexities in American-Turkish relations that are compounded by long-standing appeals for justice. In 1915, 2 million Armenian Christians lived in the land that is now Turkey. By 1925, at least 1 million Armenians were dead, and most of the others had fled. The reason for the great loss of life is a matter of acrimonious debate, reverberating all the way to Capitol Hill nearly a century later.
Karekin II, pontiff of the Armenian Apostolic Church based in the Republic of Armenia, is spiritual leader to perhaps 7 million Armenians worldwide. In October, he toured America to drum up support for the House resolution.
Many scholars say Armenians were victims of the first 20th-century genocide. But most Turks, descendants of the Ottomans, disagree. Their historians say the Armenians were casualties of World War I, not genocide victims.
As Congress considered the resolution, Turkish opposition was fierce and swift. Protesters marched on American consulates, while the Turkish government, a NATO member state, warned that passage of the resolution would forever change Turkey's relationship with the U.S.
Backlash Feared Inside Turkey
Today, Armenian communities flourish around the world, with perhaps 500,000 Armenians in the United States alone. The Republic of Armenia, established in 1991, is delicately nestled between regional powerhouses Turkey and Iran. But a mere 70,000 Armenian Christians remain in Turkey, the birthplace of Armenian identity ...1