In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire joined World War I on the side of the Central Powers. İsmail Enver, the Minister of War, launched a disastrous military campaign against Russian forces in the Caucasus in the hope of capturing Baku. His forces were routed at the Battle of Sarikamis, and many of his men froze to death.
Returning to Istanbul, Enver largely blamed the Armenians living in the region for actively siding with the Russians. Despite the tensions, the Armenians had thrived under Ottoman rule. Most Armenians were better educated and wealthier than their Turkish counterparts, who were jealous of their success. The resentment was fuelled by suspicions that the Christian Armenians would support fellow Christian governments, especially Russia, which shared an unstable border with the Ottoman Empire, as opposed to the Muslim Ottoman caliphate.
In 1914, the Ottoman War Office had already begun a propaganda drive to present Armenians as a liability and a threat to the Ottomans' security. An Ottoman naval officer in the War Office described the planning:
|“||In order to justify this enormous crime the requisite propaganda material was thoroughly prepared in Istanbul. [It included such statements as] "the Armenians are in league with the enemy. They will launch an uprising in Istanbul, kill off the Ittihadist leaders and will succeed in opening the straits [of the Dardanelles]."||”|
The Ottoman government, moving quickly, arrested an estimated 250 Armenian intellectuals on the night of 24 April 1915. The acts of genocide against the Armenians continued for nine years until 1922, with around 388,000 Armenians remaining.
The massacres of Armenians in 1894, 1895, 1896 and 1909 were still fresh in their minds.
Acts committed by TurksEdit
In the beginning, around 1915-1916, Armenians were kicked out of their homes, which were claimed by Turks. During a Turkification campaign, the government squads kidnapped children, converted them to Islam and gave them to Turkish families. In some places, they raped and forced women to join Turkish “harems” or serve as slaves. Women would mar their bodies with scars or burn a part of their face to be unfit to join a harem. Muslim families moved into the homes of deported Armenians and seized their property.
At the same time, the 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”. The killing squads were often made up of murderers and other ex-convicts. People were drowned in rivers, threw off cliffs, crucified and burned alive.
|“||"I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared with the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915." Henry Morgenthau, American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, 1913-1916. -Henry Morgenthau||”|
Denial of killingsEdit
Guenter Lewy claims in his book,The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide, that there is not enough evidence of the Young Turk regime organizing the killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. According to Lewy, even though their fate in World War I proved tragic, it was not a "real" genocide because "there were no centrally organized and state-sponsored premeditation and genocidal intention".
A major obstacle for the wider recognition of the genocide in the world is the official position of Turkey, which states that there was no systematic attempt to annihilate the Armenian population and that the 1915 massacres happened because of the Tehcir Law and the war. In December 2008, a group of Turkish scholars launched an online petition for people who wanted to apologize for what happened. The people who created the petition failed use the word "genocide" but used "the Great Catastrophe" regarding the event. Many Turks viewed the Armenians as a threat to the Ottoman Empire in a time of war and argued that people of various ethnicities were killed during the violence. Turkey and its leaders fear that recognizing the word "genocide" could cost considerable sums of money in reparations, as well as public embarrassment.
- "Cultural Cleansing: Who Remembers The Armenians," in Robert Bevan. The Destruction of Memory, Reaction Books, London. 2006, pages 25-60
- Balakian. The Burning Tigris, p. 200
- Dadrian., History of the Armenian Genocide, p. 220
- Balakian. The Burning Tigris, pp. 211-212
- "A Peace to End All Peace", by David Fromkin, p211.
- Lewy, Guenter (Fall 2005). "Revisiting the Armenian Genocide". Middle East Quarterly.
- See Taner Akçam, Guenter Lewy’s The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey." Genocide Studies and Prevention, 3:1 April 2008, pp. 111-143.
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