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Obama falls 1 word short

Failure to use term ‘genocide’ in citing mass killings upsets Armenians.

April 27, 2010|By Zain Shauk

Armenians around the country voiced frustration with President Obama on Monday, days after he again avoided the word “genocide” regarding the 1915 mass killings of 1.5 million Armenians.

Representatives from Glendale, Burbank and Los Angeles — a region that is home to the largest Armenian population in the United States — called Obama’s statement to recognize Armenian Remembrance Day on April 24 the most recent disappointment from the administration on the issue.

Obama, when campaigning for president, repeatedly committed to recognizing the mass killings as genocide if he was elected, but on his first opportunity to do so in 2009, he referred to the atrocities as the Meds Yeghern, the Armenian phrase for “the great calamity” and did not use the word genocide.

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His statement Saturday was similar.

“Today is a day to reflect upon and draw lessons from these terrible events,” Obama said. “I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. It is in all of our interest to see the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts. The Meds Yeghern is a devastating chapter in the history of the Armenian people, and we must keep its memory alive in honor of those who were murdered and so that we do not repeat the grave mistakes of the past.”

Although the statement called for remembrance of the mass killings, it was a disappointment for Armenians who had supported Obama’s election bid because of his prior stance, Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said.

“He’s playing games with words and failing to live up not only to his campaign promises, but to his role and obligations as president of the freest country in the world to declare the events of 1915 a genocide,” Najarian said.

Armenian Americans, who had largely supported Obama in the past, have started to leave his corner after seeing him change his approach after being elected, said Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America.

“I think that they looked to him to provide more leadership and to honor his pledge, and that twice in a row now he’s fallen short of his own standards,” Hamparian said. “It’s a very frustrating thing, and I think the primary way that Armenian Americans can express their frustration in the civic arena is with their votes, and I think they’re getting ready to do that.”

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