The Armenian Genocide
by Kamau Kokayi-Taylor
What is genocide?
Genocide is defined as the systematic mass killings of people, usually involving the murder of citizens of the country or state. This term was coined by Raphael Lemkin after he witnessed the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust(ushmm.gov). Genocide is usually separated into eight stages, classification, symbolization, dehumanization, polarization, preparation, extermination, and denial. Usually when people think of genocides they think of the Nazi Reign, who slaughtered close 11 million people during the infamous Holocaust. This particular event was not the first genocide, but the reason it is so widely "popular," and most talked about is due to the fact that the Holocaust itself defined genocide. It was so horrible that the a term had to be made to define it. So most of the time other genocides in other areas are overlooked because the holocaust was more severe.
Armenian's many empires
However In Armenia before WWI a genocide occurred, one that slaughtered close to two million people. Children, young men and women, elders, infants, everyone and anyone was brutally killed. Armenia is a mountainous country located in Eurasia, located between, Turkey, Georgia, Iran and Azerbaijan. Armenia has always been the center, of hostile and non hostile takeovers by other empires including, the Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Persians, and Ottomans. These, "takeovers," spanned from From Reports in BC, AC, the late fifteenth century, early sixteenth century through the late 1800s and early 1900s. In the early sixteenth century the country was consistent of three main religions, this includes Armenian Apostolic to which the overwhelming majority of Armenians belonged, and the Armenian Catholic, and Armenian Protestant communities (Wikipedia "Armenians under Ottoman rule.") At one point the Ottoman Empire allowed the Armenians to essentially self govern themselves in their own areas which pertained to their different cultures and religions. However the wealthy, "elite" and urban areas weren't affected by this.
Life before the genocide was quite hard for Armenian citizens. With Approximately 70% of the population living in rural, poor, and dangerous rural areas in the countryside and close to three million citizens living in Armenia 1878 (400,000 in Constantinople and the Balkans, 600,000 in Asia Minor and Cilicia, 670,000 in Lesser Armenia and the area near Kayseri, and 1,300,000 in Western Armenia itself, Wikipedia) by 1878, resources were quite scarce. Problems were also occurring in the eastern parts of Armenia, which was mostly ruled by the Ottoman empire and Turkish government. The Turks generally didn't treat their citizens too kindly, and living in this area were subject to overtaxing, random kidnapping, and forced conversion to Islam. Status was definitely a huge deal in Armenia, which basically decided how you were treated, where you lived, whom you could have relations with, what religion you can worship, and any human freedoms were decided upon how much revenue you made.
In the 19th century the great powers such as Great Britain and France, began to question how Christian minorities were being treated and they suggested that the ottoman government write a constitution. So in response to this the Ottoman government sent created the Tanzimat. This series of reforms was meant to settle the treatment of minorities but the Muslims population rejected it. In the 1870s and 80s a new class of intellectual minds began appearing in Armenia, whom began to question the government's treatment of its citizens. They created a committee and began to lay down new rules, and tried to address obvious issues that the lower class and non Muslim religious were facing. Such as village raiding, murder, and criminal actions committed by Muslims and government officials. Of course the ottoman government promised to do something about the issues but never did.
What lead to genocide
Since 1876, the Ottoman Empire was ruled by Sultan Abdul Hamid II. After the treaty of Berlin was signed he began assessing the actual problems of Armenia, seeing that Armenians did not make up the minority and that the possibility of their claims of abuse were false or exaggerated he created paramilitary corps known as Hamidiye which was made up of Kurdish were tasked to, "deal with the Armenians as they wished." This resulted in the mass assembly of rebellious Armenians who tried to protest against the murders of Armenians by the Hamidiye. The protest lead to the police taking charge which spiraled into the Hamidian massacre, killing over 100,000. In 1908 a groups called the Young Turks successfully removed Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
Labour battalions, 25th of February
In was WWI and On the 25th of February 1915, Enver Pasha sent out an order to kill all young, non Muslim males from ages (15-20) and (45-60) out of fear that they would collaborate with the Russian forces. When the Armenians began to set up their own defenders, the government began their next plan which was to release propaganda about Armenians. This is known as Polarization.
The genocide began on April 24th, 1915 when the Ottoman government, "embarked upon the systematic decimation of its civilian Armenian population." (Wikipedia) In other words the ottoman government murdered hundreds of thousands of its citizens, convinced that they were woking with the enemy, the Russians, when really nobody was. Beginning with young and older men, armenian citizens were held prisoner, they were forced into hard labor, long periods of time in which they were deprived of food, and water, they were raped, murdered, massacred by the thousands, they were forced to do “death marches,”and children and elderly were also slaughtered. Prisoners were forced to sleep in cramped spaces filled with either dead bodies or in other horrible areas. At the same time the Young Turks who originally were fighting for Armenian freedoms began to mobilize their own killing squads, consisting of murders and ex-convicts, whom drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive (History.com). As I mentioned before children were also affected, and some records show that some Armenian children were kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, and given to different families. By the end of the genocide 1.5 million people were either dead, sick, or missing and only 388,000 Armenians remained in the Ottoman Empire. Many children were left without homes, or loved ones to take care of them, so they began to 'beg,' passing pedestrians for food, or they died.
Life After the genocide
The genocide finally ended in november of 1918, and the Ottoman empire surrendered, meanwhile the Young Turks fled to germany. Turkey has continued to deny the Armenian Genocide from ever happening, stating that the Armenians were the 'enemy,' and that the slaughters were indeed, 'necessary.' Considering that Turkey is an ally to the U.S we kept tight wraps on the Armenian genocide until 2010, when the U.S congress voted to recognize it. Adolf Hitler even noted the genocide when he said in 1939 before taking over Poland, "Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my 'Death's Head Units' with the orders to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the vital space that we need. Who still talks nowadays about the Armenians?"
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end genocide pic:
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8 stages of genocide pic:
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Ottoman empire map:
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Armenian death march:
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