This public letter is written by Sophia Armen, Armenian-American, great granddaughter of survivors from Van, Kharpert, Hadjin, and Istanbul.
To conscious community,
We, the undersigned, condemn the statement released on April 19,2015 by the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) entitled “USCMO Statement on 1915 Turkish-Armenian Events.” We come from diverse identities, issues, and their intersections. We are resisting the narrative that our communities do not engage in joint-struggle – we affirm we are currently and have historically done so. We reject the divide-and-conquer techniques of power and white supremacy that tell us to turn on each other for the sake of political expediency. We unite in our resolve to stand firm on the side of justice.
We acknowledge that the atrocities carried out by the Ottoman Turks from 1915-1923 constituted genocide, in which over 1.5 million Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontiac Greeks were systematically massacred. Their cultural erasure has continued since then, both through legislated Turkish government policy and though a sustained effort to whitewash this history of genocide; this USCMO statement is simply another piece in the normalization campaign of Turkish power-players.
We stand with survivors of the Armenian, Assyrian, Greek genocides and their struggle for justice. We express hope in and solidarity to the thousands of young people in Turkey who are fighting this narrative of normalization by the Republic, including the huge demonstrations being planned in Istanbul for the 100th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 2015 (including the “Recognize the Genocide” conference). We see now more than ever that this is the moment true peace can emerge. Without freedom for Turks, there can be no justice for Armenians. We know that without justice, there can be no peace.
We stand with oppressed people everywhere against systems of power that legislate, normalize, and perpetuate injustice. As allies, we know Turkey must recognize that genocide is part of its past and built on the murder of non-Turkish people and the seizure of their capital. Similarly, as Americans, we know that the United States was built on the genocide of Indigenous people and on the backs of Black slave labor. We condemn the West’s intentional amnesia of its histories of systematic violence through colonialism and ongoing genocides through empire.
We reject the signatories’ hesitance to call the systemic annihilation of over half the global Armenian population at the time as genocide. We reject the embedded systems of Islamophobia, colonialism, and imperialism in the United States and ongoing occupations of our homelands. And, we fundamentally reject the appropriation of the struggles of Middle Eastern Christians for furthering Western violence, and affirm their struggles within our own communities. We hold ourselves accountable to counter genocide denial, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, and racism within our own communities.
As Middle Eastern, Muslim, and other People of Color, we recognize the particularly disturbing language of the USCMO statement that seeks to support the Turkish government’s denialism in the name of American self-interest and geopolitical positioning. To quote the statement:
“As Americans, we are concerned about alienating a key ally, Turkey, through one-sided declarations that political and religious leaders have made on this subject…. Turkey has taken on a unique regional and global leadership role in ensuring peace and prosperity for all. Our government has been closely cooperating with the Turkish government on defeating ISIS while also alleviating the suffering of Syrian refugees …”
As people who have been directly affected by the occupations, war crimes, and violence of American foreign policy, we reject this language as representative of our communities.
Because we deeply care about the work of these organizations, we cannot be silent. Being critical and inclusive in our movements is a necessity. We ask these organizations to stand with survivors of ethnic cleansing regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, etc.
We maintain that this statement does not represent our communities. And, as experts of our own experiences, we choose to voice our solidarity despite the illusions and darkness of political lobbies, pundits, and price tags. As diasporans between home and homeland, we choose to create alternatives rooted in justice.
We honor the struggles of communities everywhere against ethnic cleansing. From Jaffa to Van, Never Again means Never Again, to No One.
This letter is published in solidarity with HYE-PHEN. A note from the writer: “This statement is for self-identified Armenian, Turkish, Muslim and Middle Eastern individuals only. We are speaking for ourselves and please use your allyship elsewhere if you do not identify. It is needed to come from us and not a space to replicate oppression.”