MAGIC VALLEY — Just recently President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to officially recognize the killings of Armenians during World War I as a genocide.
No U.S. president in the past has acknowledged the killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as a genocide for fear of losing relations with Turkey.
But for one Armenian refugee in the Magic Valley, the news was bittersweet.
“It was bittersweet not only because I wish my grandparents were alive to see this day and not only because of the life-long work that not only myself but many advocates have done to see that the U.S. has recognized the Armenian genocide,” Liyah Babayan, Idaho chair of the Armenian National Committee, said.
For Liyah and her family, they thought this moment would never come. Her family resettled in Idaho after having to flee Armenia because of the ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan.
“So it does matter to resettlement communities when the atrocities that we have survived are recognized by the communities that are resettling us," Babayan said.
“Armenians are happy that someone is acknowledging it. Some Armenians are not happy; they feel like the U.S. could go further that we could do something about it. Let's find a way that we can show that the U.S. is backing this in different programs,” JustinVipperman, Historian at The College of Southern Idaho, said.
The Gem State also did its part with Governor Little signing a proclamation recognizing April 24, 2021, as a remembrance day for the Armenian genocide.
“What we see with Idaho doing this and Governor little pushing this is that it is on people's minds people are starting to look at it as a genocide," Vipperman said.
Babayan says for Idaho this moment is full circle since the Gem State resettled Armenians during the 1915 genocide.
“After the 1915 genocide, Idaho resettled and adopted over 1,000 orphans through Christian groups and missionary groups and so for the governor to issue a proclamation it’s very meaningful and it’s very full circle for Idaho," Babayan said.
She says the Armenian genocide being recognized is vital and sends a positive message to resettlement communities in Idaho and throughout the nation.
“So it does matter to resettlement communities when the atrocities that we have survived are recognized by the communities that are resettling us. It lets us know that we are sharing something and that it does matter to our new community to our new country those events and those tragedies,” Babayan said.