The Armenian genocide and the Orbán government’s shameful stand

By now, I lived most of my adult life in California, and I consider myself a proud citizen of this state, which is also the home to the largest Armenian community outside Armenia.

April 24th is the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, and there were commemorations all over California. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the massacre of more than 1.5 million Armenians, who were the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century. About two million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire before World War I; there were fewer than 400,000 by 1922, the rest systemically killed or dying from starvation and forced relocation.

Armenian Genocide Memorial Monument in the city of Montebello, California.

Armenian Genocide Memorial Monument in the city of Montebello, California.

Turkey has long denied that Armenian deaths constituted “genocide.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists that the deaths resulted from a “civil conflict” and accused France, Germany, Russia and Austria — whose leaders or parliaments recently described the killings as genocide — of supporting “claims constructed on Armenian lies.” He also accused the United States of siding with Armenia, although President Barack Obama stopped short of using the term “genocide.” The White House recently announced that the US would use the anniversary “to urge a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts”, but, to the dismay of the Armenian community, the statement did not include the word “genocide” either.

Pope Francis declared that Turkey has committed genocide; in response, Turkey withdrew its envoy from the Vatican. Péter Erdő, Hungarian Cardinal in a letter to Catholics of All Armenians Karekin II, wrote about full solidarity “with the Armenian people that has so much suffered in the past.”

How about the Orbán government? Today Hungary is one of the few countries in the world without diplomatic relationship with Armenia; it has been suspended in 2012.

In 2004, an officer of the Azerbaijani army, Ramil Safarov murdered an Armenian officer in Budapest while participating in a NATO training. He was sentenced by a Hungarian court to life in prison, but as part of a secret deal between the Orbán government and the Azeri regime, in August 2012 Hungary transferred Safarov to Baku to complete his life sentence there. However, after he arrived, President Ilham Aliyev pardoned him, and he has become a national hero.

Armenian Americans are demonstrating against the Orbán government in 2012 in Los Angeles

Armenian Americans are demonstrating against the Orbán government in 2012 in Los Angeles.

On the same day, Armenian President Sargsyan suspended diplomatic relations with Hungary. Armenians protested against the “dirty deal” at Hungarian embassies and consulates all over the world, among them here in California, in Los Angeles. They chanted: “Budapest, there’s blood on your hands.” (Video of Armenian American demonstration against the Orbán government in 2012 in Los Angeles.)

Hungary’s neighbors and Visegrad Partners (Austria, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic) all acknowledge the Armenian genocide and maintain diplomatic relations with Armenia – Hungary is the exception.

Several Hungarian political parties, among them the Democratic Coalition (DK) and Politics Can Be Different (LMP), have demanded that the Orbán government acknowledge the genocide, but Fidesz refused to talk about it. Mr. Orbán is busily building closer ties with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

This shameful attitude is unacceptable.

György Lázár

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