Response to Sassounian: Assad’s ‘Recognition’ of the Armenian Genocide

Harut Sassounian’s latest column, titled “Syrian President Finally Recognizes Armenian Genocide,” sheds light on the record of the Syrian government regarding the Armenian Genocide. The article however, ends with an unexpected conclusion, raising serious concerns.

In his column, Sassounian recounts in detail the cold attitude of the Syrian government regarding the issue of the Armenian Genocide during the period when Syria was in deep political and economic cooperation with Turkey (1999-2011). Much can be said about Syria’s record during that period, but the purpose of this article is to dwell less on the past and more on the present and the future.

Syrian President Mr. Bashar al-Assad, in his last interview with AFP, mentioned “the massacres perpetrated by the Ottomans against the Armenians.” Sassounian, who is very sensitive when it comes to the use of the term “genocide” by U.S. presidents, seems to have been satisfied with Assad’s choice of words and called on Armenians to welcome Mr. Assad’s “belated statement on the Armenian Genocide.”

“After refraining from acknowledging the genocide for all the wrong reasons for so long, at least now the Syrian president is on record, telling the truth about past and present Turkish atrocities,” writes Sassounian, despite acknowledging Mr. Assad’s political motivation to pressure Turkey.

As a citizen of the Syrian Arab Republic and a proud member of the awakening Syrian society, I would have much preferred to see the representatives of the government of my country make official statements on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in times of peace—and not in the time of war, out of political expediency, and to blackmail Turkey.

True, Armenian Genocide recognition by various parliaments and governments usually comes in an environment of lobbying and political alliances, but the basic reason for Syria to recognize the Armenian Genocide is the historic burden. Syria, after all, is a land of witnesses to the genocide. Neighboring Lebanon is a case in point. The Lebanese parliament recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2000, without pressure and without seeking political dividends in the region.

I am also a proud citizen of the Republic of Armenia and part of its awakening society. We should be aware of the fact that Armenia still sets the recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a foreign policy priority. Therefore, I regard Mr. Sassounian’s call to welcome the Syrian President’s statement deeply problematic. Welcoming such a statement undermines the moral high ground on which we stand as a nation that demands justice.

There is an enormous difference between the impact of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide at a time when the representatives of the Syrian government aren’t welcomed and are condemned on the international arena, and its impact at the time when they were the belle in the ball in most regional and international meetings and summits.

Mr. Sassounian, who is known as a fierce fighter of Turkish state propaganda, should not rule out the possibility that statements such as Assad’s could end up serving the policy of denial. Sometimes, the fact that the truth is being spoken is not as important as who is speaking it. Are we really that desperate to adopt Mr. Assad as a defender of our cause?

Harout Ekmanian

Harout Ekmanian

Harout Ekmanian worked as a journalist with the Arab, Armenian, and Western media for years prior to the beginning of the Syrian conflict. He studied law at the University of Aleppo and was a fellow at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights of Columbia University in 2015. Ekmanian has worked in media and development in Armenia in various capacities at the Civilitas Foundation and Investigative Journalists of Armenia (HETQ). He speaks Armenian, Arabic, English, and Turkish fluently, as well as some French and Spanish. He contributes regularly to the Armenian Weekly.


  1. I would like to see officials of the Armenian government fight for genocide recognition. They hardly do anything in this regard.

  2. Dear Mr. Ekmanian, in a perfect world, when justice is served to all nations no matter what size they are or what wealth they have, your stance would have been very welcome. However, that is not the reality as you know. We live in an volatile world when balance of power is changing and any country recognising the Armenian Genocide is a bonus for us. And if a tireless campaigner and politician like Mr. Sassonnian highlights a fact and promotes a piece of news is because he has a wealth of experience and knows what is necessary to be promoted and what is not. There might be more to this than we know.

  3. The same thing happened/is happening in Egypt with regards to the Armenian genocide recognition as a result of strained ties with Turkey. Mr. Sassounian’s response was near identical. I have also raised the issue about whether Armenians were this desperate for recognition that they’d happily accept it from A: criminals and dictators and B: people who clearly don’t care about the Armenian genocide and only care to “stick it” to Turkey. So I will say it once more: why are some of you happy for this kind of “recognition” when the memory of your murdered ancestors are being used and abused in a political battle? Are you really THAT desperate as Mr. Ekmanian asks?

  4. My dears, Assads recognition has no value, he does not represent Syria and has never been so. What dictators do and say go when they go. So please don’t call this bonus, he is just using our nobel case to tease Ardugan

  5. Recognition has become a political stand everywhere; and recognition by governments are through politicians. If for each recognition we’re questioning the political motives behind it, as each denial has its political reasons; and if we’re looking for utopic justice, which is served only at the Pearly Gates, then nothing can satisfy us in the real world: France has its reasons, Ocalan too, California & Lebanon too, Canada too, Egypt Syria Greece Cyprus too… Politics is the centerpiece, the reality of the day. Deniers, acceptors, neutrals, and those upholding the Fifth is our pool of nations-and we seem discontent from ALL of them!

  6. Well, I am not sure who wrote the last comment, and as many other head of states, including Obama, and this is not a comparison, but the Syrians Government for a long time has been very sympathetic and helpful to the Armenian Genocide and the cause of the Armenians, many of whom escaped East from Turkey to Syria & Lebanon, and West to Bulgaria and Greece. I think Israel and The United Governments should be and well overdue to do the right thing and FINALLY AND FORMALLY RECOGNIZE, as the entire European Community already has.

  7. While I agree with the moral principal with which we should gauge the sincerity of the Syrian president in his declaration and admission of the Armenian Genocide, I totally disagree with the stand taken against Mr. Sassounian’s article for welcoming Assad’s acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide on moral grounds. We are dealing with an enemy, the Turkish leadership primarily, that has no morals and the concept of morality has never played any role in its attitude towards the resolution of this issue. This is not about being desperate at all but it is all about being practical, realistic and fighting fire with fire.

    We, as well as the world, know our cause is just and that our enemy is insincere, opportunist and unjust. We live in a world full of hypocrisy and self-interest with very little regard for human sufferings and as such we must get off our high horse, put aside our moral compass and use every means and every opportunity to attack and humiliate our racist enemy. How can we even bring up moral issues when our enemy, the Turkish government namely, uses all forms of despicable tactics, such as geo-politics and bribe and blackmail, to deny justice to our people and to advance its own agenda. And who are those who, in this fight and pursuit for justice, will judge us morally other than those who have already sold their own souls and dignity to our enemy for lucrative energy contracts and such.

    We must fight the enemy with all means worthy of its deplorable character and more. We are not the ones who should carry the burden of guilt on our shoulders for President Assad if it turns out that his words were no more than selfish exploitation of the Armenian Cause. We must hold him to his words and let him carry that burden himself. Instead, we must stop being so proper and morally-inclined and give the enemy a bitter taste of his own medicine and a large dose of it at that.

  8. Actually, when it comes to desperation, it’s the criminal nation of Turkey who is desperate to erase the memory of the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish government is so extremely desperate about the Armenian Genocide issue, that’s it gotten to the point where they actually have a portion of their national spending budget, devoted to countering any kind of event, project, or recognition, associated with the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish nation, even has a law which under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, forbids the utterance of “Armenian Genocide” in public. Now that’s the meaning of being desperate!

  9. Counting one’s chickens before they are hatched is no patriotic virtue. The “sow’s ear” of Assad’s wily statements can never be turned into a silk Armenian purse. We need much better judgment than this going into 2015.

  10. Counting one’s chickens before they are hatched is no patriotic virtue, especially in the run-up to 2015. Quite the contrary. This whole thing reminds me of Bush’s famous “Mission Accomplished” speech from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003. Anyone remember? Certainly we can do better.

  11. ¨Totos tenemos razon¨,spanish saying-We all have some reasonable ¨thing¨…
    Recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the genocide state(Turkey)will eventually come….it is a matter of time -also efforts by us to have culprit brought to JUSTICE finally…
    So please, go easy.Indeed there is some difference and plenty at that..that a State in turmoil(like some one stated,e.g.Egypt at a desperate time such as she is in now, PREFERS to remember us..and another that without any pressure or out of its own benefits confirms that it happened.Mr. Sassounian indeed realizes that it was at such a time that Mr. Asad decided to do so,as a backlash to great Turkey that had cheated him,so to say….However, he is pointing it out to us and others .it is up to us and odars to judge what kind of people do what kind of justice TO us.
    My viewpoint is to WAIT AND SEE,what goes on in the arena by all others and get to know them well. As to us, we must not hesitate a moment in gearing up so to say for the 100th Anniversary of our Golgotha.My thesis is to re-organize ,especially in Diaspora and have a United front,if you wish.My version is not even that it is.
    Formation into Rank & File through PROFESSIONAL COLLEAGUES ASSOCIATIONS(5 on the scene already) then through these(grass roots, or bottoms upwards) and from the TOP,our magnates forming the Billion dollar ¨´working capital¨,downwards to a 100 share investors…tpo form the NATIONAL INVESTMENT TRUST FUND-FOUNDATION in Geneva,CH,wherefrom we can also organize many a project such as A NEW REPATRIATION,plus our Defensive and offensive propaganda machine-buying front page ads just before 2015 in all important media of the Wrold..Neewspapers etc. etc., etc.,

  12. Mr. Ekmanian, bravo. I couldn’t have said it better: “Sometimes, the fact that the truth is being spoken is not as important as who is speaking it.” As a student in Tehran’s Gulbenkian Elementary School, it was curious for me as a child to see how in some year we could march all the way up to the Turkish embassy during Genocide commemoration and on other years the basij or the pasdars would divert us hundreds of meters before. Like Mr. Assad, the mullahs wanted to pressure Turkey using their Armenian population. In the end, it was clear that we were being used as pawns and there was no respect for the truth. The truth of the Genocide is enhanced immensely when it comes from the Canadian Parliament or the French Senate and not from criminals like Assad. Alas, France and Canada have no borders with Armenian and are in no position to return any Armenian lands but they are where thousands of Armenians have felt so free as to develop tens of new little Armenias.

  13. When it comes to politics.Let us be naive.The President of Syria naturally strives for his survival but his stance will assure that Christian minorities will I hope survive the fanatisism of the Moslem right wingers.

  14. For the sake of his father who respected the Armenians til his death
    Say thanks to his son bashar whatever his motive was
    Fact is fact
    justice will be served at the end

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