Acknowledge the genocide of 1915

Nuri Kino puts his hope in US president Joe Biden.
Nuri Kino is an award-winning investigative journalist, author and founder of the human rights and humanitarian aid organization ADFA.
Foto: Hopig Khachadourian

Many of us are holding our breath. It has been leaked from the White House that on April 24, president Joe Biden might acknowledge the genocide of Christians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven's government most likely won't acknowledge it, writes Nuri Kino.

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OPINION. It is a symbolic date. On the night of April 24, 1915, more than 100 Armenian intellectuals were arrested in Constantinople (Istanbul). They were executed shortly afterwards. It was the start of the genocide of Christians by the Ottoman Empire. At least 1.5 million christian Armenians, Assyrians/Syriacs and Greeks were then slaughtered.

I contacted a source in the US government, someone I have worked with in the fight for the survival of Middle Eastern minorities and indigenous peoples, and asked if that could be true. I got the answer that the probability is 70 percent. But the same person also said that before Obama became president, but recognition did not happen at that time.

Help from the Kardashian family

But we're not giving up hope. The Kardashian family, led by Kim, with about half a billion followers, are lobbying this time for recognition on their social media. They have joined the Armenian lobby organization ANCA's campaign, The Armenian National Committee of America, for Biden to keep his promise. During the election campaign, his message was that the genocide must be recognized in order for the descendants of survivors to find peace, and for Turkey to stop denying the atrocities of the early 20th century. 

About 200,000 thousand of us live in Sweden. ANCA has a sister organization in Sweden, ADFA, A Demand For Action, which I founded, and of which I am chairman. We started in response to the ISIS genocide of Christians, Yezidis and other minorities as well as moderate Muslims, in the summer of 2014. 

We knew that it would spread

This was almost exactly one century after the first genocide. We shouted at demonstrations, we shared posts and articles in the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands to make the outside world aware of the ethno-religious cleansing in Iraq. We knew that it would spread to neighboring countries if nothing was done to stop it. The new genocide had been going on for over a decade.

ISIS' genocide might not have happened if the genocide at the beginning of the last century had been acknowledged.

In July 2014, Bashir, a Christian Iraqi called me. He had been forcibly deported from Sweden. He whispered, ”It's over, they're here, they've taken over.” Then he let me listen to the terrorists. Shouting through megaphones from trucks in the streets of Mosul, northern Iraq, the terrorist and pedophile sect ISIS ordered  Christians to ”convert, flee or die.”  Yezidis were given only two options. ”Convert or die.” Shia Muslims accused of working for the ”enemy”, in this case the iraqi army, were given no choice at all. They were killed instantly. And so it began, the slaughter of really everyone who did not want to join and adopt the ISIS doctrine.

Full-scale genocide

For Yezidis and Christians (and the few mandaeans who remained in the land), it meant a full-scale genocide. Eight thousand girls and women were kidnapped and sold in slave markets, regardless of their age. One girl I interviewed was 12 years old when she was first sold. She was a child and a virgin, and that  made her extra attractive in the market.

For the indigenous peoples of Iraq, Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs and Yezidis, this was another genocide, another attempt to exterminate them, their history, religion, language and ethnicity. ”Once and for all.”

We, descendants of the martyrs of 1915, refused to watch in silence. We took to the streets in 42 cities. More than 300 000 people demonstrated in cities such as Stockholm, Los Angeles, Sydney and Berlin. But the media was silent and confused. What would you call ISIS? Rebels? Opposition? We appealed for them to use ”terrorists.” It took a long time before that happened. Over time, the media and politicians began to understand. In Sweden it took longer than in other countries.

The words from Hitler

Most of you don't know that Hitler in 1939 said: ”After all, who today remembers the genocide of the Armenians?” You also may not know that the UN Genocide Convention was inspired by the genocide of 1915. That and the Holocaust.

But we, the descendants of survivors were well aware of  the 1915 genocide. We have been forced to live with it, because almost all Assyrians/Syriacs/Chaldeans, Armenians and Greeks in my generation have grandparents who are survivors of it.

So we contacted/helped MEPs and US congressmen to write resolutions. Two of significant importance. One about the genocide in 1915 and one about the genocide in 2014. And both were voted through. We of course, were overjoyed.

The importance of a recognition

ISIS' genocide might not have happened if the genocide at the beginning of the last century had been acknowledged. Then the signals leading up to the genocide of 2014 would have been seen and understood, and perhaps stopped. The US congress' recognition of the genocide of 1915 is fantastic, because now it will be included in school books, for example. If Biden also admits it, it will never be denied again. Something The Los Angeles Times summarized best in its editorial of April 5 this year, ”Call it by its proper name.” Swedish PM Stefan Löfven most likely won't acknowledge it. The Social Democrats of Sweden also refused to acknowledge the 2014 genocide.

And Sweden continues to deport Christians and Yezidis to a place where genocide still takes place, just as in the case of Bashir, who called me from Mosul. He was deported in 2012, although I and others did everything we could to stop the deportation. But maybe that's another discussion…

Nuri Kino

Nuri Kino is an award-winning investigative journalist, author and founder of the human rights and humanitarian aid organization ADFA.

Translation: Daniela Babylonia Barhanna