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Armenian Genocide

Armenian Genocide Why was the Armenian Genocide Forgotten? GENOCIDE By definition genocide is the organized killing of a people for the express purpose of putting an end to their collective existence (Websters dictionary). As a rule, the organizing agent is the nation, the victim population is a domestic minority, and the end result is the near total death of a society. The Armenian genocide generally conforms to this simple definition. FORGOTTEN The Armenian genocide is a hidden, almost lost part of world history, pretty much eclipsed by the more publicized genocide of the twentieth century, the Holocaust. The question is why. I could take a poll of this room and I am willing to bet that 95% of the students have ever even heard of the Armenian Genocide and those who have couldnt tell me more than a couple sentences about it.

This is pretty scary, considering the statistics of the Armenian Genocide. OTTOMAN EMPIRE The Ottoman Empire was ruled by the Turks who had conquered the land from across West Asia, North Africa to Southeast Europe. The Ottoman government was based in Istanbul and was headed by a sultan who was given absolute power. The Turks were Islamic and were a harsh disciplinary civilization. The Armenians, a Christian minority, lived as second class citizens subject to legal restrictions (Graber 119).

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These restrictions 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. In its prime of the sixteenth century the Ottoman Empire was a powerful state. Its minority populations really benefited with the growth of its economy, but by the nineteenth century, the empire was in serious decline(Graber 121). 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 increasing tensions among the races (similar to Germanys way of blaming the Jews for their economic decline). Armenian aspirations for representation and participation in government worried the Muslim Turks who had never shared power in their country with any minority. Demands by Armenian political organizations for administrative reforms in the Armenian-inhabited provinces and better police protection only invited further repression. During the reign of the sultan Abdul Hamid, a series of massacres throughout the empire meant to dampen Armenian expectations by frightening them, cost up to three hundred thousand lives by some estimates and resulted in 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) 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, and Jemal, Minister of the Marine (Hovanissian 15). The CUP spewed ultra-nationalistic culture which promoted the establishment of an exclusively Turkish state. It also promoted thoughts of conquering other regions inhabited by Turkic peoples, almost like our Manifest Destiny. 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. The Ottoman armies initially suffered a string of defeats.

Whether retreating or advancing, the Ottoman army used the occasion of war to wage a scam campaign of massacre against the civilian Armenian population in the regions in which warfare was rampant. 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. 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. In April of the young Turks convinced leaders of the Armenian population to meet to discuss the new orders for all Armenians to march.

This meeting attracted political leaders, church leaders and other intellects of the community(Graber 130). Sadly but planned by the Turks, the leaders were all killed and the poplulation was left leaderless. Leaderless, the Armenians knew that they were in trouble but had no one to turn to. With no other choice, the towns and villages were forced to listen to the Turks. The Turks followed a textbook strategy of annihilation; destroy the leaders, disarm the populace, and use the big lie. For a number of reasons they did not know what was planned for them and went along with their governments plan to relocate them for their own good.

First the Armenians were asked to turn in their hunting weapons for the war effort. Communities were often given quotas and would have to buy additional weapons from the Turks to meet their quota. Later, the government would claim these weapons were proof of the Armenian plans to rebel. The able- bodied men were drafted to help in the wartime effort. These men were either immediately killed or worked to death.

Now the villages and towns, with only women, children and elderly left, were systematically emptied. The remaining residents would be told to gather only what they could carry for a temporary relocation. The Armenians, again, obediently followed instructions and were escorted by Turkish gendarmes in death marches. The death marches would lead across Anatolia and the purpose became clear as soon as the Armenians hit the trail. Along the way the Armenians were being raped, starved, dehydrated, murdered and kidnapped.

The Turkish gendarmes either led these atrocities or turned a cold shoulder. Their eventual destination for resettlement was supposedly the Syrian Desert. Those who miraculously survived the march to the bleak desert were either killed upon arrival or somehow found a way to survive until escape was found. Usually those few that survived received assistance from friendly Turks. When I started to develop an interest in this topic I was discussing it with a teacher from my highschool who, in all honesty, thought that I would have trouble accessing information on such a limited issue. At first, I was startled by their comment and asked them to tell me all they knew about the Armenian genocide.

This person wrapped up the one-minute discussion by suggesting that I choose a different topic. As I began to research, though, I realized that they were way off, and that all that I had to do was dig a little deeper. I scratched the surface of a major issue that is still the hot topic of many heated debates to this day. Only adding to my interest, I discovered that several of the textbooks of my girlfriends textbooks used in her history classes do not make any significant mention or reference to the horrible massacre. In fact, if it werent for some relatives that are active in the Armenian community of my home town I would have never heard of it either.

Now, more than ever, awareness and respect for all those that died and for those that helped the survivors escape can be expressed on April 24 remembering the initial day that the political and intellectual Armenian leaders were murdered. There is no doubt that the Turkish authorities made a deliberate decision to exterminate the Armenians, that they sent this decision to involved officials, political, administrative, and military. Those who did not comply were removed from their duty. When all was said and done, approximately 1.5 million out of a total of 2.5 million Armenians were killed. This would be like someone killing nearly 60% of all Americans living today.

That would put a significant dent in our population. This incomprehensible number and the fact that such an act could have been carried out by the institution that was implemented to protect and to guide them is pretty profound. What is most appalling is the idea that anyone could justify such an act. Throughout my research I came to the frightening assumption that somehow there are Turkish historians who maintain that the Young Turkish government is innocent of any charges of genocidal actions. For anyone to believe that such organized mass murders of the sort that went on in the Ottoman Empire could be executed by any such institution other than the government itself is totally unfounded and irrational.

The only time that I have ever heard Turkish official admitting to the possible occurrence of an Armenian genocide was when one man stated something along the lines of We should have killed all the Armenians when we had the chance. Hitler himself felt confident enough in the worlds selective memory to be quoted at a meeting of his SS units (his personal murderous secret police). At this meeting he ordered his men to kill without pity, men, women, and children for who, he asked, remembers now the massacres of the Armenians(Vahatai 89).

Armenian Genocide

Can you imagine yourself living during the time that WWI was going on? Im
pretty sure youd be terrified to even walk out of your house. Like it wasnt bad
enough that the whole world was at each others throat, but to know that your
country may be at the hands of another leader. A leader who may have different
perspectives on every day life, with the benefit of doubt that it may be extremely
foreign to you, is pretty scary. Im pretty sure that it would make you or anyone
else feel extremely unsafe and uncomfortable. But imagine being unaware of the
underlying plan to cleanse your ethnic group. The Armenian people faced this
situation during the time of WWI. Life between the Turks (Armenias rival) and
the Armenians was very complex. Not all Armenians hated the Turks, and not all
Turks hated the Armenians. Consequently, the Armenian people were not aware
of any forms of annihilation that were being plotted at the time.
What exactly is the definition of a Genocide?? According to the World
Book Dictionary, genocide means: The systematic extermination or destruction of
a political, racial, or cultural group1. When the word genocide is brought up,
many people usually think of the Holocaust. Although the Holocaust was a
massive tragedy, many dont recall the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian
Genocide was just as terrifying as the Holocaust, and we should commemorate
this tragedy. The people who are held responsible for this tragedy are a young
group of Turks. Their plan was to exterminate all of the Armenian population.
The Turks desired a Turkish State that extended to Central Asia, and thus to carry
through the unity of the Turkish speaking people. This creation of such a state
would create what they call Pan-Turkism2.
The Armenians had their first taste of aggression by the Turks on April 24,
19153. Three hundred Armenian leaders, writers, thinkers, and professionals in
Constantinople were imprisoned in many parts of Turkey without any advanced
warning. Shortly after they were imprisoned, they were brutally tortured and
beaten by the Turkish authorities. Other methods of brutality included pulling out
fingernails, teeth, and beards, branding on the chest with hot horseshoes and
raising the feet above the body and beating under the foot until it bled4. After the
severe torturing, they were killed. Turkish officials then seized all weapons that
were owned by the Armenians, and then brought it to the government offices
where their weapons were relinquished. Others hesitated to abandon their only
means of self-defense and instead, buried guns in the ground, store them in dry
wells, or hid them in their houses or barns5. This led to house-to-house searches
in some communities, with Armenians being tortured until they revealed whether
they owned weapons.
On May 27, 1915, an official Edict of Deportation was issued6. For most
Armenians, the deportation orders were a complete surprise. The Armenians were
in despair as they left the villages and cities where their families had lived for
many generations. When preparing for the deportation journey, Armenians faced
anguishing decisions about what to take with them, who to go with, or even the
decision of whether to leave their children behind, especially if there was a
Turkish family willing to keep him or her for her. Some Armenians faced other
moral dilemmas: that they were given the option of converting to Islam and
remaining in their homes7. Very few Armenians selected this option. In the
beginning of spring of 1915, Armenians were deported from their homes and
forced to march hundreds of miles to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia8. This
was called death marches9. Along the way some were killed outright, and tens
of thousands more died of dehydration, hunger, exhaustion, exposure, and disease.
Those who fell behind in the marches were either shot right on the spot, or left
behind to die in the scorching sun to await their fatality. In many, but not all, of
the deportation caravans, the men were separated from women and children during
the first few days of the journey and were killed. Some were just young boys,
fifteen and sometimes as young as nine or ten. Often, the men and boys were
taken away from the main caravan so there would be no witnesses to see the
slaughtering10. Men were not always slaughtered by shooting. To preserve
ammunition, the Turks often axed, bayoneted, or slain them with farm
implements11. At night, deportees had little or no protection, because tents or
other forms of shelter had already been stolen. Deportees were reduced to almost
subhuman conditions. Most were stripped of their clothes, and their bodies were
infested with lice12. They were also not allowed to drink any water, if a
gendarme13 saw anyone drinking water they would shoot them, even if they were
drinking from a dirty puddle. Starvation was another common death. Many were
forced to eat the grass that grew alongside the road. The conditions for women
and children was terrible. Mothers would sometime have to abandon their
children for it seemed as though it was their last resort. Girls were often raped by
the gendarmes which often lead them to commit suicide. Arm in arm several girls
would throw themselves over cliff tops or jump in the Euphrates River to be left to
drown14. Nearly 75 percent of the Armenian community suffered the brutal
beatings and losts. Only 25% of the Armenians survived what we call the
Armenian Genocide.

The Turks that deny that the Armenian Genocide never occurred are liars.
Fifty years after the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government would refer to
the genocide of the Armenians as alleged15. There are so many facts that prove
that the Genocide did take place. The killing and torturing methods, the high
death tolls, and the subhuman conditions that were bestowed upon them, are all
certainties that make the genocide factual. How can they deny that it never
occurred if just coincidentally, millions of Armenians just perished off the face of
the earth? There are logical reasons and proof, from the stories of the survivors,
that the Armenians were indeed, annihilated by the Turks. There were many
onlookers who, in fact, witnessed the massacres committed and lived through the
awful reality of the genocide itself.

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If the Turks deny to be held responsible for the killings of the Armenians,
then why were they deported and took on what they call death marches? More
than half of the Armenian population (men, women, and children) were forced to
leave their homes to go where they would meet their fatality. This survivor
describes the journey of the death marches Anyone who would fall behind would
be shot on the spot16. Since this was a spectator who actually witnessed the
crime, its a proven fact that the Turks did, in fact, commit a genocide. Other
witnesses, such as the wives and children who survived, recall the brutal killings
of their husbands or father, a typical scenario17. When the caravans reached the
city limits, the men were separated from the group; gendarmes tied their hands
and escorted them away from their families. Wives and children heard gun shots
ring out, and then the gendarmes returned alone….18 This is a chilling thought,
but it did occur and its another fact that makes the Turks accountable for the
liquidation of the Armenian people.

Another fact that proves that the Turks are responsible for the annihilation
of the Armenians, are the subhuman conditions that usually led to painful deaths.
Many Armenians were filthy and were often burned from exposure19. Many had
been stripped of their clothes, and their bodies were infested with lice20. Many
were so weak and sore from walking hundreds of miles with little clothing, or
water nor food. A survivor describes her physical condition, I had gotten so
weak that I couldnt stand up. I was reduced to bones by this time, half dead21.
This quote shows the cruel and subhuman conditions that were bestowed upon the
Armenians by the Turks. At night they had no tents or any type of shelter.
Most of the deportees22 had nearly every possession they owned embezzled from
them by gendarmes before they were deported. Most families, as big a six to eight
members, had to share one blanket during the cold, bitter nights. Staying close
together, which created body heat, was the only thing that really kept them warm
since there were no mattresses or pillows to lie on. Sometimes it would rain all
night and their clothing and blankets would be soaking wet from the rain, but at
the same time, they were also rejoiced because they received some water. Its a
pitiable situation to even discuss, but once again the Turks are at blame.

There were also frequent reports of starvation and dehydration. Many
survivors recall that there was a lack of food and water. It was so bad that there
was a number of Armenian people who died from the lack of food and water
supplies. One survivor remembers an incident while struggling to get a sip of
water. We came up to a place where there was a large tree. Under it was a dirty
puddle accumulated from rain and where animals had urinated. People threw
themselves on the water, but gendarmes began shooting and wouldnt allow
anyone to drink23. This indicates that the Turks corrupt intentions were to
literally kill them in all means, weather it was cruel, cheap, or painful. They are
held responsible for the millions of Armenian lives lost and clearly, are the ones
who are at fault.

Armenians were basically puppet toys who were amusement for the Turks.
The Turks inhumane acts were very discouraging. They would rape twelve year
old girls until theyve been terribly abused and would die. The virgins were
terrified of being raped, or abducted so hundreds of them would drown themselves
in a single day. According to a survivor who witnessed the suicides, Virgin girls
holding each others hands, threw themselves into the River Euphrates24. The
Turks acted as though Armenian were trophies of some sort. They would pose in
pictures with the heads of Armenian men and women. Women were stripped of
their clothes and were hung by their long hair and then killed by beheading.
Witnesses recall seeing dead corpses on the side of the road that were so
decapitated that the fat from the bodies would be melted around the body. The
odor was so bad that it cause health issues. In order to dispose the rotting bodies,
the Turks gathered them all up and poured kerosene over them and burned them.
In some cases theyve burned people alive. A survivor recalls her cousin being
burned alive. They took part of our group to a cave and killed them…the way
they killed them was to put them in the cave, place wood in front of it, and burn
In conclusion, the Turks are held responsible for the Armenian Genocide.
What theyre denying is absolutely false, and I proved that with several facts that
backed up my thesis. My sixth grade teacher once told me that a genocide seeks
no difference between men and women, between children and adults. That it
understands no righteousness and tolerates no principle which invests life with
meaning and individuals with rights. The Turks believed it was okay to kill a
Armenian and to get away with it. They believed that it was okay to starve them
and send them on death marches. They believed it was okay to rape the women,
and it was okay to kill the men as well as the children. The Armenians were not
humans in their eyes, they were considered animals, or even objects.
Mechanically operated robots of some sort, who were expected to walk
practically-forever, in the middle of a deserted desert with nothing living within
hundreds of miles away. No one to witness the killings. No one to hear their cries
for help. No one to come and rescue them. And the Turks are blameworthy.
Between 1915-1923, more than one million Armenian lives were taken. It is
described as the first genocide in the twentieth century. The people of Armenia
suffered prolong despair, devastation, torture, and brutality that will remain in
history forever. Words
/ Pages : 2,018 / 24


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