President Donald Trump has declined to describe the murder of millions of Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian Christians at the hands of Ottoman Turkey over a century ago as a "genocide," disappointing many who held commemorations on Monday.
As the Assyrian International News Agency reported on Monday, the commemorations held in Los Angeles and cities around the world remembered the 1.5 million Armenians, up to one million Greeks, and 750,000 Assyrians that were slaughtered between 1915 and 1918 at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, now present day Turkey.
Although Trump and his predecessors, including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, have acknowledged the human rights abuses that began on April 24, 1915, they have refused to use the word "genocide" to describe what happened, as Turkey, a close NATO ally, disputes the facts behind the mass slaughter. With few allies in the region, the US benefits from its alliance with Turkey as it carries out multiple military and diplomatic operations.
The Turkish government has attempted to frame the deaths at the time as a result of World War I-related clashes, but most Western historians have said that the mass deportation, starvation, and intentional killing of Armenian and other communities was an ethnic and religious cleansing.
Sabri Atman, the director of the Assyrian Genocide Research Center, explained at the commemoration in L.A. on Monday before thousands of Armenians and Assyrians who had gathered there just why using that specific word is so important, however.
"This genocide is an event that the survivors will never forget. The wounds of this genocide are not healed yet. Turkey and its allies from the Kurdish tribes must not only acknowledge the crime they committed, but also compensate the survivors for the pain and losses suffered at their hands," Atman said.
He accused Turkey of wanting the world to forget what happened to the millions of Christians its armies slaughtered, but argued that until the world recognizes the truth of the extent of the slaughter, there can be no forgetting.
"We urge the President of The United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump, to recognize the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocide. We want to hear the 'G' word and saying yes, it was genocide," Atman continued.
"We want to be understood by the entire world. We want our wounds to be healed. This is what we are asking for and this is possible only when we get justice."
That was not to be, however, as the White House released Trump's statement on "Armenian Remembrance Day" on Monday, which did not include the use of the word "genocide."
"Today, we remember and honor the memory of those who suffered during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century," Trump said, in part.
"We must remember atrocities to prevent them from occurring again," he urged. "We welcome the efforts of Turks and Armenians to acknowledge and reckon with painful history, which is a critical step toward building a foundation for a more just and tolerant future."
Clark University Turkish historian Taner Akcman recently discovered a document he describes as a "smoking gun" proving that the Armenian genocide happened.
"It is a telegram sent July 4, 1915. And the telegram says the following - are the Armenians who were deported from there being liquidated? Are the troublesome individuals whom you have reported as having been exiled and expelled been eliminated or merely sent off and deported? Please report honestly," he told NPR Monday.
Obama, who had previously promised to use the word "genocide" but never did, was strongly criticized for his failed promises.
"The president's surrender represents a national disgrace," said Aram S. Hamparian, executive director of the Washington-based Armenian National Committee of America, in 2015. "It is a betrayal of the truth, and it is a betrayal of trust."
Samantha Power, UN ambassador under Obama, said Monday she was "sorry" that the Obama administration did not recognize the Armenian genocide.
Hamparian has now slammed Trump as well, the L.A. Times reported, accusing the Republican of "effectively outsourcing U.S. genocide-prevention policy to [Turkish President] Recep Erdogan, an arrogant and authoritarian dictator who clearly enjoys the public spectacle of arm-twisting American presidents into silence on Turkey's mass murder of millions of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and other Christians."
When asked on Monday's briefing with reporters about the omission of the word, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said: "It is perfectly in keeping with the language that's been used over and over again."