Armenian Genocide

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During My Recent Visit to Israel

I had the opportunity to interview a descendant of the Armenian Genocide living in Israel and Pierre Altounian tells his story.

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“Genocide” is a term used to describe violence against members of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group with the intent to destroy the entire group. The word came into general usage only after World War II, when the full extent of the atrocities committed by the Nazi …read more

 

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In spite of these obstacles, the Armenian community thrived under Ottoman rule. They tended to be better educated and wealthier than their Turkish neighbors, who in turn grew to resent their success.

This resentment was compounded by suspicions that the Christian Armenians would be more loyal to Christian governments (that of the Russians, for example, who shared an unstable border with Turkey) than they were to the Ottoman caliphate.

These suspicions grew more acute as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. At the end of the 19th century, the despotic Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II – obsessed with loyalty above all, and infuriated by the nascent Armenian campaign to win basic civil rights – declared that he would solve the “Armenian question” once and for all.

“I will soon settle those Armenians,” he told a reporter in 1890. “I will give them a box on the ear which will make them…relinquish their revolutionary ambitions.”

The First Armenian Massacre

Between 1894 and 1896, this “box on the ear” took the form of a state-sanctioned pogrom.

In response to large scale protests by Armenians, Turkish military officials, soldiers and ordinary men sacked Armenian villages and cities and massacred their citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were murdered.

Young Turks

In 1908, a new government came to power in Turkey. A group of reformers who called themselves the “Young Turks” overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid and established a more modern constitutional government.

At first, the Armenians were hopeful that they would have an equal place in this new state, but they soon learned that what the nationalistic Young Turks wanted most of all was to “Turkify” the empire. According to this way of thinking, non-Turks – and especially Christian non-Turks – were a grave threat to the new state.

World War I Begins

In 1914, the Turks entered World War I on the side of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (At the same time, Ottoman religious authorities declared a holy war against all Christians except their allies.)

Military leaders began to argue that the Armenians were traitors: If they thought they could win independence if the Allies were victorious, this argument went, the Armenians would be eager to fight for the enemy.

As the war intensified, Armenians organized volunteer battalions to help the Russian army fight against the Turks in the Caucasus region. These events, and general Turkish suspicion of the Armenian people, led the Turkish government to push for the “removal” of the Armenians from the war zones along the Eastern Front.

Armenian Genocide Begins

On April 24, 1915, the Armenian genocide began. That day, the Turkish government arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals.

After that, ordinary Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water.

Frequently, the marchers were stripped naked and forced to walk under the scorching sun until they dropped dead. People who stopped to rest were shot.

At the same time, the Young Turks created a “Special Organization,” which in turn organized “killing squads” or “butcher battalions” to carry out, as one officer put it, “the liquidation of the Christian elements.”

These killing squads were often made up of murderers and other ex-convicts. They drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive. In short order, the Turkish countryside was littered with Armenian corpses.

Records show that during this “Turkification” campaign, government squads also kidnapped children, converted them to Islam and gave them to Turkish families. In some places, they raped women and forced them to join Turkish “harems” or serve as slaves. Muslim families moved into the homes of deported Armenians and seized their property.

Though reports vary, most sources agree that there were about 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the massacre. In 1922, when the genocide was over, there were just 388,000 Armenians remaining in the Ottoman Empire.

Armenian Genocide Today

After the Ottomans surrendered in 1918, the leaders of the Young Turks fled to Germany, which promised not to prosecute them for the genocide. (However, a group of Armenian nationalists devised a plan, known as Operation Nemesis, to track down and assassinate the leaders of the genocide.)

Ever since then, the Turkish government has denied that a genocide took place. The Armenians were an enemy force, they argue, and their slaughter was a necessary war measure.

Today, Turkey is an important ally of the United States and other Western nations, and so their governments have likewise been reluctant to condemn the long-ago killings. In March 2010, a U.S. Congressional panel at last voted to recognize the genocide.

However, little has changed in Turkey: Despite pressure from Armenians and social justice advocates throughout the world, it’s still illegal in Turkey to talk about what happened to Armenians during that era.

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Bosnian Genocide

In April 1992, the government of the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia. Over the next several years, Bosnian Serb forces, with the backing of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army, perpetrated atrocious crimes against Bosniak (Bosnian …read more

 

Members from the 501st Transportation Squadron, Kaiserslautern Germany, and C Company, 3rd Battalion, 325th Infantry Brigade (Airborne Combat Team, (ABCT)), Southern European Task Force (SETAF), Vicenza, Italy, and the Task Force 51, Mannheim Germany, bring a convoy of fresh water.  The water was made by eight chlorinators and two reverse osmosis machines in Goma for Rwandan refugees located at Camp Kimbumba, Zaire.

Rwandan Genocide

During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the east-central African nation of Rwanda murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority. Started by Hutu nationalists in the capital of Kigali, the genocide spread throughout the …read more

 

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Battle of Gallipoli

The Gallipoli Campaign of 1915-16, also known as the Battle of Gallipoli or the Dardanelles Campaign, was an unsuccessful attempt by the Allied Powers to control the sea route from Europe to Russia during World War I. The campaign began with a failed naval attack by British and …read more

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California’s Little-Known Genocide

“Gold! Gold from the American River!” Samuel Brannan walked up and down the streets of San Francisco, holding up a bottle of pure gold dust. His triumphantannouncement, and the discovery of gold at nearby Sutter’s Mill in 1848, ushered in a new era for California—one in which …read more

 

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Dardanelles Campaign

In March 1915, during World War I (1914-18), British and French forces launched an ill-fated naval attack on Turkish forces in the Dardanelles in northwestern Turkey, hoping to take control of the strategically vital strait separating Europe from Asia. The failure of the …read more

 

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World War I

World War I began in 1914, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and lasted until 1918. During the conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the …read more

Outbreak of World War I

Europe by 1914 Almost exactly a century before, a meeting of the European states at the Congress of Vienna had established an international order and balance of power that lasted for almost a century. By 1914, however, a multitude of forces were threatening to tear it apart. The …read more

 

TURKEY – CIRCA 2002:  Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk, in the uniform of a sergeant of the army. Turkey, 20th century (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Kemal Atatürk

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) was an army officer who founded an independent Republic of Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. He then served as Turkey’s first president from 1923 until his death in 1938, implementing reforms that rapidly secularized and westernized …read more

1 thought on “Armenian Genocide

  1. Pingback: Armenian Genocide | Shalom Radio UK

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