What was the Armenian Genocide?

Armenians escorted by Turkish soldiers

In 1915, leaders of the Turkish Government, known as the Young Turks organized a plan to expel and massacre Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. While reports may vary, most argue that there were approximately two million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the massacre. Anyways, by the early 1920s, after the massacres and deportations subsided, it is said around 1.5 million of Turkey’s Armenians were dead, with an increased number of them removed from the country. Today, the majority of historians consider this event as a genocide, which is the deliberate killing of a large group of people especially those of a particular ethnicity. What’s surprising to note is that the Turkish government does not acknowledge the enormity or scope of these events, despite constant talks from Armenians and social justice advocates throughout the world and to an extent, it is illegal to talk about what happened to the Armenians during this era in Turkey.

An Armenian town destroyed after the massacre in Adana

Now, let’s cut to the main part. The cruelty against the Armenians during World War I was administrated by the Turkish government between 1915 and 1918 where millions of Armenians were subjected to deportation, abduction, torture, massacre and rape. Many Armenians were removed from Armenia and Anatolia to Syria where they suffered from hunger and thirst, eventually dying off. Also important to mention is that women and children too suffered from these atrocities, being abducted and horribly abused. Not to mention, the remaining Armenians were dealt with between 1920 and 1923.

Two of three leaders of the triumvirate: Enver Pasha (middle) and Djemla Pasha (right) on a trip to Jerusalem

For the government, all you need to know is that the Committee and Union of Progress (CUP), commonly referred to as Young Turks, were the ones who carried out the genocide. They were controlled by three figures, forming a triumvirate and this triumvirate depended on other various members of the CUP to place their soldiers at posts in order to carry out the genocide. In addition, history tells us that those part of the Special Organization (this organization was sought by the government) roamed around under cover, and consisted mainly of convicts and troops. This organization’s main objective was to carry out the mass slaughter of the Armenians.

As for the casualties, an estimate of half a million Armenians died between 1915 and 1918 while between 1920 and 1922, ten million more victims were added to the total amount. Many others died thanks to starvation, exhaustion and epidemics which ravaged the concentration camps. About tens of thousands rushed to Russia to search for shelter in refugee camps while the vast majority of Armenians back in Constantinople avoided deportation; however, in 1918, the Young Turks directed the regime war towards Caucasus, where approximately 1,800,00 Armenians thrived under Russian domain. Also, the Ottoman forces had advanced through East Armenia and Azerbaijan, killing another huge round of people.

A German map of Asia Minor and Caucasus in 1914

Internationally, news broke out to the western parts of the world, notably America and Britain due to the witnesses of the genocide, such as US Diplomats for missionaries. Besides the Americans, the Germans, who were allies with the Turkish army in World War I, too witnessed the devastation of the Armenian population and reported their findings to their superiors. To see the wreck and havoc for themselves, the Russians took to the scenes while the Arabs in Syria noticed the terrible conditions of the deportees. Surprisingly, sometime later, many people (Turkish witnesses) who took part in the massacre gave testimony under oath to stop the Young Turk conspirators.

Fundraising poster for the American Committee for relief in the Near East

Therefore, due to news breaking out, Great Britain, America, Russia and France began advising the Young Turks that they would be held responsible for this particular crime against humanity. In the United States, the public lashed out against the mistreatment of Armenians and after the allied victors demanded the government to prosecute the Young Turks, relief efforts were started. America, Britain and Germany all contributed to kickstart these relief efforts but back in the Ottoman Empire, no efforts were made to repay the Armenians for the painful genocide they suffered from.

Finally, you must be wondering why the Armenian genocide even happened. Well, back in the day, when the Ottomans were expanding and World War I about to begin, the government at that time began plotting what would soon result in a genocide.

In short, with international aid coming in and most of the world knowledgeable about this event, the Armenian Genocide would be commemorated on April 24th as on the night of April 24th in 1915, the Turkish government arrested around 200 Armenian community leaders in Constantinople, letting the cat out of the bag.

And that is the sad  story of the Armenian Genocide.

Stephanie

History Republic

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