As it stands, Lebanon is the only Arab country to recognise the first genocide of the modern age, The Armenian genocide. It must be said that in addition to Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire, The Porte also ethnically cleansed Greeks and Assyrian Christians living in the Empire.
The fact that many states still do not recognise the Armenian Genocide is a scar on the face of humanity. It not only cheats the innocent dead of their right to eternal peace, but it allows others to deny subsequent atrocities whether it be the Holocaust conducted by the Nazis, the Ukrainian fascist ethnic cleansing of Poles and Jews, or the ethnic cleansing of Christians in Iraq and parts of Syria no longer controlled by the government.
During an exclusive interview with RT, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church said the following:
“I have on many occasions been forced to raise my voice – on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church – in defence of those whom I would call the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. Of all the minorities in the region, it is Christians who have been suffering the most. The statistics show an appalling dynamic: there used to be 1.5 million Christians in Iraq – now there is less than 150,000. There used to be half-a-million Christians in Syria, and now they have vanished without a trace, killed or forced to flee.
The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity, and of Christian culture. Which is why killing Christians or driving them out of the region isn’t just a crime against religion and against human rights and freedoms: it is a civilisational disaster. Once Christian communities vanish from those countries, life there will change in every respect. Prior to the current crisis, the governments in those countries, including secular governments, had to reckon with the presence of Christians and devise their policies in a way that would ensure some kind of sectarian balance. Now there’s no need to maintain a balance. And who knows what may happen to the remaining Christian population in those countries”.
The persecuting and killing of Christians in the region is not new. The Armenian Genocide of 1915 set a precedent for this. To this day, Turkey as well as Kurdish movements who represent the descendants of those who carried out the Genocide, deny that the atrocity ever took place.
I believe it is high time for Syria to join Lebanon in officially recognising the Armenian Genocide. Prior to the civil unrest in Syria which began in 2011, The Syrian Arab Republic had always been a safe and comfortable places for all varieties of Muslims and Christians alike. Prior to the Wahhabist invasion of Syria, crosses and minarets stood proudly and beautifully, side-by-side in cities like Aleppo.
Indeed, it was on the soil which today is part of the Syrian Arab Republic, to which the Turks deported many Armenians leaving them for dead. The Syrians along with other Arab countries won their independence from the Ottomans after the First World War, during which the Armenian Genocide took place.
If Damascus recognised the Armenian Genocide, it would show a western world, fed so much disinformation and outright lies about modern Syria, that Syria supports dignity and freedom for all its citizens, regardless of confession.
It would also be a sign that Turkish ambitions in the Arab world will not be tolerated, as recognising the crimes which Ottoman Turkey committed against Armenians is still an issue with which the government of the Turkish Republic takes exception. It would show once and for all that President Assad’s Syria takes the high road whilst Erdogan’s Turkey more often than not, does the opposite.
Furthermore, Syria must help show the wider world that Patriarch Kirill’s words are not falling on deaf ears in the Middle-East. Syria represents an opportunity for continued peaceful coexistence in a region that has seen foreign meddling turn Shi’a against Sunni, Jew against Palestinian, Muslim against Christian and secularist against fundamentalist.
In recognising the Armenian Genocide, Syria will stand almost alone in the Arab world, on the side of multi-lateral ecumenism. Her constitution speaks to such things and her military actions against Islamic terrorism will help to preserve this valuable trait of the great Syrian Arab Republic.