When then-Sen. Barack Obama stated during his 2008 campaign, “as president I will recognize the Armenian Genocide,” his words were met with cautious optimism by Armenians around the world who looked to the United States for moral leadership on this issue and hoped he would be different from other politicians who had made the same unfulfilled promise.

Regrettably, his decision not to recognize the Armenian Genocide on April 24, the centennial of the beginning of the genocide, puts Armenians in danger of future ethnic violence.

So many Armenian families attribute their existence to the survival of only one or two relatives who were forced to flee their homes in present-day eastern Turkey during the genocide.

International recognition of the Armenian Genocide is vital to correcting a lack of justice for their past. And for Armenians living today in Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, recognition is critical in protecting their future.

When they look west toward Turkey, they are not only reminded of all that they lost, but also of a country that, for a century, has denied the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians. This has induced a collective sense of angst amongst them that such crimes could be repeated.

When they look east toward Azerbaijan, they are reminded of a country that both denies the Armenian Genocide and has made anti-Armenianism state doctrine. “Our main enemies,” declared Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, “are Armenians of the world.”

All of this contributes to an undercurrent of insecurity that millions of Armenians live with every day. The United States’ recognition of the Armenian Genocide would have allayed Armenians’ fears that they could be victims of further ethnic violence.

Its absence in the face of exaggerated Turkish and Azerbaijani threats has only perpetuated the risk of future atrocities against Armenians, simply for being Armenian.

Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte

Armenian Genocide descendant; author, “Nowhere: A Story of Exile”

Portland

Mark Dietzen

executive director, Americans for Artsakh; Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia, 2006-2008

Washington