The Armenian Genocide – 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

 

The Armenian Genocide – 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

 

armenian genocide 1              armenian genocide 2

In April 1915 the Ottoman government embarked upon the systematic decimation of its civilian Armenian population. The persecutions continued with varying intensity until 1923 when the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist and was replaced by the Republic of Turkey. The Armenian population of the Ottoman state was reported at about two million in 1915. An estimated one million had perished by 1918, while hundreds of thousands had become homeless and stateless refugees. By 1923 virtually the entire Armenian population of Anatolian Turkey had disappeared.

The Ottoman Empire was ruled by the Turks who had conquered lands extending across West Asia, North Africa and Southeast Europe. The Ottoman government was centered in Istanbul (Constantinople) and was headed by a sultan who was vested with absolute power. The Turks practiced Islam and were a martial people. The Armenians, a Christian minority, lived as second class citizens subject to legal restrictions which denied them normal safeguards. Neither their lives nor their properties were guaranteed security. As non-Muslims they were also obligated to pay discriminatory taxes and denied participation in government. Scattered across the empire, the status of the Armenians was further complicated by the fact that the territory of historic Armenia was divided between the Ottomans and the Russians.

In its heyday in the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was a powerful state. Its minority populations prospered with the growth of its economy. By the nineteenth century, the empire was in serious decline. It had been reduced in size and by 1914 had lost virtually all its lands in Europe and Africa. This decline created enormous internal political and economic pressures which contributed to the intensification of ethnic tensions. Armenian aspirations for representation and participation in government aroused suspicions among the Muslim Turks who had never shared power in their country with any minority and who also saw nationalist movements in the Balkans result in the secession of former Ottoman territories. Demands by Armenian political organizations for administrative reforms in the Armenian-inhabited provinces and better police protection from predatory tribes among the Kurds only invited further repression. The government was determined to avoid resolving the so-called Armenian Question in any way that altered the traditional system of administration. During the reign of the Sultan Abdul Hamid (Abdulhamit) II (1876-1909), a series of massacres throughout the empire meant to frighten Armenians and so dampen their expectations, cost up to three hundred thousand lives by some estimates and inflicted enormous material losses on a majority of Armenians.

In response to the crisis in the Ottoman Empire, a new political group called the Young Turks seized power by revolution in 1908. From the Young Turks, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), Ittihad ve Terakki Jemiyeti, emerged at the head of the government in a coup staged in 1913. It was led by a triumvirate: Enver, Minister of War; Talaat, Minister of the Interior (Grand Vizier in 1917); and Jemal, Minister of the Marine. The CUP espoused an ultranationalistic ideology which advocated the formation of an exclusively Turkish state. It also subscribed to an ideology of aggrandizement through conquest directed eastward toward other regions inhabited by Turkic peoples, at that time subject to the Russian Empire. The CUP also steered Istanbul toward closer diplomatic and military relations with Imperial Germany. When World War I broke out in August 1914, the Ottoman Empire formed part of the Triple Alliance with the other Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary, and it declared war on Russia and its Western allies, Great Britain and France.

 

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The Ottoman armies initially suffered a string of defeats which they made up with a series of easy military victories in the Caucasus in 1918 before the Central Powers capitulated later that same year. Whether retreating or advancing, the Ottoman army used the occasion of war to wage a collateral campaign of massacre against the civilian Armenian population in the regions in which warfare was being conducted. These measures were part of the genocidal program secretly adopted by the CUP and implemented under the cover of war. They coincided with the CUP’s larger program to eradicate the Armenians from Turkey and neighboring countries for the purpose of creating a new Pan-Turanian empire. Through the spring and summer of 1915, in all areas outside the war zones, the Armenian population was ordered deported from their homes. Convoys consisting of tens of thousands including men, women, and children were driven hundreds of miles toward the Syrian desert.

The deportations were disguised as a resettlement program. The brutal treatment of the deportees, most of whom were made to walk to their destinations, made it apparent that the deportations were mainly intended as death marches. Moreover, the policy of deportation surgically removed the Armenians from the rest of society and disposed of great masses of people with little or no destruction of property. The displacement process, therefore, also served as a major opportunity orchestrated by the CUP for the plundering of the material wealth of the Armenians and proved an effortless method of expropriating all of their immovable properties.

The genocidal intent of the CUP measures was also evidenced by the mass killings that accompanied the deportations. Earlier, Armenian soldiers in the Ottoman forces had been disarmed and either worked to death in labor battalions or outright executed in small batches. With the elimination of the able-bodied men from the Armenian population, the deportations proceeded with little resistance. The convoys were frequently attacked by bands of killers specifically organized for the purpose of slaughtering the Armenians. As its instrument of extermination, the government had authorized the formation of gangs of butchers—mostly convicts released from prison expressly enlisted in the units of the so-called Special Organization, Teshkilâti Mahsusa. This secret outfit was headed by the most ferocious partisans of the CUP who took it upon themselves to carry out the orders of the central government with the covert instructions of their party leaders. A sizable portion of the deportees, including women and children, were indisciminately killed in massacres along the deportation routes. The cruelty characterizing the killing process was heightened by the fact that it was frequently carried out by the sword in terrifying episodes of bloodshed. Furthermore, for the survivors, their witnessing of the murder of friends and relatives with the mass of innocent persons was the source of serious trauma. Many younger women and some orphaned children were also abducted and placed in bondage in Turkish and Muslim homes resulting in another type of trauma characterized by the shock of losing both family and one’s sense of identity. These women and children were frequently forbidden to grieve, were employed as unpaid laborers, and were required to assimilate the language and religion of their captors.

The government had made no provisions for the feeding of the deported population. Starvation took an enormous toll much as exhaustion felled the elderly, the weaker and the infirm. Deportees were denied food and water in a deliberate effort to hasten death. The survivors who reached northern Syria were collected at a number of concentration camps whence they were sent further south to die under the scorching sun of the desert. Through methodically organized deportation, systematic massacre, deliberate starvation and dehydration, and continuous brutalization, the Ottoman government reduced its Armenian population to a frightened mass of famished individuals whose families and communities had been destroyed in a single stroke.

Resistance to the deportations was infrequent. Only in one instance did the entire population of an Armenian settlement manage to evade death. The mountaineers of Musa Dagh defended themselves in the heights above their villages until French naval vessels in the eastern Mediterranean detected them and transported them to safety. The inhabitants of the city of Van in eastern Armenia defended themselves until relieved by advancing Russian forces. They abandoned the city in May 1915, a month after the siege was lifted, when the Russian Army withdrew. The fleeing population was hunted down mercilessly by Turkish irregular forces. Inland towns that resisted, such as Urfa (Edessa), were reduced to rubble by artillery. The survival of the Armenians in large part is credited not to acts of resistance, but to the humanitarian intervention led by American Ambassador Henry Morgenthau. Although the Allied Powers expressly warned the Ottoman government about its policy of genocide, ultimately it was through Morgenthau’s efforts that the plight of the Armenians was publicized in the United States. The U.S. Congress authorized the formation of a relief committee which raised funds to feed “the starving Armenians.” Near East Relief, as the committee was eventually known, saved tens of thousands of lives. After the war, it headed a large-scale effort to rehabilitate the survivors who were mostly left to their own devices in their places of deportation. By setting up refugee camps, orphanages, medical clinics and educational facilities, Near East Relief rescued the surviving Armenian population.

In the post-war period nearly four hundred of the key CUP officials implicated in the atrocities committed against the Armenians were arrested. A number of domestic military tribunals were convened which brought charges ranging from the unconstitutional seizure of power and subversion of the legal government, the conduct of a war of aggression, and conspiring the liquidation of the Armenian population, to more explicit capital crimes, including massacre. Some of the accused were found guilty of the charges. Most significantly, the ruling triumvirate was condemned to death. They, however, eluded justice by fleeing abroad. Their escape left the matter of avenging the countless victims to a clandestine group of survivors that tracked down the CUP arch conspirators. Talaat, the principal architect of the Armenian genocide, was killed in 1921 in Berlin where he had gone into hiding. His assassin was arrested and tried in a German court which acquitted him.

Most of those implicated in war crimes evaded justice and many joined the new Nationalist Turkish movement led by Mustafa Kemal. In a series of military campaigns against Russian Armenia in 1920, against the refugee Armenians who had returned to Cilicia in southern Turkey in 1921, and against the Greek army that had occupied Izmir (Smyrna) where the last intact Armenian community in Anatolia still existed in 1922, the Nationalist forces completed the process of eradicating the Armenians through further expulsions and massacres. When Turkey was declared a republic in 1923 and received international recognition, the Armenian Question and all related matters of resettlement and restitution were swept aside and soon forgotten.

In all, it is estimated that up to a million and a half Armenians perished at the hands of Ottoman and Turkish military and paramilitary forces and through atrocities intentionally inflicted to eliminate the Armenian demographic presence in Turkey. In the process, the population of historic Armenia at the eastern extremity of Anatolia was wiped off the map. With their disappearance, an ancient people which had inhabited the Armenian highlands for three thousand years lost its historic homeland and was forced into exile and a new diaspora. The surviving refugees spread around the world and eventually settled in some two dozen countries on all continents of the globe. Triumphant in its total annihilation of the Armenians and relieved of any obligations to the victims and survivors, the Turkish Republic adopted a policy of dismissing the charge of genocide and denying that the deportations and atrocities had constituted part of a deliberate plan to exterminate the Armenians. When the Red Army sovietized what remained of Russian Armenia in 1920, the Armenians had been compressed into an area amounting to no more than ten percent of the territories of their historic homeland. Armenians annually commemorate the Genocide on April 24 at the site of memorials raised by the survivors in all their communities around the world.

 

 

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.”  By – William Saroyan

 

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81 thoughts on “The Armenian Genocide – 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

  1. This massacre of the Armenian people is sad, very sad. And, in my view, is not widespread in the media. It is therefore important posts such as yours.

    • Thank you Tania – “At a time when global issues dominate the political agenda of most nations, the Armenian genocide underlines the grave risks of overlooking the problems of small peoples. We cannot ignore the cumulative effect of allowing state after state to resort to the brutal resolution of disagreements with their ethnic minorities. That the world chose to forget the Armenian genocide is also evidence of a serious defect in the system of nation-states which needs to be rectified. In this respect, the continued effort to cover up the Armenian genocide may hold the most important lesson of all.”

    • Thank you Alan – The massacres were meant to undermine the growth of Armenian nationalism by frightening the Armenians with the terrible consequences of dissent. The furor of the state was directed at the behavior and the aspirations of the Armenians.

      The sultan was alarmed by the increasing activity of Armenian political groups and wanted to curb their growth before they gained any more influence by spreading ideas about civil rights an autonomy. Abdul-Hamid took no account, however of the real variation in Armenian political outlook, which ranged from reformism and constitutionalism to separatism. He hoped to wipe away the Armenians’ increasing sense of national awareness. He also continued to exclude the Armenians, as he did most of his other subjects, from having a role in their own government, whether individually or communally. The sultan, however did not contemplate depriving the Armenians of their existence as a people. Although there are similarities between Abdul-Hamid’s policies and the measures taken by the Young Turks against the Armenians, there are also major distinctions.

    • very painful and Genocide Must be recognized –

      Armenians mark the date April 24, 1915, when several hundred Armenian intellectuals were rounded up, arrested and later executed as the start of the Armenian genocide, and it is generally said to have lasted until 1917. However, there were also massacres of Armenians in 1894, 1895, 1896, 1909, and a reprise between 1920 and 1923.

    • sad, painful.

      The Ottoman Empire was the state responsible for the Armenian Genocide. The Ottoman Empire was in existence from 1300 to 1923. It was ruled by Muslim Turks headed by the sultanate of the Osmanli/Ottoman dynasty. The Ottoman state, variously called Turkey or the Turkish Empire, was governed according to Islamic law which relegated non-Muslims to second class status by denying them basic civil rights and requiring them to pay extra taxes.

  2. The whole world began to realize that the Armenian Genocide did happen . Turkey can deny but Turkey can’t silence the world . l did post the unveil ceremony of the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Pasadena 4/18/2015. My parents and my wife’s parents were survivors of the genocide.Regards

    • thank you – very horrible – not only a massacre – a genocide killed 1.5 Million innocent Armenians – Time to recognize the Armenian Genocide!

  3. I am afraid I was ignorant of this genocide till I read your post which was very enlightening and makes you want to read more of this atrocity which needs to spoken of . Recognition of the genocide is long overdue.

  4. Words simply aren’t enough to describe this suffering but you have managed to share a horrific chapter in the lives of precious people. There is ultimate justice, thank God, but what a tragedy.

  5. Oh my God, Mihran! This post was very difficult to read/see but important because this should be known and never forgotten. I don’t understand how a group of people could justify doing something like this. It’s heart-wrenching to know such evil exists in this world. Thank you for sharing.

  6. I am originally from Romania, same part of the world, and know about this very well, the millions of Armenians killed, as well as many other people from that part of the world dead at the hands of the Ottomans. Pain and suffering will endure, something like this can never be forgotten. Now, we have to make sure it never happens again, and get recognition, be politically involved. I know people here in California who are involved in the Armenian push to have the deaths called what they were — genocide, but it’s tough pushing this through political agendas. It’s not impossible, that’s why every voice counts.
    Thank you. A most honorable post.

    • Dear Silvia – I am unable to find any words to comment – Your words have touched me and filled tears. This is unforgettable disaster and massive killing to the Armenian people and try to erase them. World Leaders much recognize the Armenian Genocide.

  7. I agree with you. It must be recognised, because humanity keeps doing these things, and there is never justification enough, not anybody with the right to think they can destroy a single person, even less a whole population. Thanks for the post.

    • Thank you Indah for your emotional and touching words. The Armenian Genocide should be recognized immediately. This was an ugly and painful massacre!

  8. What a sad thing that any peoples are victims of genocide. I am very sad for the Armenian People.
    It is so horrible, ugly, a bad truth of existence.
    Since a young girl to this day, I just want all people on earth to live in peace no matter our differences, and no matter about the ugly tortured pasts of many societies.
    It seems a simple matter of fact to “Live and let live”.
    Yet, it is clear that many, if they do want peace, want it only on their terms.
    Love & peace to you and your beautiful family.
    _Resa

    • Thank you Resa – It has been a century since the Ottomans massacred 1.5 million Armenians and drove hundreds of thousands out of their ancestral homeland in what is today Turkey. But 100 years after the tragedy, Armenians are still holding on to the culture and identity that survived through the pain passed across the generations.

      • It is so sad.
        Yet, I agree that the Armenians have held onto their heritage, as I have always heard and known about Armenia.
        We have much shame to face here in Canada & all of the U.S.A. & North America. Our ancestors attempted to eliminate the native population ( some cultures were eradicated) when taking over the First Nations land. Well, they did not eliminate all, but they marginalized the proud natives. It is very messed up here about that now. Canada has made some advancements, but I am still humiliated, and deeply saddened.

      • For 7th year in a row, Obama breaks promise to acknowledge Armenian genocide. Why Armenia Genocide recognition remains a tough sell

        President Ronald Reagan referred to the “genocide of the Armenians” in an April 1981 proclamation about the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. In 1975 and 1984, the House of Representatives passed resolutions declaring April 24 a day of remembrance for victims of all genocide, but particularly the 1915 genocide in Turkey

      • I feel your pain, and see the human degradation.
        Obama has failed many. Many had high hopes.
        Turkey … I just don’t know what to say. The country’s policies baffle me.
        I am at the least happy that you have love, and a family, and that I have love and a family.
        May the ones we love never have to know the torture and horror of our forefathers. (The Polish part of my family suffered under Hitler)
        Peace to you and yours!

  9. Reblogged this on lovehappinessandpeace and commented:
    There is a picture in this post that shows Heads stuck on sticks. Though such Barbarism must have taken place many times in history, a reminder as in this post should make Us, World Citizens, to Awaken, and Demand for the Severest Punishments on Perpetrators of these things.

  10. Dear Mihrank..
    Although one is told over and over in history about the Genocide in WW2.. I did not know of this terrible atrocity of the Armenian’s.. I went cold.. and feel so sickened to learn of yet another horrendous crime against humanity..
    It seems throughout man’s history that man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds.. As we have seen it again and again how brutal a species he can be to his fellow human beings.

    My heart bleeds for all those who suffered then, and all of those still suffering now.. for it appears Man has learnt little throughout time..

    We seem to have pockets throughout the world of such horrors in our recent history too.. We have crimes such as Pol Pot the Genocide in Cambodia ..
    Idi Amin of Uganda in the Genocide from late 71 to 1985.
    Even in the recent wars we see civilians mass murdered and still its on going

    My heart often cries for the crimes done to others Mihrank.. That is why I so pray for Peace..

    You my friend contribute to Peace through your music.. I through my poems,… We each have to find our own pockets of Peace.. So we send out our energy into the world.. What we give out comes back..

    May Peace surround you and Yours..

    Love and Blessings..
    Sue xxx

  11. I’m so saddened by how some people treat one another. You see some people who work to commit genocide and others to risk their lives to save others and you wonder how they could be the same species.

  12. A beautiful and tragic post.

    History has been witness to such genocides being committed by empires and civilisations against a set of people who they fear or are otherwise apprehensive about. Interestingly history has also shown that the level and intensity of genocides committed has no correlation to the socio-economic development of the perpetrator.

    I give here extracts from a book in which the author, based on research, found that the British had committed one of the most heinous genocides in the history of mankind, but covered it up by calling it the ‘Great Bengal famine’

    The Bengal Famine of 1943-44 must rank as the greatest disaster in the subcontinent in the 20th century. Nearly 4 million Indians died because of an artificial famine created by the British government, and yet it gets little more than a passing mention in Indian history books.

    It took Adolf Hitler 12 years to murder 6 million Jews, but Churchill murdered 4 million in just over a year.

    Which roughly means 10,000 people dying every single day by starvation.

    Bengal had a bountiful harvest in 1942, but the British started diverting vast quantities of food grain from India to Britain, contributing to a massive food shortage in the areas comprising present-day West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Bangladesh.

    “Parents dumped their starving children into rivers and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains. Starving people begged for the starchy water in which rice had been boiled. Children ate leaves and vines, yam stems and grass. People were too weak even to cremate their loved ones.”

    By 1943 hordes of starving people were flooding into Calcutta, most dying on the streets.

    Subhas Chandra Bose, who was then fighting on the side of the Axis forces, offered to send rice from Myanmar, but the British censors did not even allow his offer to be reported.

    Churchill was totally remorseless in diverting food to the British troops and Greek civilians. To him, “the starvation of anyhow underfed Bengalis (was) less serious than sturdy Greeks”

    When asked to release food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram asking why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.

    So much for human index development and it’s complete lack of influence on behaviour.

    Regards

    Shakti

    • Shakti – I enjoyed reading your history facts and comments, I appreciate it….The Armenian Genocide, The Greek Massacre, Jewish Holocaust must be recognized and taught in the high schools.

      • Thank you for acknowledging.

        I could not agree with you more in terms of such incidents being ‘taught’, if not for any other purpose, but to build a consciousness of and guard against such kinds of Crimes that should never be allowed to occur in future.

        So, how could we ‘stand in the Cause of this matter’ as the next step?

        Cheers

        Shakti

  13. Such a horrific story of brutality. I’ve seen some stories lately about it in the Wall Street Journal. Coincidentally I’ve just met a young man about to graduate from the University of North Carolina who plans to join the Peace Corps and wants to go to Armenia. He’s a fantastic kid and I hope his journey is rich and fulfilling.

    • I am touched by your words and comments – the Armenian Genocide was brutal and international crime – I agree with your comments and time to recognize the Genocide.

    • Good Afternoon Janey – Please allow me to thank you for your thoughts and warm comments. Despite the lack of recent recognition at the federal level, more than 40 states, including California, have recognized the Ottoman Turks’ actions as a genocide, according to the Armenian National Institute’s list, as do many municipalities, including at least 10 communities in California, beginning with Fresno in 1975.

      Recognition is Must…

      • That’s great to hear. I think that education about it is essential. That’s why I admire this post so much; because it even taught me so much I didn’t know already. It would be great to see it included on school curricula. I know that none of my students had heard of it before I mentioned it recently.

      • Janey – your made very important and powerful factor to the education institution aboard. In our Schools in Israel, we have powerful and solid educational system and the Armenian Genocide along with the Jewish Holocaust been taught…

  14. It’s really very sad that this happens…again and again throughout human history. I did not know about this until I read your post.

  15. Ghastly and as bad as the Holocaust. Strange that so few of us know about this, and we seem to be doomed to repeat it with ISIS in the Middle East. Religion is such a two edged sword.

    • It has been a century since the Ottomans massacred 1.5 million Armenians and drove hundreds of thousands out of their ancestral homeland in what is today Turkey. But 100 years after the tragedy, Armenians are still holding on to the culture and identity that survived through the pain passed across the generations

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