This month marks the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Though an estimated one to two million Armenians were systemically killed by the Turkish government, it is an atrocity that has been largely and willfully erased from memory. One celebrity, though, has become its most powerful advocate: Kim Kardashian. On April 24, 1915, 250 Armenian community leaders and academics were arrested in Constantinople by Ottoman authorities. That day, now known as Red Sunday, marked the beginning of a an eight-year-long plan to exterminate the Armenian people from their homeland. Using death marches, concentration camps, mass drownings and burnings, the Turkish government nearly succeeded in eradicating the Armenian population. It was this event that inspired the very word "genocide." To this day, Turkey denies these events took place. As of this year, only 21 nations acknowledge the Armenian genocide (not including Armenia itself). During his campaign, President Obama addressed the issue and promised that, if elected, he would formally recognize the genocide. He has yet to do so. But, each year, Kim Kardashian marks the anniversary on her social media accounts, making public statements, and blogging about this great crime and the unthinkable silence around it. "Some people might wonder why I’m talking about history on my blog," she wrote in 2011. "And, that’s what I’m trying to show…it’s not history. Until this crime is resolved truthfully and fairly, the Armenian people will live with the pain of what happened to their families and the fear of what might happen again to their homeland."
Her fears are not without validity. Though evidence is plentiful and readily accessible — Kim Kardashian herself being a product of the Armenian diaspora — many world leaders maintain denial, at least in public. While the Holocaust is universally denounced as a crime against humanity, the Armenian genocide is relegated to being treated as a touchy political issue. After all, there's money at stake and diplomacy to consider, not to mention all that Turkish airspace. When France passed a law making it illegal to deny the Armenian genocide two years ago, Turkey severed all ties with the country. Perhaps President Obama is wary of incurring the same ramifications. Denying this event is not simply a shameful act of political cowardice. It is willfully allowing history to be repeated. Professor Raphael Lemkin coined the term "genocide" in 1943, saying, "First, it happened to the Armenians. Then after the Armenians, Hitler took action." Years later, Kim Kardashian echoed his sentiment on her blog, saying, "It happened before Rwanda, Darfur, and the Holocaust. Maybe none of those other genocides would have happened if more nations had condemned the Armenian genocide."
Perhaps it's not quite so simple as that, but it's not that much more complicated. The campaign to erase the Armenian genocide began as soon as the killings ended. Though it had been covered widely in the press during the actual events (unlike the Holocaust), the world seemed willing to forget it ever happened. We are urged and reminded to Never Forget the mass extermination executed by the Nazis, lest such a terrible crime ever happen again. Yet, we easily forget that it happened before. As Hitler himself said in 1939, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" President Obama doesn't. But, Kim Kardashian does. The press enjoys taking light jabs at her activism in this area ("#Armenia: Kim Kardashian Meets Foreign Leader, Tweets Selfie" wrote Politico after Kardashian met with Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan yesterday). But, why not? If not her, then who? There aren't many celebrities or political power players willing to use their power for this cause. What the Armenian genocide needs is attention. It needs witnesses and voices and curious, outraged people finally looking at what has been ignored for a century. And, if there's one thing Kim Kardashian knows how to do, it's make us look.