Actor George Clooney on Sunday joined ceremonies in Yerevan, Armenia marking the 101st anniversary of the genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
Clooney is a staunch advocate of the massacres that took place and has fought, using his celebrity status, to bring more awareness of the historic events.
Countless scholars and academics throughout the world, as well as numerous governments agree on the terminology and recognition of the events that began in 1915 as “genocide.”
The government of Turkey— and successive U.S. administrations— reject the nomenclature of the killings as “Genocide.”
In a statement from the White House, Obama– despite a campaign promise to term it a “genocide”– stopped short once again, calling it instead “the first mass atrocity of the 20th century.”
Although President Obama has been criticized– many say he doesn’t want to upset the Turks and upset the fragile relationship between that country and the United States– no President before him called it a genocide, either.
Several U.S. politicians, local and state governments have gone on record calling the events a “genocide,” including U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, who shared his views via Twitter today:
— Mark Kirk (@SenatorKirk) April 24, 2016
“We honor the million and a half lives that were lost 101 years ago. And we honor those lives by calling their tragedy by its true name. Genocide. The Armenian Genocide,” Clooney said at a ceremony making the events.
Clooney and the French Charles Aznavour, who is of Armenian origin, joined President Serzh Sarkisian and thousands of Armenians to lay flowers at the eternal flame, an imposing memorial in Yerevan.
Clooney isn’t the first celebrity to take bring attention to the Armenian Genocide. Last year, members of the Kardashian family— also of Armenian descent— visited the country and laid wreaths at the memorial on the 100th anniversary.
The Armenian Genocide is closely tied— and most scholars agree- to a bigger and broader genocide of all Christian people in Turkey. In addition to the estimated 1.5 million Armenians who were murdered in systematic campaigns by the Turks, millions more Greeks, Assyrians and other Christian minorities were also massacred, culminating in 1922 with the burning of Smyrna when the large Greek population was decimated.