"It's become a frustrating rite for Armenian Americans. Every year, in the days leading up to the April 24 anniversary, advocates have lobbied President Obama to use the word "genocide" to describe the killing of more than 1 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks in the political upheaval surrounding World War I. And every year, despite promising as a candidate to do so, Obama has declined to use the word.
But this time, advocates are hoping, it will be different. This year marks the 100th anniversary, a moment of intense interest, increased symbolism and a swirl of activity, including a cross-country race and an international pop music tour. It is also a period of the Obama presidency, its twilight, in which the president has shown a greater boldness on core issues of principle as he begins to consider his legacy. Advocates say they have been told that the administration is giving its most thorough review to the issue since 2009, Obama's first year in office.
"Whether I'm angry or frustrated, I'm looking at it in terms of the issue. And he has an opportunity. When he was a senator, he spoke clearly about the Armenian genocide. When he was a candidate, he spoke clearly about the Armenian genocide," said Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America. "This is the time for him to not only fulfill his promise, but also, in doing so, help prevent future genocide."
Obama had been a forceful voice on using the term genocide as both a senator and a presidential candidate. Since becoming president, Obama has said his views on the subject have not changed. But he has not used the term.
Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, said he had been told by "very senior people in the White House, in particular the National Security Council," that the administration is conducting its first thorough review of the issue since 2009. Administration officials will not comment on the review process and most observers do not expect to find out what Obama will say until April 24, given the sensitivity of the issue.
State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach said in a statement that "the president and other senior administration officials have repeatedly acknowledged as historical fact and mourned the fact that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, and stated that a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts is in all our interests, including Turkey's, Armenia's and America's."