The US Congress’ recognition of the Armenian Genocide goes beyond trying to vex Turkey
Amidst all the ruckus over impeachment, Ukraine and whistleblowers at Congress, the House of Representatives took a landmark decision on Tuesday 29 October, to formally recognise the Armenian Genocide.
Various incarnations of the resolution, which passed overwhelmingly by 405-11, have appeared and been shelved on a number of occasions over the past few decades. Pushed forward by Armenian-American advocacy groups with the support of key representatives and senators, it was always countered by lobbying led by the Turkish government, often with the backing of the State Department or the defence establishment.
Although a majority of scholars have long agreed that the experience of the Armenians and other non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War amounts to genocide, the government of Turkey denies that designation, instead describing the massacres and deportations as general wartime catastrophes during which Muslim populations suffered and died as well.
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Armenia’s victory for the people faces at least 3 challenges
What transpired in Armenia over the past month was astonishing, sometimes bewildering, often inspiring, and in all events historical. The people in Armenia and the Armenians in diaspora communities throughout the world were on tenterhooks as they followed the fast pace of developments in the country. They have a right to feel pride in a political movement that galvanised Armenian society in an unprecedented manner, lending a voice and a sense of empowerment to many who had long felt marginalised and alienated. They can breathe a sigh of relief as the leadership of the popular opposition movement takes office.
But the real work begins now. Aside from a number of general principles of policy such as clamping down on corruption and boosting the rule of law, opposition leader and now prime minister Nikol Pashinyan has declared a few specific points on his agenda: reforms of the electoral code and the law on political parties, followed by extraordinary elections within a reasonable timeframe. A new parliament for a new Armenia must be as legitimate as possible, based on free and fair elections, truly reflecting the popular will.
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The Armenian Island of Venice
The Armenian presence in Europe stretches from London to Larnaca, Lisbon to Lviv; the Armenian Catholic Mkhitarian Congregation is among the most impactful examples of that legacy and this year marks a three-century-long presence in one of Europe’s most iconic towns.
The vaporetto leaves from San Zaccaria to one of the most unique corners of Venice, a testament to the centuries of multi-cultural history of that magnificent city. The unique corner is really an island – Isola di San Lazzaro degli Armeni, or the Island of St. Lazarus of the Armenians. This year marks the 300th anniversary of that island becoming home to the Mkhitarian or Mechitarist Congregation.
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