The effort to declare Armenian massacres a “genocide”

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Armenian community march during Armenian Genocide Commemorative March at Little Armenia, Hollywood on April 24, 2011 in Los Angeles. Photo by Hayk Shalunts via Flickr/CC

The White House says President Obama will not use the word “genocide” on Friday, when he commemorates the 100th anniversary of the massacre of more than a million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks.

Armenian-American groups are expressing anger over today’s announcement.

Congressman Adam Schiff – whose district includes the largest population of Armenians in America – said today he’s “deeply disappointed” in Obama’s decision.

“We can’t hold ourselves out as a beacon of human rights and as speaking truth to power if we’re unwilling to speak truthfully about a genocide that took place one hundred years ago,” Rep. Schiff said.

Schiff has led efforts in Congress to recognize the genocide.

The issue has been a divisive one in Washington for years, with the White House rejecting the term “genocide” out of deference to Turkey, which is a NATO ally.

Activists had hoped Obama would finally use the term this year, especially after Pope Francis recently referred to the massacre as “genocide” in a statement.

Schiff plans to spend an entire hour on the House Floor on Wednesday reading some of the names of the Armenian victims.

He spoke to KCRW’s Steve Chiotakis about the news.