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April 29, 2021

Daily News Lesson: Significance of Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript of the video above, click here. You may also want to read this news article here.

Summary: President Joe Biden recently made a statement recognizing the mass killings of Armenians a century ago as a genocide. From 1915 to 1923, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were systemically killed and 2 million deported by Ottoman Empire forces. The Ottoman Empire preceded modern Turkey. For many centuries, the Ottomans controlled vast amounts of territory in southeastern Europe, western Asia, and northeastern Africa.

The term “genocide” had been avoided by previous White House administrations for decades over concerns of alienating Turkey.

  • Alex Hinton, director of Rutgers University’s Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights, said that Biden’s statement was momentous for the victims of the genocide, who have never been recognized by the Turkish government, and also for human rights everywhere. 
  • Hinton said that there may be a protest or a sanction from Turkey, but for the most part he thinks this will pass by. Overall, it is not in Turkey’s or America’s best interest to be in conflict, he said. 
  • Where Biden’s declaration will be important, Hinton said, is to push other countries to recognize the injustice as well. 

You may also want to watch this short video about the Armenian genocide via Facing History (if you have time watch this 8-minute video here):

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is the story about?
  • What issue did President Biden address?
  • Where was the Armenian genocide? 
  • When did it occur?
  • Why is it important now?
  • How does this affect America’s relationship with Turkey?

Focus questions:

  1. How do you feel about America and Turkey returning to normal relations? Do you think more must be done to recognize the injustice or that our current international relationships are more important to maintain?
  2. Why do you think it has taken so long for a president of the United States to recognize the Armenian genocide officially? Why do you think other countries, like Britain, still haven’t?
  3. Can you think of anything else the U.S. government should do to recognize the Armenian genocide and raise awareness?

Media Literacy: The video didn’t have much background information as to what the Armenian genocide actually is. Do you think this is something they should have assumed people already know about, or would research on their own? Do you wish there was more context?

Dig Deeper: 

  1. Check out this lesson plan on how Indigenous peoples’ calls for justice and attention to genocides in their own countries share ground with Black Americans. 
  2. Read this summary on the Sudan’s president being charged with crimes from the Darfur War, where the U.N. says some 300,000 people died and more than 2.5 million were forced to flee their homes.
  3. Do you know about the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals? See this lesson below to learn more about bringing peace to conflict-ridden areas.


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