Former Ambassador to Armenia Speaks at Wilson

Byline: Xiaomeng Li

Posted: May 2, 2010

Former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans gave a speech "The Armenian Question" at Wilson on April 20. His speech focused on the historical incident which is still an ongoing controversy of the Armenian Genocide.

Evans gave a brief history of the conflict between Armenia and Turkey at the beginning of his speech. He said that the 19th century was "a century of nationalism" for the Ottoman Empire. Young Turks, who were educated in France, learned about democracy and aimed to democratize the country. However, there was one group that thought they should get rid of the Armenians in order to achieve this goal. Therefore, during and after the World War I, Armenians were largely deported from Ottoman Empire and the Turks killed millions of them.

The history of the term "genocide"

According to Evans, President Reagan was the first president that used the word "genocide" in 1981. Recently, "genocide resolution" has been put on the spot again because of the argument regarding the Obama administration's attitude rewords this issue. "It was during Clinton and Bush years that the U.S. stopped using the word "genocide" to define this history," said Evans, "Last year, the then Senator Obama stated that Armenian Genocide is clearly the established true fact of the history. This year, President Obama went to Turkey, made clear his view was not changed, but he did not use the word ‘genocide.'" Evans recognized the fact that the relationship between the U.S. and Turkey is different from the past, "It is true that U.S. have close relationship with Turkey. Turkey is our ally in the Iraqi War. The location of the country is important, and the country's GDP is as high as Sweden's." Evens went on to say that, "Now everyone in Turkey denies the fact of Genocide. They prevent this fact from being known."

The facts fit the definition

Evans stated the main reasons and importance of recognizing this history as "genocide." First, the fact fits the definition. Earlier in the speech Evans defined "genocide" as "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical or religious group." Second, there are more and more improper uses of the word "genocide" which concerns Evans, "I noticed once there was a phrase ‘fashion genocide' on major media." He thought that people should take the word more seriously. Third, genocide is happening again and again. "Every time after genocide people wish it will never happen again. But ‘never again' becomes an empty slogan." He then mentioned the genocide cases in Rwanda and Cambodia.

Students respond

Zhanna Movsesyan '10, who is from Armenia, said that "It was a big honor for me to hear [Evans'] so much passion and interest about Armenian genocide. Ambassador's truly devotion to Armenian issue deeply touched my heart. I was impressed with his detailed lecture about my nation and country."

Still "no diplomatic relations"

Talking about the current situation between Armenia and Turkey, Evans suggested it was improving, but there is still "no diplomatic relations." He also thought that Turkey should make more of an effort in order to improve the relationship. "The border between these two countries is the last closed border in Europe, it is important to have diplomatic relation and exchange diplomatic notes." However, he also realized that to involve this history in Turkish education and culture will take a long time. To conclude, Evans talked about the significance of recognizing the Armenian Genocide, "The Armenian successors deserve our respect. Their voice should be heard."

A "perspective informed by experience"

David True, Assoc. Prof. of Religious Studies, said that, "It was a very interesting lecture that addresses the Armenian genocide, modern Turkey, and the challenges of reconciliation. Ambassador Evans offered a perspective informed by the experience and intensive study of these issues."

Last Updated: September 25, 2011

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