With the centenary the Armenian Genocide on April 24, the world was drawn back into an intense debate over how best to honor the 1.5 million Armenian Christians killed by the Islamic leaders of the former Ottoman Empire (now modern-day Turkey).
More surprisingly, even after 100 years, that debate includes whether nations should call the slaughter a genocide.
Despite previously applying the term “genocide” to the event, President Barack Obama avoided use of the term during ceremonies commemorating its centenary.
While being interviewed last week during the promotional tour for his first nonfiction book, “Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot That Avenged the Armenian Genocide,” acclaimed Armenian-American playwright and actor Eric Bogosian condemned President Obama for backtracking, while praising Pope Francis for having the courage to use the term.
“[Obama] clearly said in the past when he was running for president that it’s genocide. He has to speak to memorialize our grandparents and great grandparents,” said Bogosian, calling from a tour stop in Detroit. “Two of mine died in the middle of it. The anonymous death is a sin.
“Just do it, say what the truth is and let the chips fall where they may,” continues Bogosian, who starred on NBC’s “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” for six seasons, in addition to being the writer/performer of six Off-Broadway classics, including “Talk Radio.”
“Do you really think that if Obama came out tomorrow and called it genocide, we’d be thrown out [of Turkey] the next day? It’s absurd. It doesn’t help Turkey either, they’re a modern complex society,” Bogosian said.
“I wouldn’t hold my breath on anything changing soon. The people in the Obama administration are tearing their hair out of their heads over this because something has to get said on the 100th anniversary date.”
The nation of Turkey has succeeded the Ottoman Empire since WWI ended nearly a century ago, and its more Western-minded leaders have strived to make their nation a NATO member as well as a vital power due to its location near Russia, Iraq and Iran. In return, the United States and some of its allies have treaded lightly when discussing the slaughter.
Bogosian was pleased, however, with the Vatican’s straightforwardness. Pope Francis not only called the atrocities genocide shortly after his election in 2013, building on Pope John Paul II’s use of the term in 2001, he held a special Mass marking the genocide’s centennial April 12 in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“What the pope did was really significant, because it forces them to look like they’re aligned with deniers. The pope really did something kind of amazing here. You can’t take it just at face value,” Bogosian said.
“What the pope did has to do with ISIS doing similar things to the Turks in the genocide, taking Christians out of villages and killing them. This is untenable and any civilized people need to speak out against it.”
“Operation Nemesis” details the daring and successful efforts of several Armenian émigrés to the U.S. who teamed up to commit revenge assassinations on the top Turkish leaders responsible for the genocide, and how they got away with it for the rest of their lives.