U.S. president Joe Biden describes 1915 Turkish atrocities as genocide, Turkish Foreign Minister flashes ultranationalist “Grey Wolves” sign at Armenian demonstrators

WASHINGTON, D.C. / MONTEVIDEO — On 24 April each year, the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean), Armenian, Greek peoples commemorate the anniversary of the 1915 Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire against the non-Muslim population, predominantly Christians but also Yezidis. The atrocities claimed the lives of millions.

On Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden described the events of 1915 as genocide. Last year, the Biden Administration official recognized the genocide against the Armenian people. Previous administrations had avoided using the term genocide to describe the events of 1915 out of a concern that Turkey — a NATO member — would be offended.

The genocide was, “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century,” said a statement released by the White House. “Today, we remember the one and a half million Armenians who were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination, and mourn the tragic loss of so many lives.”

While the U.S. has finally recognized the killing of Armenians as genocide, efforts are being made for the recognition to include the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) and Greek peoples.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry rejected Biden’s statements, saying that such decisions distort historical facts for political motives.

“We condemn those who insist on this mistake, and Joe Biden repeated a mistake he made last year,” the Ministry stated.

While in Uruguay, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made the hand gesture of the pan-Turkic ultranationalist “Gray Wolves” organization to demonstrators from the Armenian community who were marching the day before the 107th anniversary of the genocide.

Last August, the American Friends of Kurdistan (AFK), the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), In Defense of Christians (IDC), the Middle East Forum (MEF), and the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) called on the U.S. State Department to formally list the Grey Wolves movement as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

The organization was founded in 1968 and appeared on the Turkish scene when they engaged in direct conflict with leftists in the 1970s. They are closely associated with the Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP), the main partner of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP).

The group has been active and linked to violence in a number of European countries with large Turkish populations.

The European Parliament has recently called for the group to be listed as a terrorist organization in the European Union.

France banned the organization last year and many German and Austrian lawmakers have called for similar measures in their country. Yet the ban will have only symbolic importance. According to a European diplomat who spoke to the French magazine L’Écérés, the Grey Wolves do not have an office or legal status and putting them on the list of terrorist organizations will not end their activities and may even complicate their surveillance.