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Letter from the President of Oxford University Students Union to the Prime Minister regarding Recognition of the Armenian Genocide - 17 March 2005

The Armenian Genocide

Dear Prime Minister,

I have been mandated by an overwhelming vote of the Oxford University Student Union Council to write to you regarding the 1915 onwards murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish state. As a result of an extremely well-argued debate, the representatives of Oxford students have asked me to write urging you to reconsider the British government's assertion that these events do not constitute a genocide. Britain is increasingly isolated in holding this position - Canada, France, Switzerland, many states of the U.S.A., amongst others, have adopted resolutions making explicit a conviction that the Ottoman Turkish state perpetrated a genocide against the Armenians.

The United Nations defines genocide as   "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group". We believe that it is a case of flagrant moral dishonesty for the British government to deny that what happened to the Armenians fits this description. If the British government of the day was willing to acknowledge the awfulness of these events, if Winston Churchill was willing to call them a "holocaust", why will your government and you yourself not do so now?

Genocide is a crime so awful that it beggars belief that it could ever occur, and we rightly gather together on Holocaust Memorial Day to commemorate those who were slaughtered by a nation in thrall to racist ideologues. But we cannot stop at that, and claim that to remember one genocide will help us prevent the rest. We know, from Rwanda and elsewhere, that this simply isn't true. If we are to prevent future genocides, we must be honest, clear and thoughtful about all those which have gone before, even those where to acknowledge the truth will upset or anger some. We understand that politicians and others in modern Turkey are unhappy to have the events of 1915 and beyond labeled as genocide, but by continuing to deny the truth of these events, they too become victims of these awful crimes. The British government should not assist their denials, for that is unfair to the Armenians, to the Turkish, and to the people of this country, who must surely all want the truth to be known and reflected upon.

The upcoming April 24 th is the date these events are commemorated; this year is the 90 th such anniversary - there could be no better time for you to stand up and commit the British government to speaking the truth about these matters.

Hitler once famously asked, "Who now remembers the Armenians?" In our debate, Oxford students made quite clear that they remember, and they believe others, starting with their own government, must do too. I urge you, on behalf of all Oxford students, to recognise the Armenian genocide of 1915, to do so soon, and to do so publicly.

Yours sincerely,

John Blake

President, Oxford University Student Union

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