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Armenian Genocide Addressed by Biden, Fresno Leaders

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People line up to lay flowers at the monument in Yerevan, Armenia, last year honoring the victims of the Armenian genocide. (PAN File via AP)
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President Joe Biden on Sunday commemorated the 107th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide, issuing a statement in memory of the 1.5 million Armenians “who were deported, massacred or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination” by Ottoman Empire forces.

Biden’s statement did not reference the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which Biden has called a genocide. Yet Biden used the anniversary to lay down a set of principles for foreign policy as the United States and its allies arm Ukrainians and impose sanctions on Russia.

“We renew our pledge to remain vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms,” the president said. “We recommit ourselves to speaking out and stopping atrocities that leave lasting scars on the world.”

Armenian Genocide Observed in Fresno

In Fresno, the Armenian genocide was observed at City Hall and other locations ahead of Biden’s statement.

On Friday, members of Fresno’s Armenian community, along with Congressmen Jim Costa and David Valadao, offered words to console those who lost their ancestors in the genocide and vowed to never forget the atrocities.

“Although Turkey continues to deny the genocide and tries to rewrite history, history cannot be rewritten,” said Honorary Consul Berj Apkarian of the Armenian Consulate of Fresno. “We gave innocent lives but we are here and we are destined to thrive regardless of all the odds against us or against our nation in Armenia as well as in diaspora.”

Turkey Responds to Biden’s Declaration

In 1915, Ottoman officials arrested Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople, now Istanbul. The Biden statement notes that this event on April 24 marked the beginning of the genocide.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Biden used the term “genocide” for the first time during last year’s anniversary. Past White Houses had avoided that word for decades out of a concern that Turkey — a NATO member — could be offended.

Turkey’s government was angered by Biden’s declaration on Sunday, just as it was last year.

“Statements that are incompatible with historical facts and international law regarding the events of 1915 are not valid,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Turkey acknowledges that many died in that era, but it says that the death toll is inflated, that the deaths resulted from civil unrest and that Muslim Turks were also killed.

Separately, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Twitter accused some Western leaders of “hypocrisy” for arguing in relation to Russia’s actions in Ukraine that the term “genocide” can only be determined by court decisions.

While Biden has said it would be up to lawyers to decide if Russia’s conduct met the international standard of genocide, Biden has not been shy about condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin for pursuing genocide.

“It sure seems that way to me,” Biden said earlier this month.

Valley Lawmakers Successfully Pushed for Genocide Recognition

A bipartisan group of more than 100 House members signed a letter to Biden in April 2021 calling on him to become the first U.S. president to formally recognize the World War I-era systematic killing and deportation of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire.

Several Valley congressmen were among those signing the letter, including Valadao, Costa, Josh Harder, and then Rep. Devin Nunes.

“The shameful silence of the United States Government on the historic fact of the Armenian Genocide has gone on for too long, and it must end,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to follow through on your commitments, and speak the truth.”

(Associated Press contributed to this article.)

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email