This week, it’s been the Kardashians keeping up with international disputes.
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Reality TV stars Kim and Khloe Kardashian picked possibly the most controversial time of year to visit their ancestral homeland of Armenia: just before the April 24 centennial of the 1915 mass killings of as many as 1.5 million Armenians by Ottomans in present-day Turkey, which the Armenians call genocide -- a term Turkey vehemently rejects.
The junket also came as Pope Francis called the killings “the first genocide of the 20th century." That comment angered the Turks so much that they recalled their ambassador to the Vatican, with the Turkish foreign ministry issuing a statement that the comment was “based on prejudice” and “distorts history.”
Turkey maintains that while the Ottomans killed many Armenians as they sought to relocate them during their fight for independence in 1915, there was not an Ottoman policy of ethnic-driven genocide. Proponents of the use of the word “genocide” say the Ottomans systematically relocated Armenians in an effort to eliminate them.
Back in Armenia, the Kardashian sisters, touring with their two cousins, Kara and Kourtni Kardashian (yes, all K’s), were no less demonstrative in using the controversial word to refer to the killings.
“An emotional day at the genocide museum,” Kim Kardashian tweeted Saturday along with a picture of Khloe and herself in sleeveless jumpsuits, laying flowers at the Dzidzernagapert Armenian Genocide monument’s eternal flame.
On the same day, Khloe Kardashian posted a message via Twitter: “My sister and I are trying to bring awareness not only to our Armenian genocide but genocides and human slaughter, in general. Knowledge is power!”
An emotional day at the genocide museum. ?????? pic.twitter.com/JEQJOy3T8E— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) April 12, 2015
President Obama has not used the word “genocide” in his annual statement recognizing the killings, but 43 American states have proclaimed or passed legislation identifying them as genocide.
Armenians both in Armenia and abroad said they hoped the pop culture icons’ trip would bring further awareness to the issue.
"The Kardashian family trip to Armenia has helped shine a global spotlight on Armenia and the Armenian Genocide -- sharing the historical facts and the need for justice for that crime with millions,” said Elizabeth Chouldjian, communications director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“The Kardashians have helped strike a powerful blow at Turkey's campaign of genocide denial," she added.
The sisters also met with Armenia’s prime minister, Hovik Abrahamyan, wearing what seemed like coordinated suede leather jackets, a casual look that clashed with the officials’ staid black-and-gray suits. Abrahamyan’s office released a statement praising the sisters as unofficial ambassadors of Armenia to the U.S.
“The premier hailed Kardashian family’s contribution to the cause of international recognition and condemnation of the Armenian genocide, highlighting their visit’s importance in the run-up to the genocide centennial,” the statement said, in part.
The reality-show diplomacy continued when Kim Kardashian’s husband, Kanye West, gave an impromptu concert in the capital city of Yerevan, jumping into a lake and getting mobbed by fans.
Armenian TV reportedly returned the favor by calling West “our nation's son-in-law".
The Kardashians are better known for their late-night exploits and romantic pursuits than they are their political forays -- but on this trip, they’re diving right in. After leaving Armenia, they touched down in another nation familiar with international controversy: Israel.