WWI Armenian Genocide not to be forgotten

WWI Armenian Genocide not to be forgotten

Today marks the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in World War I.

While the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire was front-page news in New Zealand a century ago, today it is all but forgotten.

A young Kiwi historian is doing his best to change that.

While New Zealand remembers the sacrifices our soldiers made at Gallipoli each Anzac Day, little is known about our connection to the Armenian Genocide, which began a day before the ANZAC troops landed.

"There is an argument by some historians that it was the invasion, the impending invasion at Gallipoli, that forced the Turks, or persuaded the Turks, or put the Turks under such a siege mentality, that they thought they needed to accelerate getting rid of the Armenians completely, cleansing ethnically the entire Ottoman Empire," says historian James Robins.

Mr Robins is researching New Zealand's many links to the killings and grapples with the fact that no New Zealand Government has ever formally recognised the genocide of Armenians.

"I would argue that it's our relationship between Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. We hold commemorations together, but I actually think that friendship is kind of poisoned. Because of Turkey's denial of the genocide, it means that New Zealand is party to denying the genocide as well," says genocide expert Maria Amoudian.

Ms Amoudian has discovered New Zealanders were well informed about the mass killings a century ago. The major newspapers commonly referred to them as a holocaust.

"Every time a village was burned down, it was in the New Zealand newspapers; every time they went and did a mass-slaughter of another community of Armenians, New Zealand covered it; so it is a very interesting turn of events to then come to the present day, and have the current Government say: 'We're not touching that issue,'" says activist and System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian.

Tankian has his own question for the New Zealand Government.

"Are we going to treat the genocide of millions, and all the after-effects, as political currency in today's world, as the Government of New Zealand? Yes or No? And then you'll know if you're going to recognise the genocide or not."

At a time when New Zealand recognises so many victims of war, activists say we need to be less selective and more honest.