A bill to recognise the Ottoman-era Armenian Genocide passed its first reading in the UK House of Commons on 9 November.
The bill was presented as a ten-minute rule motion by Tim Loughton MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Armenia.
If passed into law the act would require the UK Government to officially recognise the Armenian Genocide, establish an annual commemoration of the genocide, and incorporate teaching about the genocide into the National Curriculum.
Mr Loughton described in detail the horrors of the genocide which took place between 1893 and 1923, referring to it as “a particularly dark chapter in human history”, adding, “the Armenian Genocide resulted in the destruction of more than two millennia of Armenian civilisation.”
“We know about these atrocities,” said Mr Loughton, “we knew about these atrocities at the time … but the UK has yet to recognise the Armenian Genocide.”
Noting that 31 countries – including France, Germany and the United States – have officially recognised the Armenian Genocide, Mr Loughton argued, “Refusing to recognise the Armenian Genocide risks conveying a dangerous message of impunity, that a crime unpunished is a crime encouraged or downplayed.”
He added, “The recent invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan, forcing 90,000 Armenians to flee their homes due to the threat of ethnic cleansing, serves as a warning that Armenians remain vulnerable today.”
The ten-minute rule allows an MP to make a case for a new bill in a speech lasting up to ten minutes. Having passed its first reading the bill will now receive a second reading – at which it will be subject to fuller debate and scrutiny – on 18 March 2022. To become law it must pass through several further stages in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Between 1893 and 1923 some 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the Ottoman Empire in a policy of extermination of Christian minorities. In addition, some 2.25 million Assyrian, Greek and Syriac Christians were also killed within Ottoman territories between 1914 and 1923, making a total of 3.75 million Christians killed.
A total of 14,572 people have signed a Barnabas Fund petition calling on the governments of the UK, Australia and New Zealand to recognise the Armenian Genocide.