In an effort to increase public awareness of the Armenian
genocide, System of a Down have organized a benefit show on April 24, the date Armenians around the world set aside to recognize the atrocities perpetrated for years against their people.
The band, whose members are all Armenian, will stage the show in Los Angeles at the Greek Theatre. Most of the proceeds will be donated to organizations including the Armenian National Committee of America, which is lobbying the U.S. Congress to officially recognize the Armenian genocide, in which the Ottoman Turks killed as many as 1.5
million Armenians between 1895 and 1915. The rest of the proceeds will go to organizations that benefit victims of other genocides.
"You don't see the Armenian genocide receiving much attention, and a lot of countries haven't even officially recognized it," Tankian said. "Whereas, I don't think there's a country that hasn't recognized the Jewish holocaust. And the information is out there. There were over 200 articles printed in The New York Times alone between April and December, 1915, about the horrific massacres by the Ottoman Turks on the Christian Armenian population at the time."
Tankian said the group organized the benefit to raise money, educate their fans and create awareness through the media. System of a Down, who have organized Armenian genocide postcard campaigns in the past, decided to place themselves in the middle of the struggle because they're tired of waiting for U.S. politicians to act. Tankian said that former President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush have both promised to pass bills commemorating the genocide, but both reneged for political reasons.
"It mostly has to do with [the U.S.] alliance with Turkey," Tankian said. "It's a geopolitical concern more than anything. But that's still not an excuse. You can't use politics, nor economics as an excuse to cover up genocide. As we've learned, when you don't recognize something as horrible as that, it tends to repeat itself.
"And unlike Germany, who has accepted the Holocaust, we haven't gotten that from the Turkish government," he continued. "They're denying it. They're paying scholars to further their disinformation campaigns. Imagine dealing with a holocaust that's occurred and having a government still denying it. And your government, the U.S. government,
contributes to it by not officially recognizing it. How would you
Like most Armenians, Tankian lost many family members in the Armenian genocide. "My family tree goes up to my grandfather and his memories," the singer said. "From there on, it's cut off."
From the moment they formed in 1995, System of a Down have been interested in educating their fans about the Armenian genocide. From there, they became more interested in the political process and other activist causes. In 2002, Tankian hooked up with Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello to form Axis of Justice, an organization dedicated to
fighting corruption and standing up for workers' rights.
"To me, the denial of the Armenian genocide and knowing the truth that's not fully out there opened my eyes to other injustices of the world," Tankian said. "It made me realize, hey, because of certain things, people try to cover up crimes on a national and international level, and it's just horrifying. An injustice is an injustice."