By Engy Magdy
Special to The Tablet
MANHATTAN — The formal recognition that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenian people during the last years of the Ottoman Empire is important because it could pave the way for reparations, according to Vera Yacoubian, director of the Armenian National Committee of the Middle East Office.
“Turkey owes to the Armenian people with moral and political rights,” Yacoubian said. “The moral rights, namely to confess and apologize for crimes against 1.5 million Armenians killed directly by hands of its troops, moreover the forced displacement of thousands towards the Syrian desert and neighboring Arab countries. It has to pay compensation for the families of the victims,” she said.
“There is a great historical legacy that Turkey has to return. I mean church endowments, monasteries, schools, hospitals,” she added.
“In addition to all that I mentioned, Turkey confiscated money, jewelry, title deeds, moreover savings that the Armenian citizens have in Turkish and European banks. It had prevented Armenians from taking anything during the displacement,” Yacoubian said.
Between 1915 and 1923, many Armenians died while they were forcibly being displaced by Ottoman troops. The number is in dispute, and the term genocide means the killings were premeditated. Turkey acknowledges the deaths but disputes whether they were intentional and says the numbers were much lower than a million.
As of this year, 32 countries, including Canada, France, Germany, and Russia, have recognized the mass killings as genocide.
Late last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution labeling the killings as a genocide, but on Nov. 13, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blocked the resolution in the Senate. That was the same day Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with President Donald Trump at the White House. Graham was at that meeting. Under Senate rules, one senator can block a resolution.