Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, has harshly criticized the US administration for referring to the 1915 killings of Armenians as genocide while accusing “political charlatans” of trying to rewrite history for their own political ambitions.
A statement from US President Joe Biden on the occasion of Armenian Remembrance Day, marked on every April 24, said on Monday, “Today, we pause to remember the lives lost during the Meds Yeghern—the Armenian genocide— and renew our pledge to never forget.”
Turkey categorically rejects the 1915-16 killings of more than a million Armenians as genocide. As many as 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed from 1915 to 1917 during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, which suspected the Christian minority of conspiring with adversary Russia in World War I.
The first time Biden referred to the 1915 killings as genocide was in 2021 shortly after his election, in a landmark step in defiance of Turkey.
Çavuşoğlu tweeted on Monday that “the political charlatans who attempt to distort … history are on stage again,” in a tacit reference to the US administration. He said history cannot be rewritten with political statements and that nobody can a give a history lesson to the “great Turkish nation.”
A statement from the Turkish foreign ministry also condemned the countries recognizing the Armenian killings during the final days of the Ottoman Empire as genocide, saying the 1915 incidents cannot be defined based on politicians’ personal agenda and their domestic political considerations.
“Such an approach can only lead to distortion of history. Those who insist on this biased approach will go down in history as worthless opportunist politicians,” said the ministry.
In his statement Biden said Ottoman authorities arrested Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople on April 24, 1915, the start of a systematic campaign of violence against the Armenian community.
“In the years that followed, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths—a tragedy that forever affected generations of Armenian families. As we join nations around the world in remembering this painful history, we also reflect on the resilience and resolve of the Armenian people,” he said, while calling on everyone to recommit to speaking out against hate, standing up for human rights and preventing atrocities.
When Biden referred to the 1915 killings as genocide for the first time in 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused him of making “groundless and unfair” comments while also pointing out the US history of slavery and persecution of Native Americans.
“We can also talk about what happened to Native Americans, Blacks and in Vietnam,” Erdoğan said at the time as he called on Biden “to look in the mirror.”