An influential voice has joined critics of President Barack Obama’s decision not to refer to the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 as genocide: Kim Kardashian West.
“I would like President Obama to use the word ‘genocide’,” the reality TV star, who is married to the rapper Kanye West, wrote in an op-ed piece for Time magazine. “It’s very disappointing he hasn’t used it as president. We thought it was going to happen this year.
“I feel like we’re close – but we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in 1915. Turkey, however, disputes the use of the word “genocide” to describe the killings and says the death toll has been inflated.
On Tuesday, the White House announced that the US would use the 100th anniversary of the genocide “to urge a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts”. Obama’s statement, however, did not include the word “genocide”.
On Saturday, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said France, Germany, Russia and Austria – whose leaders or parliaments have recently described the killings as genocide – supported “claims constructed on Armenian lies”. Erdogan also accused the US of siding with Armenia, despite Obama’s omission of the contentious word.
“They should first, one by one, clean the stains on their own histories,” Erdogan said.
Despite having previously described the events of 1915 as genocide, Obama has yet to do so as president. In 2008, Samantha Power, now US ambassador to the United Nations and then a campaign surrogate for Obama, recorded a campaign video urging Armenian-Americans to vote for him because he would “call a spade a spade and speak truth about it.
“I hope you in the Armenian community will take my word for it, but if not, I hope you will just pay attention in the coming days to everything that comes out of that person’s mouth, Barack Obama’s mouth, because he is a person who can be trusted,” Power said.
Kardashian, whose great-great-grandparents left Armenia in 1914, plans to increase awareness of the genocide and has called on other celebrities with an Armenian background to do so as well.
“So many people have come to me and said, ‘I had no idea there was a genocide,’” she wrote. “There aren’t that many Armenians in this business. We have this spotlight to bring attention to it, so why would we just sit back?
“I will continue to ask the questions and fight for the genocide to be recognized for what it was.”
This is not the first time Kardashian has called for the genocide to be recognized. In 2011, she wrote a similar blogpost to urge the US government to recognize it.
Kardashian and her family have spent the last month visiting Armenia. While Armenians might have been uneasy about her visit at first, it has changed the way Armenia is covered in the mainstream media, said historian Vahram Ter-Matevosyan.
“This discourse shows that Armenian identity is still alive,” he said. “I am sure Turkey is having nightmares about it. Some there said that Kim Kardashian was the latest weapon the Armenians are using. Once she leaves, she will be missed.”