With ISIS close by and wars occurring in neighboring countries, I continuously am told that Armenians should get over something that took place 100 years ago, and instead focus on current events that need our attention. It has also come to my attention that many people are not well informed about the genocide. Hence why I felt the need to write up an informative post regarding the genocide and the importance to recognize it.
What is a genocide?
How many Armenians were killed?
When the genocide was over in 1922, there were just 388,000 Armenians remaining in the Ottoman Empire. It has been estimated that approximately 1.5 million Armenians out of a population of 2.5 million were killed as a purposeful extermination.
Why did the Ottomans want to exterminate the Armenians?Armenians under Ottoman rule were treated unequally and had very few political and legal rights compared to Turks plus as Christians, they were required to pay more taxes than Muslims. All religious minorities in the Ottoman Empire were autonomous however, they weren’t allowed to be part of the ruling class unless they converted to Islam. In spite of all that, the Armenians continued to thrive. They tended to be better educated, more successful and wealthier than their Turkish counterparts who started resenting them. Previous Armenian massacres took place between 1894 and 1896, then again in 1909.
Armenians had already started organizing and demanding their civil rights when WWI broke out. Armenians were blamed for siding with the Russians and the Young Turks began a campaign to portray Armenians as a threat to the state. As the war intensified, Armenian nationalists created volunteer battalions to support Russia against the Ottomans hence the Ottomans ensured that Armenians were ‘removed’ from the Eastern front.
“Surely a few Armenians aided and abetted our enemy, and a few Armenian Deputies committed crimes against the Turkish nation… it is incumbent upon a government to pursue the guilty ones. Unfortunately, our wartime leaders, imbued with a spirit of brigandage, carried out the law of deportation in a manner that could surpass the proclivities of the most bloodthirsty bandits. They decided to exterminate the Armenians, and they did exterminate them.”
Mustafa Arif – Minister of Interior stated on 13 December 1918.
What happened on April 24, 1915?
April 24, 1915 is the date the Armenian genocide began. The Turkish government arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals on that day and from then on, Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the desert without food or water. They were stripped naked and forced to walk under the sun until they dropped dead. Those who stopped to rest were shot. Hundreds of Armenian villages were ravaged and their Armenian occupiers annihilated.
Denial is committing the genocide twice
The denial of a genocide is the final stage of the genocide, exempts the perpetrators from any punishment, and paves the way for future genocides. Denial of the genocide is committing a double killing by killing the memory of the event.
There is no statute of limitation in international law on crimes against humanity, including genocides. Additionally, official recognition is required in order for both countries to reconcile.
Recognition is required to heal wounds
Not recognizing and condemning the genocide results in frustration amongst victim groups. Recognition is essential to heal an open wound before they scar, debilitate the victim group and have them want to take vengeance by administering justice on their own. To quote Fr. Richard Rohr “Pain that is not transformed is transmitted.” This is evident amongst the Armenians in Armenia and diaspora who are still hurting a century later due to the world’s lack of acknowledgement of the genocide.
“Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,”
Pope Francis, 2015
Recognizing the genocide is all about responsibility, accountability, social justice and to reconcile after the impact of one of the most extensive human rights crimes of the 20th century.
Avoid future genocides
Denying a genocide and allowing the perpetrators to get away with it, allows future genocides to take place. Prior to invading Poland, Hitler said, “Who today, after all, speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?” By 1945, six million Jewish people were mercilessly slaughtered. It is possible that if the world recognized and condemned the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust might have not occurred.
The importance of the term ‘genocide’
For the past century, Armenians have wanted the international community to recognize and acknowledge the ‘forgotten genocide’. There is an overwhelming amount of extended research and accumulated evidence that proves that it was a genocide – not an ‘atrocity’ or a ‘tragedy’ but a ‘genocide.’ The usage of that terminology is extremely important. No one refers to the Jewish holocaust, or the genocides in Darfur and Cambodia as ‘unfortunate atrocities,’ then why shouldn’t the Armenian genocide receive the same recognition?!
“If nations are allowed to commit genocide with impunity, to hide their guilt in a camouflage of lies and denials, there is a real danger that other brutal regimes will be encouraged to attempt genocides. Unless we speak today of the Armenian genocide and unless the Government recognizes this historical fact, we shall leave this century of unprecedented genocides with this blot on our consciences.”
Baroness Caroline Cox, House of Lords