Armenian Genocide - The Young Turks, Causes and Facts

Armenian Genocide - The Young Turks, Causes and Facts

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The Armenian genocide was the systematic killing and deportation of Armenians by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. In 1915, during World War I, leaders of the Turkish government set in motion a plan to expel and massacre Armenians.

By the early 1920s, when the massacres and deportations finally ended, between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians were dead, with many more forcibly removed from the country. Today, most historians call this event a genocide: a premeditated and systematic campaign to exterminate an entire people. On April 24, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a declaration that the Ottoman Empire’s slaughter of Armenian civilians was genocide. However, the Turkish government still does not acknowledge the scope of these events.

The Roots of Genocide: The Ottoman Empire

The Armenian people have made their home in the Caucasus region of Eurasia for some 3,000 years. For some of that time, the kingdom of Armenia was an independent entity: At the beginning of the 4th century A.D., for instance, it became the first nation in the world to make Christianity its official religion.

But for the most part, control of the region shifted from one empire to another. During the 15th century, Armenia was absorbed into the mighty Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman rulers, like most of their subjects, were Muslim. They permitted religious minorities like the Armenians to maintain some autonomy, but they also subjected Armenians, who they viewed as “infidels,” to unequal and unjust treatment.

Christians had to pay higher taxes than Muslims, for example, and they had very few political and legal rights.

In spite of these obstacles, the Armenian community thrived under Ottoman rule. They tended to be better educated and wealthier than their Turkish neighbors, who in turn grew to resent their success.

This resentment was compounded by suspicions that the Christian Armenians would be more loyal to Christian governments (that of the Russians, for example, who shared an unstable border with Turkey) than they were to the Ottoman caliphate.

These suspicions grew more acute as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. At the end of the 19th century, the despotic Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II – obsessed with loyalty above all, and infuriated by the nascent Armenian campaign to win basic civil rights – declared that he would solve the “Armenian question” once and for all.

“I will soon settle those Armenians,” he told a reporter in 1890. “I will give them a box on the ear which will make them…relinquish their revolutionary ambitions.”

The First Armenian Massacre

Between 1894 and 1896, this “box on the ear” took the form of a state-sanctioned pogrom.

In response to large scale protests by Armenians, Turkish military officials, soldiers and ordinary men sacked Armenian villages and cities and massacred their citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were murdered.

Young Turks

In 1908, a new government came to power in Turkey. A group of reformers who called themselves the “Young Turks” overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid and established a more modern constitutional government.

At first, the Armenians were hopeful that they would have an equal place in this new state, but they soon learned that what the nationalistic Young Turks wanted most of all was to “Turkify” the empire. According to this way of thinking, non-Turks – and especially Christian non-Turks – were a grave threat to the new state.

World War I Begins

In 1914, the Turks entered World War I on the side of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (At the same time, Ottoman religious authorities declared a holy war against all Christians except their allies.)

Military leaders began to argue that the Armenians were traitors: If they thought they could win independence if the Allies were victorious, this argument went, the Armenians would be eager to fight for the enemy.

As the war intensified, Armenians organized volunteer battalions to help the Russian army fight against the Turks in the Caucasus region. These events, and general Turkish suspicion of the Armenian people, led the Turkish government to push for the “removal” of the Armenians from the war zones along the Eastern Front.

Armenian Genocide Begins

On April 24, 1915, the Armenian genocide began. That day, the Turkish government arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals.

After that, ordinary Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water.

Frequently, the marchers were stripped naked and forced to walk under the scorching sun until they dropped dead. People who stopped to rest were shot.

At the same time, the Young 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.”

These killing squads were often made up of murderers and other ex-convicts. They drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive. In short order, the Turkish countryside was littered with Armenian corpses.

Records show that during this “Turkification” campaign, government squads also kidnapped children, converted them to Islam and gave them to Turkish families. In some places, they raped women and forced them to join Turkish “harems” or serve as slaves. Muslim families moved into the homes of deported Armenians and seized their property.

Though reports vary, most sources agree that there were about 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the massacre. In 1922, when the genocide was over, there were just 388,000 Armenians remaining in the Ottoman Empire.

Armenian Genocide Today

After the Ottomans surrendered in 1918, the leaders of the Young Turks fled to Germany, which promised not to prosecute them for the genocide. (However, a group of Armenian nationalists devised a plan, known as Operation Nemesis, to track down and assassinate the leaders of the genocide.)

Ever since then, the Turkish government has denied that a genocide took place. The Armenians were an enemy force, they argue, and their slaughter was a necessary war measure.

Turkey is an important ally of the United States and other Western nations, and so their governments had been slow to condemn the long-ago killings. In March 2010, a U.S. Congressional panel voted to recognize the genocide. On October 29, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that recognized the Armenian genocide. And on April 24, 2021, President Biden issued a statement, saying, "The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today."

10 Facts About the Armenian Genocide

On Oct. 29, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to acknowledge the Armenian genocide that occurred at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during the First World War. Armenian-Americans have long-awaited this action, which was taken at a time of worsening U.S. and Turkey relations. The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, lauded the motion on Twitter and called it “a bold step towards serving truth and historical justice.” Here are 10 facts about the Armenian genocide to further contextualize this important decision.

10 Facts About the Armenian Genocide

  1. The Armenian genocide refers to the systematic, premeditated massacre and forced deportation of more than one million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. While the number of victims of the genocide is disputed, some estimates, such as one from the U.S. Congress, puts the number of Armenians killed by the Ottoman Empire at 1.5 million Armenians between 1915-1923. The genocide was an attempt by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire to eradicate the Armenian people. , the Armenian people had resided in the Caucasus region for approximately 3,000 years. The Armenians are predominantly Christian and in the fourth century A.D., the kingdom of Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. In the 1400s, that empire was that of the Ottomans. Led by Muslim Turks, the Ottoman Empire was suspicious of the Armenians who they feared would be more loyal to Christian governments. Nevertheless, the Armenians thrived under the empire until its decline, beginning in the late 1800s. Ottoman discrimination towards the Armenians reached a new high as the empire grew weaker. By the 1890s, the regime was already committing mass atrocities, including the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians.
  2. In 1908, the Young Turks, a nationalistic reformist group, overthrew the Sultan and formed a constitutional government. The Young Turks wanted to “Turkify” the empire and viewed the Christian non-Turks of Armenia as a threat to their regime. Indeed, when the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary, the Turks declared war on all Christians with the exception of their allies in the war. World War I was the immediate backdrop of the Armenian genocide. The Turks used it as justification for their persecution of the Armenians, whom the Turks called traitors. As the war dragged on and some Armenians sought to aid the Russian army against the Ottomans, the Turkish regime set out to remove Armenians from their Eastern front.
  3. Historians consider the beginning of the genocide to be April 24, 1915. On this day, the Turks arrested and killed between 50 and more than 100 of Armenian intellectuals. After that, the Turkish government sent thousands of people on death marches and deprived them of basic needs, such as food and water. Often, Armenians were forced to walk naked until they died. The government had other gruesome ways to kill Armenians, including burning people alive.
  4. Most of the killings occurred between 1915-1916, during which period the Ottoman Empire systematically slaughtered and terrorized Armenians by raping, starving, shooting, drowning and maiming them. Many Armenians died from disease or were subjected to mass deportations as well. Even after World War I, the Turkish nationalist government continued its persecution of Armenians and other ethnic minorities in Cilicia, Smyrna (Izmir) and the Armenian highlands. The nationalist regime confiscated property from Armenians in order “to finance the ‘Turkification’ of Anatolia” and to incentivize ordinary Ottoman citizens to take part in the ethnic cleansing campaign.
  5. Ottoman forces sought to rid of the region of Armenian landmarks such as churches, homes and other cultural sites by destroying or confiscating the properties. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “tens of thousands of Armenian children were forcibly removed from their families and converted to Islam” because the Ottoman government wanted them to assimilate into Turkish society. In some cases, children could convert to Islam in exchange for staying alive. In addition to the Armenians, the Ottoman government targeted non-Turkic minorities, namely Yezidis, Assyrians and Greeks.
  6. Turkey refuses to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, though the Turkish government acknowledges that some atrocities happened. However, the government argues that the killings of the Armenians were not systematic or premeditated and were an unavoidable consequence of the war. Recognition of the Armenian genocide is illegal in Turkey, as it is considered to be “insulting Turkishness.”
  7. Recognition of the genocide by the U.S. is controversial because of the United States’ alliance with Turkey. For the first time in decades, the entire U.S. House of Representatives considered and decided to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. At the time of the ethnic cleansing and since then, the U.S. has condemned the Turks’ genocidal activities on various occasions. U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (1913-1916), Henry Morgenthau, declared the Ottoman’s actions as a “campaign of race extermination” and organized protests by officials against the Ottomans. The U.S. government officially recognized the genocide in May 1951, April 1981, 1975 and in 1984.
  8. The Armenian genocide still has consequences to this day. There are 7-10 million people in the Armenian diaspora, and 3 million people in Armenia, who are descendants of the genocide. The genocide is, for some, core to Armenia’s identity. Yet others would like for Armenia to move and focus on problems in their own country. Turkey’s refusal to recognize the genocide affects its politics today and its relations to Armenia. However, there are groups (including liberal intellectuals and Kurdish groups) in Turkey that have acknowledged and apologized for the genocide.
  9. Denial of the genocide has far-reaching implications. Turkey’s denial of the genocide has hindered peace between Turkey and Armenia. This denial undermines the commitment to preventing future genocides and atrocities. The institutionalized denial shields the perpetrators of the genocide from blame. The U.S. has refused to acknowledge the genocide as such, under the argument that doing so would threaten regional security and U.S. interests in the Middle East. Turkey’s genocide denial has perpetuated the distrust and resentment Armenians have towards the Turks, as well as anxiety Armenians have that they are still under threat.

H. Res. 296: Affirming the United States Record on the Armenian Genocide

The House of Representatives recently passed a resolution acknowledging the genocide. This action is significant, as the previous U.S. attempts to recognize the genocide have resulted in renewed bilateral talks between Turkey and Armenia. Another positive effect of the United States’ recognition of the genocide is that it is front-page news across Turkey. Thus, recognition of the Armenian genocide brings greater awareness to it, especially to Turks who never knew it occurred since the history of the mass killings was omitted from school books.

On April 8, 2019, Representative Adam Schiff [D-CA-28] introduced H.Res. 296 which had 141 cosponsors, including 120 Democrats and 21 Republicans. The House passed the resolution on Oct. 29, 2019, by a margin of 405 to 11. In the weeks leading up to the vote, Turkey outraged members of Congress by its ground offensive against the Syrian Kurds and U.S./Turkey relations have continued to sour since then.

On Dec. 12, 2019, the Senate unanimously voted to affirm the Armenian genocide, despite the Trump administration’s objections.

The Armenian genocide was a horrific tragedy that led to the deaths of one and a half million people, yet many people still deny the reality of the genocide for political reasons. As these 10 facts about the Armenian genocide prove, the mass ethnic cleansing did happen, and its effects are felt to this day.

When people think of genocide, what often comes to mind is the Holocaust, Rwanda and the killing fields of Cambodia. Few might be aware of what happened to the Armenians during World War I in the country now known as Turkey.

Part of the problem is that Turkey continues to deny the state-sanctioned murder, rape and mass deportation of Armenians. At least 1 million people died.

But the Turkish authorities will likely come under new pressure to change their position when the centenary of the genocide is marked on April 24.

Ronald G. Suny, a professor of social and political history at the University of Michigan, has spent much of his career researching the genocide. He has also played a key role in getting Turkish and Armenian scholars to begin discussing the genocide among themselves.

Suny met with Global Michigan to discuss the genocide and his new book, “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else: A History of the Armenian Genocide.” Here are edited excerpts from the discussion:

Q: Who were the Armenians and how did they end up living together with the Turks?

Suny: The area where the genocide largely took place was eastern Anatolia or eastern Turkey today. Armenians think of it as historic Armenia—a mountain plateau, which was occupied by Armenians from the 5th century B.C. They were an ancient people who in the early 4th century A.D. converted to Christianity. It was one of the oldest Christian civilizations. But that area of Armenia was also a crossroads of many empires: the Persians, Byzantines, Romans, Russians and the Ottomans.

Q: What were the general sources of tension between the Armenians and Turks?

Suny: In the 11th century, Turks began to come from Central Asia. First the Seljuk Turks, under the leader Seljuk, and later the Ottoman Turks, under their leader Osman and others that followed. Eventually, the Ottomans created an empire the stretched from the walls of Vienna, down through the Middle East, through what had been historical Armenia, all the way through Palestine and North Africa, taking Egypt as well. It was a huge empire, which lasted until World War I. So the period we’re talking about is the crisis of that empire. During WWI, a group called “The Young Turks” who were ruling the Ottoman Empire decided that the Christian Armenians in their midst were treacherous and that they were allied with Armenians who lived across the border in the Russian Empire and that they preferred the Russians to the Ottoman Turks, so they had to be eliminated. So that’s the general source of what became this massive killing that we call the Armenian genocide.

Q: What kind of social status did the Armenians have during the Ottoman Empire?

Suny: The Ottoman Empire was an empire and that means some groups rule over others. It’s certainly an unequal relationship. Muslims in the empire were more privileged, generally, than non-Muslims, so the Armenians being non-Muslims had an inferior status. Yet Armenians did well in the Ottoman Empire, becoming the middle class in the city of Istanbul. But most Armenians were peasants, workers or artisans in eastern Anatolia. This relationship was uneven. Everyone knew that Muslims stood above the gavur—the unbelievers or infidels.

In time, the Armenians were known as the ‘loyal millet’ because other non-Muslims—such as Bulgarians, Serbs, Greeks—had revolted against the Ottoman Empire and eventually formed their own states in the Balkans. The Armenians did not do that. They were generally loyal to the Ottoman Empire and believed they would stay within the empire if the empire reformed and gave them a degree of autonomy or self rule. And they would often petition European powers and the Russians to try to help them in reaching their goal of a degree of autonomy in the Ottoman Empire. The Turks saw this as a treacherous move, dealing with foreigners, and accused the Armenians of being separatists.

Q: The Turks have accused the Armenians of forming their own armies and threatening the empire. Was this a real threat?

Suny: The bulk of Armenians were peasants in eastern Anatolia who daily met with vicious attacks from Kurds and other nomadic people who would rob cattle, sometimes steal their women and land. And the Turkish state did relatively little about this. So Armenians formed their own self-defense groups, which tried to defend Armenians against these predations. That only led to further accusations of resistance, insurrection, betrayal, treason and separatism.

Eventually, the Ottoman government decided during WWI that the Armenians were an existential threat to the empire and that they needed to be removed from the area. Hundreds of thousands were massacred. Some women and children, perhaps several hundred thousand, were assimilated or Islamized into Kurdish, Turkish and Arab families. So the genocide, which is the elimination of the Armenian population in what had historically been their homeland, was accomplished by three methods: dispersion, physical massacre and assimilation or Islamization by force.

Q: Can you tell us about your new book about the genocide?

The book is called “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else.” That’s a quote from Talaat Pasha, one of the architects of the genocide. The subtitle is “A History of the Armenian Genocide.”

When I thought about writing this book and went back to the sources and other books written about the genocide, I realized no one has ever told the story as a historical narrative: What happened and when, then what happened, and how one thing led to another and how a certain mentality was created. I wanted to tell the story internally as a product of Ottoman history and the ambitions of the Ottoman government, including the Armenians who were also involved in trying to improve their lives and gain a degree of self rule. I also wanted to describe the international context. What was Britain, France, Germany and Russia doing? They all had ambitions in this area. No one told that story in all its detail as an analytical narrative—a story that explains and interprets why this terrible tragedy happened. The book is a work of social science but it is told as a historical narrative.

Q: What are the chances Turkey will ever acknowledge the genocide anytime soon?

Suny: We now know better than we did 15 years ago what actually happened. We have a number of explanations. Many of the scholars we’ve worked with—Turks and Kurds—have accepted that this is certainly a genocide. At least that’s a foundation.

The Turkish government still officially denies the genocide. It doesn’t want to face up to the fact that its ancestors could commit such colossal crimes—crimes on which the current Republic of Turkey is founded.

There is some movement in this centennial year—the 100th anniversary of the genocide. The Turkish government is slightly shifting its position. Last year, on April 23, the day before the Armenians commemorate the anniversary, Recep Tayyip Erdogan—who was prime minister and is now president—offered condolences to the Armenians. Now, if the Armenians had in fact been traitors, insurrectionists, separatists, a threat to the empire, you wouldn’t offer them condolences. But if they had in fact been unfairly treated, innocent victims of repression at the hands of the Turks, then you might think about offering condolences. So you can see already a kind of shift in the Turkish dialogue. And there have been many other moves by the government. They won’t use the G word, they won’t say genocide, but there is a little bit of an opening.

Q: The official policy of the U.S. is not to acknowledge the genocide. Why?

Suny: The U.S. is a close ally of Turkey. It’s a NATO partner. We have bases in Turkey. We need them in the Middle East. We’re partnering with them in the war in Syria. Through the whole Cold War, the whole anti-Communist crusade, now in the crusade against terrorism and radical Islam, America needs the Turks who are strategically located in that part of the world. Therefore, they’re afraid of offending them.

So President Obama, Bill Clinton and Bush—while they were campaigning, they talked about the Armenian genocide. But as soon as they got into office, they refused to use the word “genocide.” Obama has gone the furthest. He uses the Armenian word “Mets Yeghern,” which means the “Great Catastrophe.” Obama even said when he was in Turkey: “I don’t change my mind. I know what it is. We’re just going to use this word instead of genocide.” So that might be a way of easing up to the Turks, but as a social scientist, I use the word genocide.

The Armenian Genocide: Causes & History

What comes to your head when you here the sounds of guns and screams. When women and children are wandering the streets begging, pleading for mercy. All the Turkish soldiers are wandering, with a gun in one hand and an Armenian’s head in the other. The terrified screams, “No! Please don’t! Not my children! Please!!” These were the horrible cries of millions of Armenians that were tortured and most killed by the Ottoman Empire from 1915-1918.

It is true people to make mistakes. Some minor, some major. Most people learn from their mistakes, but some don’t and that is what hurts the most. Human beings keep performing horrible tasks, until these have been pertained to them. When someone here’s about the country “Armenia” or the language “Armenian” they don’t no who it is. Now it is time for us as an Armenian human race to make ourselves heard and speak about our past.

This genocide was one of the leading factors to other genocide’s in the twentieth century for example the Jewish Holocaust. One of the most devastating factors in this genocide is that to this day it has gone unnoticed and unheard..

Another reason that this genocide is special is because it had a major factor in it. This genocide was factored to single out one of the powerhouses in Asia, with all the smart, intelligent and well known people in the world. The Turks singled out one country, one nation and tried to destroy them. They tried to destroy a country, us Armenians, and we have prevailed. Our nation has gone through the havoc the Turks put us through and we thrive in everyplace imaginable now. Now we live on to tell the truth about what has happened to us.

In this essay I will illustrate the reasons for the genocide, the monuments that honor the genocide, how us Armenians fought back, why the Turkish government denied it, how us Armenians can preserve this and the possible solutions to stop genocide’s from occurring again.

“If I could resurrect these dead dog Armenians, I would – just so I could kill them all again.”

-Documented in Greece by a witness to the speech of a high ranking Ottoman Turk official.

Genocide, according to the definition of the 1948 Convention, involves the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such. Genocide may manifest itself in killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to its members, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Which they did. Taking baby Armenians and raising them to become Turkish. Of these conditions, the policies applied in Nazi Germany to German and European Jewry, covered all of the above, with the exception of the forcible transfer of the children of the group.

This genocide was one like no other the Armenians had to face. When earlier massacres had happened with the Armenians, none of the men were trained in the military and certainly none had guns. This was a major factor in the genocide. Armenians with guns. What a preposterous thing the Turks would say. Why does this race deserve the same benefits that we have? The Turks were used to the easy way out. No guns, but now their enemies had guns and were encouraged to use them for self defense by the government. For the Turks to be successful they would have to do two things make all Armenian soldiers powerless and take all Armenian arms out of every Turkish city and town. Before the Armenians could be slaughtered, they would have to be made defenseless. Which they were, than the Turks started to attack and kill!

In the early part of 1915 the Turks started their attacks. All Armenian soldiers were reduced to nothing. Before the Turks did this, most Armenian soldiers that were combatants, were now workmen. Instead of serving their country as artillery men and cavalrymen these soldiers were being treated as animals. The Turks would put unimaginable loads of army supplies on their back and making them walk distances as high as 100 kilometers. These ‘servants’ were allowed a limited time of sleep when their Turkish leaders would allow them to rest. They were given only scraps of foods. When they fell sick, they were left to die on the road and robbed of their only possessions, including their clothes, by their Turkish leaders. Even if these slaves reached their destinations they were not more than always killed. Groups of 50 to 100 Armenians were taken up to a sight near the camp and tied up in groups of four and shot from close range by the Ottoman soldiers. They return shortly, with no shame, sending their servants to bury them (Armenians burying there own). To add so called insult to injury the Armenians were sent to dig their own graves before the killing of them.

One of these death trips occurred early in July, 1915. About 200 Armenian ‘soldiers’ were going to be sent into the hills to start building roads. The Armenians knowing what this meant went, so they went pleading to the governor for mercy. The governor assured the families of the soldiers that not one of them would be harmed. Almost all of the Armenians were massacred and their bodies were thrown into a cave. A few escaped and this is how the genocide reached the world. This was how the genocide started. A horrible act of cruelty and murder that was all because a race was growing. The Armenian race was growing and taking over the Turks. We were growing and getting smarter. These massacres happened frequently. The purpose of these happenings were not only to stop the strong males on the Armenian race to start a new generation of Armenians, but to also make the rest of the Armenian population easy prey.

ABDUL HAMID. Known in history as the “Red Sultan” and stigmatized by Gladstone as “the great assassin.” It was his state policy to solve the Armenian problem by murdering the entire race. The fear of England, France, Russia, and America, was the only thing that restrained him from accomplishing this task. His successors, Talaat and Enver, no longer fearing these nations, have more successfully carried out his program.

The idea of taking weapons from every city and town was a great plan to the Turkish people. The Ottoman Empires highest officials would place signs all around the town asking all peasants to give up their arms at city hall. The few Armenians that gave in were greeted joyfully by the Turkish guards. They were charged with possession of an illegal weapon and almost always killed (beheaded or shot). The Turkish government had no mercy when they were searching for hidden arms. They would even go into a sacred churches and look and break the altars and sacred utensils with the utmost indignity, and even held mock ceremonies in imitation of the Christian sacraments. They would even beat priests senseless for pure pleasure. When they would find no arms in the churches they would just arm the priest with a weapon and charge them in court. The Turks showed no mercy for women. Any women accused of having a weapon were whipped with freshly cut branches from trees. These beatings caused most of the women in the Ottoman Empire to flee to mountains, fields and riverbeds to survive.

All of the strong men were captured and taken to jail one night. These men were inflicted with the most agonizing pain. A common practice was to place the prisoner in a room, with two Turks stationed at each end and each side. The examination would then begin with the bastinado. This is a form of torture not uncommon in the Orient it consists of beating the soles of the feet with a thin rod. At first the pain is not marked but as the process goes slowly on, it develops into the most terrible agony, the feet swell and burst, and not infrequently, after being submitted to this treatment, they have to be amputated. The gendarmes would bastinado their Armenian victim until he fainted they would then revive him by sprinkling water on his face and begin again. If this did not succeed in bringing their victim to terms, they had numerous other methods of persuasion. They would pull out his eyebrows and beard almost hair by hair they would extract his finger nails and toe nails they would apply red-hot irons to his breast, tear off his flesh with red-hot pincers, and then pour boiled butter into the wounds. In some cases the gendarmes would nail hands and feet to pieces of wood, evidently in imitation of the Crucifixion, and then, while the sufferer writhed in his agony, they would cry: “Now let your Christ come and help you!”

These atrocities were usually done at night, with Turkish guards guarding the prison. There were also drummers banging on drums very loudly to block out the screams of the victims to the nearby cities.

FISHING VILLAGE ON LAKE VAN: In this district about 55,000 Armenians were massacred.

The strangest fact that I uncovered about the Armenian Genocide is that most Turkish officials did not deny it. In a story by US ambassador Henry Margenthau, he was talking to a high ranked Turkish official. This official talked freely about the detested Armenian race. This official enjoyed talking about all the pain the Armenians have gone through. He liked it!

This is a major shock to my mind because now all Turkey does is deny the Armenian Genocide ever occurred. It was absurd for the Turkish government to just say, “We are merely deporting the Armenians to new homes”. This was obviously a planned attack and shows that murder was the real purpose of Enver and Talaat. Less than a quarter of the people sent on the caravans actually reached their destinations. A caravan of more than 2000 Armenians would leave (mostly women and children), with 40 Turkish soldiers and only 15 kilometers into the hike, the gendarmes supposed to be their protectors turned into their executioners and murderers. They stripped them of all their possessions and BOOM! Shot them in cold blood.

It was some time before the Armenian atrocities reached the world. When the atrocities reached the US both Enver and Talaat dismissed them as wild exaggerations, and when, for the first time, we heard of the disturbances at Van, these Turkish officials declared that they were nothing more than a mob uprising which they would soon have under control. It was very apparent that the Turkish government was trying to keep this out of the outside world. Talaat spoke about their expulsion, he replied that the Government was acting in self-defense. The Armenians at Van, he said, had already shown their abilities as revolutionists he knew that these leaders in Constantinople were corresponding with the Russians and he had every reason to fear that they would start an insurrection against the Central Government. The safest plan, therefore, was to send them to Angora and other interior towns. Talaat denied that this was part of any general concerted scheme to rid the city of its Armenian population, and insisted that the Armenian masses in Constantinople would not be disturbed. These Armenians were merely acting in self defense for themselves. They were being abused and even killed by the Ottoman government. This horrible incident was denied and ignored by the Turkish government and is still looking for recognition today.

INTERIOR OF THE ARMENIAN CHURCH AT URFA: Where many Armenians were burned. The Armenian Church was established in the fourth century it is said to be the oldest state Christian church in existence.

The Armenian population fought back in a very hard manor. This manor was unfortunately interrupted most of the time because of the lack of strong Armenian men and the incredibly strong Ottoman Turkish government. We have mostly relocated to new spots outside of Turkey. The Armenian population has grown a lot in the past 15 years

The Armenian genocide is a very dreadful and somewhat important memory to preserve for our Armenian youth. This is a good memory for all of the Armenian youth to remember because it is a story of triumph. Our nation has triumphed over the greatest fear of humanity. The fear of being annihilated by another race. We have had a victory and we have to teach this to our Armenian youth because they will learn we are a unique and distinguished race. We have our own strengths and this genocide proves we are able to overcome anything.

In Armenia there is a monument (Dzeedzernagapert) which commemorates the day of April 24, 1915. On this day more than 500 000 Armenian leaders, strong men and scholars were killed. This monument is a good reminder to the Turks of all the misery and pain they have given us. They caused us the worst years of our lives killing more than half of our population. These monuments are a good reminder to the Turks that they have hurt us. They have hurt our country and language. This also lets us as Armenians know that we overcame this great tragedy in life.

The Armenian genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century. This has ‘paved’ the path for other genocide’s such as the Jewish Holocaust. I say this because the Nazi’s view of the holocaust was that if the Turks could get away with killing 2 000 000 Armenians, why can’t we kill as many Jews as we want? They did that and paid serious consequences. While the Turks are still free to talk and repeat again with no punishment.

It is now 2002. 47 years after the genocide. The Armenians have not gotten much recognition.

Armenia have gotten recognition from these groups and governments:

1. Only one Turkish government, that of Dama Ferit Pasha, has ever recognized the Armenian Genocide. In fact that Turkish government held war crimes trials and condemned to death the major leaders responsible.

2. The permanent People’s Tribunal recognized the Armenian genocide in 1984.

The European Parliament voted to recognize the Armenian genocide in 1987.

President Bush (sr.) issued a news release in 1990 calling all Americans to join with Armenians in commemorating the Armenian genocide on April 24.

3. Of course, the government of France has helped in relieving the survivors of the Genocide.

This recognition is the first step in the right direction to recognizing the Armenian genocide for what it really was. All Armenians are now hoping that history will never repeat itself!

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Armenian Genocide - The Young Turks, Causes and Facts - HISTORY

Scholar Taner Akçam describes the Young Turks’ rise to power in the Ottoman Empire and their policies that led to the Armenian Genocide.



School Subject

Scope and Sequence

Transcript (Text)

By the 1890s, the once massive and dominant Ottoman Empire was racked by internal unrest. Many groups, including Armenians and Turks, called for change. One group to emerge was a faction within the reformist Committee of Union and Progress Party, or CUP. This faction was known as the Young Turks.

On July 24, 1908, the Young Turks and the CUP successfully overthrew the Sultan and took control of the Ottoman government. Many Armenians supported this shift, because the Young Turks promised equality for all groups within the empire, including Armenians.

Reforms meant, very simple, participation of Armenians in the administration, in the police, in the security forces, and allowing Armenians free in the education. And then, total equality. For example, acceptance Armenian testimonies in Islam, Muslim courts also, and so on and so forth.

And Armenians, through their revolutionary organization, Armenian Revolutionary Federation, ARF, they were part of Ottoman government also. So they were in a strategic alliance with Union and Progress Party.

Both party, for example, beginning of 1909, established a joint committee and the task of this committee was to implement reforms. And this committee went to Eastern Anatolia, prepared the report on what the reforms should be and so on and so forth. But these reforms never realized.

The Young Turks came to power with a promise of equality for all. However, tensions continued within the empire, as former supporters of the Sultan rebelled in a violent backlash against Armenian equality. Problems continued with a series of conflicts in the Balkans that resulted in the Ottoman Empire losing its non-Turkish, non-Muslim populations in the region, as well as much of its territory. These conflicts came to a head in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913.

Balkan War 1913 was a really important turning point. Ottomans lost, within one week, approximately 80% of their European population and maybe more than 60% of their European landholding. It was a big shock for them to lose these territories within one week.

And another important information to understand the shock that it created, they actually—the ruling elite of Union and Progress Party—they actually lost their birthplaces. They were all coming from Balkan.

And this was really very difficult to digest. And I think—I say, I think, because we don't know any evidence that they decided, you know what? This is it. We cannot live with these Christians in this country together.

In 1913, Young Turks Mehmed Talaat, Ahmed Djemal, and Ismail Enver organized a military coup and formed a coalition of ultranationalists who believed that the only way to hold on to the empire was to embrace a radical ideology of ethnic resettlement, deportation, and eventually, genocide.

It was the end of the policy of unity of the subject people within the empire. So then, they openly declared their Turk-ism. Turkish nationalism became official party policy. And then, they started to develop certain plans for Anatolia.

They started implementing a policy, which I call homogenization of Anatolia. The purpose was to get rid of the Christians out of Anatolia.

During that time, there were approximately two and a half million or three million Greeks and around 1.8 million Armenians. And according to these plans, first, they targeted Greek population on the Aegean coast.

The outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914 provided the Young Turks with the perfect cover to carry out their murderous plans.

Ottoman government established a secret organization within Defense Ministry. And this special organization attacked the Greek villages on the coastal area. But the main purpose was not extermination. To create fear and to empty the Greek religious and to push the Greek people on the shores, so that they should leave Anatolia. And Ottoman government's official policy was, we don't have anything to do with it.

And it stopped 1st November 1914, emptying of the Greek villages. The reason was Germany. German government asked Turkey to stop this forcible expulsion policy. Because they were hoping to get Greece on their side during the First World War. And Ottomans obeyed the German demand. And 1st November 1914, deportation of Greeks stopped.

Then, Armenians started, also, asking reforms, encouraged by Balkan countries. Ottomans never wanted to implement this reform. This is the reason why they entered the World War I. This was the reason why they canceled, immediately, this reform agreement when they entered the war, November 1914.

During the war, the Ottomans' greatest fear was losing the mostly Armenian region of Eastern Anatolia to the Russians, who would, they feared, invariably support Armenian reforms.

When Russia invades this area, they would implement the reform plan. We will lose these territories. Instead of losing this territory, let's get rid of the Armenians and we can secure this land. This is what happened.

They emptied the entire territory of Armenians. They destroyed the Armenian communities, exterminated them. And this is one of the central reasons why Turkey denies today the Armenian Genocide, because we basically built our nation-state on that genocide.

Genocide was not only as a response to the war, or was not only a plan to destroy the Armenian communities.

Their main goal was to create a country that consists of Muslim Turkic majority. And how you get Muslim Turkic majority? You can develop these on two ways. Number one, you get rid of the Christians, by massacres or expelling. The second way of homogenization is assimilation. You can assimilate them. But you can assimilate people and groups only if they come a certain level.

The ruling elite of Union and Progress Party developed a plan, saying that Christians and non-Turkish elements should not exceed, in certain areas, 10% of the population. This is their governability threshold.

So throughout this period, the genocidal period, they implement both policy—physical examination and assimilation, hand in hand. And their purpose was to reduce the Armenian numbers as much as possible so that they should never raise their demands again.

The Muslim population of the area, the resettlement area, with a very generous estimate, were around 1.8 to 2 million. And the total number of Armenians that had to be deported were around 1.3 million. And you have to make 1.3 million 10% of 2 million. So this means, you have to really find a way that reduce Armenian number from 1.3 million all the way down to 1.8 or 200,000. And this is really, at the end, the number of surviving Armenians.

Jewish Young Turks and the Armenian Genocide

The key persons of the Young Turk movement were Jewish, including Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The Committee of Union and Progress, later known as Young Turk movement which was responsible for the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the genocide of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians, was created and controlled by Jews. They belonged to a group called Donmeh, crypto-Jews who converted to Islam in order to hide their Jewish identity. These Donmeh Jews were also followers of Sabbatai Zevi, a self-proclaimed Jewish Messiah who converted to Islam as well. The international Jewish elite planned to create a Jewish state in Palestine but the problem was that Palestine was under Ottoman rule. Founder of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl wanted to negotiate with the Ottoman Empire for Palestine, but he failed. The international Jewish elite wanted to gain control over the Ottoman Empire and destroy it in order to free Palestine, therefore the crypto-Jews of the Donmeh group founded the Committee of Union and Progress under the guise of a secular Turkish nationalist movement. The Young Turks had at least two congresses (1902 and 1907) in Paris in order to plan and prepare a revolution in order to gain control over the Ottoman Empire. In 1908, the Young Turks launched a revolution and forced Sultan Abdul Hamid II into submission.

The international Jewish elite provoked the first world war in order to achieve several goals, including the revolutions in Russia and Germany and the destruction of the Ottoman Empire. In 1917, Great Britain signed the Balfour Declaration, the promise for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. British troops could gain control over Palestine and prepared it for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Crypto-Jew Mustafa Kemal Ataturk created a Turkish Republic in order to destroy the Ottoman Empire completely. The Jewish revolutionist Alexander Parvus (who got rich through arms trading) was the financial adviser of the Young Turks and the Jewish Bolsheviks supplied Ataturk with 10 million gold roubles, 45,000 rifles, and 300 machine guns with ammunition. In 1915, the Young Turks committed a genocide against the Armenians, but also against the Greeks and Assyrians. The main reason for the Jewish genocide of the Armenians is that the Jews believe that the Armenians are the Amalekites, the arch enemies of the Israelites (Jews believe they are the descendants of the ancient Israelites). The Turkish government and Jewish groups such as the ADL deny the Armenian genocide, highly likely because the key persons of the Young Turk movement were Jewish, including Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Jewish author and rabbi Joachim Prinz confirmed in his book “The secret Jews” that Ataturk was a donmeh crypto-Jew, page 122:

“The revolt of the Young Turks in 1908 against the authoritarian regime of Sultan Abdul Hamid began among the intellectuals of Salonika. It was from there that the demand for a constitutional regime originated. Among the leaders of the revolution which resulted in a more modern government in Turkey were Djavid Bey and Mustafa Kemal. Both were ardent doenmehs. Djavid Bey became minister of finance Mustafa Kemal became the leader of the new regime and he adopted the name of Atatürk. His opponents tried to use his doenmeh background to unseat him, but without success. Too many of the Young Turks in the newly formed revolutionary Cabinet prayed to Allah, but had as their real prophet Shabtai Zvi, the Messiah of Smyrna”

On 14 October 1922, the Literary Digest published an articled entitled “The Sort of Mustafa Kemal is” which states:

“A SPANISH JEW BY ANCESTRY, an orthodox Moslem by birth and breeding, trained in a German war college, a patriot, a student of the campaigns of the world’s great generals, including Napoleon, Grant and Lee—these are said to be a few outstanding characteristics in the personality of the new ‘Man on Horseback’ who has appeared in the Near East. He is a real dictator, the correspondents testify, a man of the type which is at once the hope and fear of nations torn to pieces by unsuccessful wars. Unity and power have come back to Turkey largely through the will of Mustafa Kemal Pasha. No one has yet, it appears, referred to him as the ‘Napoleon of the Near East,’ but some enterprising journalist will probably do it sooner or later for Kemal’s way of rising into power, his methods at once autocratic and carefully considered, even his military tactics, are said to resemble those of Napoleon.”

In an article entitled “When Kemal Ataturk Recited Shema Yisrael” by the Jewish author Hillel Halkin, he quoted Mustafa Kemal Ataturk:

“I’m a descendant of Sabbetai Zevi—not indeed a Jew any more, but an ardent admirer of this prophet of yours. My opinion is that every Jew in this country would do well to join his camp.”

Gershom Scholem wrote in his book “Kabbalah”, page 330-331:

“Their liturgies were written in a very small format so that they could easily be hidden. All the sects concealed their internal affairs from Jews and Turks so successfully that for a long time knowledge of them was based only on rumor and upon reports of outsiders. Doenmeh manuscripts revealing details of their Shabbatean ideas were brought to light and examined only after several of the Doenmeh families decided to assimilate completely into Turkish society and transmitted their documents to friends among the Jews of Salonika and Izmir. As long as the Donmeh were concentrated in Salonika, the sect´s institutional framework remained intact, although several Donmeh members were active in the Young Turks` movement which originated in that city. The first administration that came to power after the Young Turk revolution (1909) included three ministers of Doenmeh origin, including the minister of finance, Djavid Bey, who was a descendant of the Baruchiah Russo family and served as one of the leaders of his sect. One assertion that was commonly made by many Jews of Salonika (denied however, by the Turkish government) was that Kemal Atatürk was of Doenmeh origin. This view was eagerly embraced by many of Atatürk´s religious opponents in Anatolia.”

Inspector-General of the Turkish Forces in Armenia and Military Governor of the Egyptian Sinai during WW1, Rafael De Nogales, wrote in his book “Four Years Beneath the Crescent” that the chief architect of the Armenian genocide, Talaat, was a donmeh Jew, page 26-27:

“That was the renegade Hebrew (donme) of Salonika, Talaat, the principal organizer of the massacres and deportations, who, fishing in muddy waters, succeeded in raising himself from the humble rank of postal clerk to that of Grand Vizier of the Empire.”

In 1915, the Young Turks committed a genocide not just against the Armenians, but also against the Greeks and Assyrians.

Author Henry Wickham Steed stated in his book “Through Thirty Years: 1892-1922: A Personal Narrative”, page 218-219:

In this task he failed. King Ferdinand, the chief culprit, outlived him and was destined to lead his country into yet greater disaster. Meanwhile the Turks, among whom the influence of the—largely Jewish—Committee of Union and Progress was still powerful, were accentuating the ‘national’ policy which had provoked the first Balkan War and were dreaming at once of pan-Islamic and ‘New Turanian’ dreams. Many of the Young Turkish leaders I knew already. Talaat, Minister of the Interior and afterwards Grand Vizir, I had met in Paris in 1909. Others had visited me in Vienna. Upon Talaat I called soon after reaching Constantinople. He received me with almost affectionate cordiality and began at once a magniloquent dissertation upon high politics.”

One of Marcelle Tinayre’s article in L’Illustration in December of 1923, which was translated into English and published as “Saloniki”, The Living Age, Volume 320, Number 4156, (1 March 1924), pp. 417-421, one part of it mentions that:

“The deunmehs of to-day, affiliated with Free Masonry, instructed in Occidental universities, often professing total atheism, have given leaders to the Young Turk revolution. Talaat Bey, Djavid Bey, and many other members of the Committee of Union and Progress were deunmehs from Saloniki.”

“It is a well-known fact that the Salonika Committee was formed under Masonic auspices with the help of the Jews and Donmehs, or crypto-Jews of Turkey, whose headquarters are at Salonika, and whose organization took, even under Abdul Hamid, a Masonic form. Jews like Emmanuel Carasso, Salem, Sassun, Fardji, Meslah, and Donmehs or crypto-Jews, like Djavid Bey and the Baldji family, took an influential part both in the organization of the Committee and in the deliberations of its central body at Salonika. These facts, which are known to every Government in Europe, are also known throughout Turkey and the Balkans, where an increasing tendency is noticeable to saddle the Jews and Donmehs with responsibility for the sanguinary blunders which the Committee has made. ” – “Jews and the Situation in Albania”, The London Times, 11 July 1911, page 5

On 9 August 1911, The London Times published a Letter to the Editor from “The Time´s” Constantinople Correspondent, followed by the Chief Rabbi´s closing comments on the matter, where one section informs us that:

“Gaster’s views concerning Freemasonry in Turkey do not coincide with those held by many Moslems. I need only mention Colonel Sadik Bey and the Committee insurgents, and Sheikh Rashid Ridha. Heaven forbid that I should express an opinion as to which is right. I will merely remark that, according to information which I have received from genuine Freemasons, the majority of the lodges founded under the auspices of the Grand Orient of Turkey since the revolution were, at the outset, avatars of the Committee of Union and Progress, that they have not yet been recognized by British Freemasonry, and that the first ‘Supreme Council’ of the G. O. of Turkey appointed in 1909, contained three Jews (Carasso, Cohen, and Faraggi) and three Dönmés (Djavid Bey, S. Kibar, and Osman Talaat).”

Author Nester Webster wrote in her book “Secret Societies and Subversive Movements” page 284:

“The Young Turk movement began in the Masonic lodges of Thessaloniki under the direct supervision of the Grand Orient Lodge of Italy, which later shared in the success of Mustapha Kemal.”

On 20 August 1908, the Paris newspaper Le Temps, printed the interview of the Young Turk Refik Bey who said:

“It’s true that we receive support from Freemasonry and especially from Italian Masonry. The two Italian lodges [of Thessaloniki] — Macedonia Risorta and Labor et Lux — have provided invaluable services and have been a refuge for us. We meet there as fellow Masons, because it is a fact that many of us are Masons, but more importantly we meet so that we can better organize ourselves.”

What Were the Main Causes of the Armenian Genocide?

Armenian woman kneeling beside dead child in field druing the Armenian Genocide (Photo: Library of Congress)

Matthew Marasco was one of 11 students at the Wakefield, R.I.’s prestigious Prout School to graduate with an International Baccalaureate (IB)
diploma. As a requirement of the IB diploma, students are required to write an “Extended Essay,” a research paper of up to 4,000 words. Matthew’s Extended Essay was a version of the following essay entitled “What Were the Main Causes of the Armenian Genocide?”


History, be it familial, national, or ethnic, defines who one is as a person. Throughout human history, eras have been defined by periods of peace and times of conflict. As time has passed, the manner in which conflicts are carried out has evolved therefore, history has innumerable variations of combat and harm. One of the most devastating types of conflict and assault upon a culture is genocide. According to Merriam-Webster, a genocide is “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.” According to the United Nations, a genocide is “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group [and]forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” (framework). While each attempted human extermination has had its own unique and tragic backstory, there are some commonalities among them. Common factors seen in most genocides include racial and religious tensions, as well as desperation on the part of the “attacking” party. One of the most tragic and under-researched mass killings was the Armenian Genocide. The objective of this investigation is to explore the causes of this assault upon humanity and to examine its ramifications.

Before proceeding further, it is important to note that for the purpose of this investigation the assaults upon the Armenians will be referred to as a genocide, according to the Merriam-Webster definition. However, much of the international community, including the United States, does not recognize the “incident” as a genocide. Despite this, the term will be used throughout the remainder of this report.

To begin to fully understand the events that unfolded between 1915 and 1917, it is first important to understand the history of conflict, especially religious conflict, in the region. Violence between Christian and Islamic groups was nothing new to the Middle East by 1915 the region had already experienced the religious wars of the Crusades, a series of seven wars beginning in 1095 and continuing periodically until 1291, as well as the conquering of Constantinople, the center of the Christian world in the east, which was overrun by Muslims in May of 1453. Even during the times of Muhammad, religious wars were taking place, as he began conquering and absorbing areas into his domain. Indeed, religious conflicts did not end with the Crusades. Our modern world continues to suffer the consequences of the religious tension and intolerance from generations ago. One could argue that the current religious conflict between Muslims and Christians has been ongoing since 1095 and the First Crusade and continues still today during the age of terror. However, the time immediately before the events of 1915 was actually relatively peaceful, as the many groups under Ottoman rule coexisted without conflict.

This peaceful coexistence, though, met a swift end in 1915 with the beginning of a systematic slaughter and deportation of Armenians, who at the time were living throughout Turkey and parts of Russia. Armenia had been one of the most affluent and largest kingdoms in the Middle East, at one time controlling most of Turkey, the southern Russian provinces, and most of Iran (Hartunian XIV). Like many incidents of violence, the Armenian Genocide was not a spontaneous event (although it appeared to be to the international community), nor was it the result of a single action. Rather, there were many long-term and short-term factors, none of which in isolation could have sparked the mass bloodshed, but which combined to create the perfect storm. These incredibly interconnected factors included the racial, political, economic, and religious situations, as well as the history of the region, in particular the Ottoman Empire, at the turn of the 20th century. The Ottoman Empire was the most recent of a long line of invaders to control the Armenian kingdom in 1915 the once powerful kingdom had previously succumbed to Greeks, Romans, Persians, Arabs, Seljuks, Mongols, Tartars, all before falling into Ottoman hands (Hartunian XIV).

The proverbial writing had been on the wall, as one Armenian recounts his conversation with a Turkish friend, “. . . One day, as I was with a Turkish official, he said to me ’My friend, there is no hope. No longer can the Armenian and the Turk live together. Whenever you find the opportunity, you will annihilate us and whenever we find the opportunity, we will annihilate you. Now the opportunity is ours and we will do everything to harm you. The wise course for you, when the time comes, is to leave this country and never return.’ This Turk had spoken the truth. No longer could the Turk be a friend to the Armenian, or the Armenian a friend to the Turk” (Hartunian 1).

To begin, the first factor to be examined is the history of the Ottoman Empire, and how Armenians had been treated until the beginning of the genocide in 1915. In regards to this, there are two incredibly varying viewpoints. Some historians argue that the Armenians were not only treated as second class citizens, but they were treated as though they were not human. This takes into account the lack of civil rights available to Armenians, as well as the economic and societal restraints placed upon them. These included, but were not limited to, being forbidden to bear arms, leaving them at the mercy of the Muslim majority, as well as the inability to seek retribution in a court of law (Hartunian XIV). According to this viewpoint, as well as the fact that the the region, both formerly and later the nation of Armenia, had spent nearly 400 years under Turkish rule (this includes both the Seljuk Turks and the Ottoman Turks), it does not seem out of the realm of possibilities that this beaten down, ethnic and religious minority would eventually be faced with heinous violence and destruction. In fact, the abuses of 1915 were not an isolated incident, but rather a culmination of massacres, which had been taking place throughout the Ottoman reign in the region. During the year 1895-1896 nearly 30,000 Armenians were killed according to the orders of sultan Abdul Hamid II. The violence did not stop in 1917 the city of Smyrna, a primarily Armenian-occupied city, was burned in 1922 (Harutian XVII).

However, it is important to understand that there are some historians who paint a different picture. In fact, many argue that the treatment of Armenians under the rule of the Ottoman Turks was far from harsh. Those who support this theory site the treatment of conquered and colonized people in the territories of the western powers, which some would argue was actually harsher than the treatment of the Armenians. For example, in some ways, the Armenians had more freedom than their counterparts in India under British rule, and certainly more freedom than the former South American colonists of Spain. In fact, the Armenian minority in Turkey was actually quite economically and culturally prosperous, in spite of the aforementioned disadvantages they faced (Armenian National Institute). In addition, there had even been a period of reform prior to the Young Turks coming into power (a topic, which will be discussed in greater detail later) during which the Armenian people made great strides towards equality. There was, at this time, talk of establishing a constitutional government, which would guarantee the Armenians equal rights under the law. However, even those who adhere to this historical interpretation cannot argue that the Armenians were at any point, or on any level, considered the equal of the Turks, and that is a very dangerous thing. Dehumanization is the first step a ruling groups takes when an impending persecution is nearing, followed in quick succession by the removal of civil rights, the spread of propaganda, relocation, and eventually extermination.

Next, as already mentioned, a group known as the Young Turks, a reactionist group formed in response to the former Sultan Abdul Hamid II’s totalitarianism, had come to power in the Ottoman Empire shortly before the persecution of the Armenians, and this is certainly not a coincidence (Armenian National Institute.). The sultan, a dynastic title given to the traditional ruler of the Ottoman Empire, had given up absolute power in 1908, causing a power vacuum. The group known as the Young Turks took advantage of the situation, and seized power. Initially, the group was intending to make wide-sweeping reforms to create equality within the Empire by creating a constitutional government, which many Armenians supported. However, the party quickly split over whether liberal or conservative reform was needed to revitalize the Empire, and the radical conservative wing of the party found itself with uninhibited control thanks to a coup d’etat (Armenian National Institute). This radical wing promoted a “Turkey for the Turks” sentiment and created a “xenophobic (fear of those unlike oneself) Turkish nationalism” (Armenian National Institute). The Young Turks promoted this fear and dislike of outsiders, in particular of Armenians, through the use of their propagandist newspaper Harb Mecuasi, or “War Magazine” (Dadrian, 220). This is not uncommon rather, seemingly all parties who attempted to create single party states used propagandist newspapers and magazines to spread their message.

One of the main goals of this group was to regain some of the honor and prestige lost during the Balkan War, and to reassert the dominance of the Ottoman Empire in the region (Armenian National Institute). One of the most effective ways to carry out this goal was by suppressing the ethnic minorities living within their borders to ensure no further uprisings, and to send a message to the newly autocratic peoples that their recently gained freedom would not last for long. These radical Muslim leaders found the perfect group to send the message in the Armenian population within Turkey, a population accustomed to maltreatment, and an economically successful ethnic and religious minority. During the Balkan War, many Armenians in the eastern reaches of the Empire had, in fact, joined forces with the Balkan uprisers and the Russians, much to the dismay of the Turkish government (Case). After the humiliating defeat at the hands of their former subjects, the Turks decided to round up the Armenians from these provinces, and relocate them into concentration camps. One survivor recounts his first impressions at a camp, saying, “I soon reached the concentration camp, where twelve thousand Armenians had already been herded—hungry, thirsty, naked, dirty, exhausted, already near death” (Hartunian, 85). Naturally, they were subject to innumerable and unimaginable abuses such as murder, rape, beatings, and food deprivation throughout the course of the journey, in what was the beginning of the massacre.

As previously mentioned, the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire at the time was quite wealthy, which is not a problem in and of itself, but became an issue because the Turkish population, and the government itself, were far from financially secure. Working as craftsmen and farmers, Armenians paid a lot of taxes to the Empire. This reasonably secure lifestyle contrasted greatly with that of “increasingly unruly Muslim tribes, who now constituted a vast, unemployed army” (Harutian XIV). In fact, the Ottoman Empire was referred to at the time as the “Sick Man” in Europe, due in no small part to the fact that many of the minority groups within the Empire, such as the Greeks, had begun uprisings some had even gained independence during the first Balkan War. Watching these “inferior minority” groups succeed in a largely failing economy greatly angered and hurt the pride of many Turkish people, who became determined to put the Armenians “back in their place.”

To make matters worse, the first several years of World War I had been a complete disaster for the Ottoman Empire, and the new Young Turk government was running out of the funds needed to wage war. In light of this, it is reasonable to assume that part of the reason for the genocide was to acquire the wealth, which had been amassed by the Armenians (Armenian).

The Armenian populations in Tiflis and Baku controlled the majority of the local wealth—wealth which was desperately needed both by the Islamic civilians of the area, as well as the Young Turk government. Aside from the financial struggles in the war, the fighting itself was going poorly, and the Armenians caught the blame for this as well. As the government continued to turn its people against the Armenians, they portrayed the minority as the reason for the militaristic defeats, claiming that they were being undermined from within. To back up this claim, and to prevent any resistance to the impending assault, the Turkish government disarmed all of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks then took advantage of the war, claiming that all Armenians, beginning with those in Anatolia, a region with a very high concentration of Armenians, and later extending to all who lived within the Empire, needed to be relocated due to “wartime emergencies.” This, however, was a simple guise to cover up the killing which would later take place (Dadrian 219).

Another cause for the persecution of Armenians between 1915 and 1917 was the religious tension created by the fact that they were a large group of Christians living under the rule of an Islamic nation. The Ottoman and Seljuk Empires had a unique geopolitical location in that they were located on the border between the Islamic Middle East and the Christian eastern Europe. The two empires had always viewed themselves as guardians of the Islamic faith, and believed it was their role to spread the Islamic faith throughout their territories. Furthermore, Armenia was not simply a Christian nation, but in the 4th century A.D., became the first nation ever to accept Christianity as the official religion of the state. While the level of religious freedom and tolerance within the Ottoman and Seljuk Empires had fluctuated over the years, the Young Turks wanted to establish Islamic dominance throughout the region more so than any of the leading groups before them. This militant Islamic group blamed the Christian “Infidels” for the struggles faced by the Muslims living within their borders. However, it is important to note that many Islamic religious leaders protested the deportation and execution of the Armenians, and later testified on behalf of the persecuted minority during war crime trials. Despite this, it would be difficult to deny that religious animosity, of which the region has had an extensive history, played a major role in the events which were to unfold between 1915 and 1917.

With the main causes for the genocide having been examined, it is time to investigate the persecution itself. In the year 1915, there were approximately 1.5 million Armenians living within the borders of the Ottoman Empires (The Armenian). By the end of the persecution in 1917, as many as 1.2 million of them were dead (The Armenian). It is widely accepted that the first several assaults upon the Armenians were carried out by civilians the government authorities and troops also contributed to the destruction as the persecution blossomed. Armenians were killed in all sorts of horrific ways, but the vast majority died during the forced marches, during which the Ottoman military and civilians alike herded Armenians, sometimes entire towns at a time, and simply marched them into the desert without resources and left them there to perish. A survivor later remembered “We hear the children’s screams, the mothers’ sobs. They are hungry, they are thirsty, they are cold in the night air. They have no place to rest. They cannot freely move their bowels. They are suffering. They are visualizing the unbearable journey of the next day and its horrors, and they are going mad. The young girls and prettier women are being snatched away, and zaptiye (Turkish soldiers) satisfy their lusts on them. There are secret murders. And some, unable to bear these things, drop dead” (Harutian 87). Those who were lucky enough to survive had to simply continue walking until, and if, they reached the border and safety. Very few were this lucky. The situation only worsened with the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, in which the Russians gave many of their southern provinces to the Ottoman Empire in exchange for peace. This spelled doom for the thousands of Armenians who had fled the Ottoman Empire to the safety of Russia. The Ottoman Turks, with thousands of new Armenians within their borders, were reinvigorated in their efforts to eradicate the Armenians, especially because a large number of them had been attempting to set up an independent state in the formerly Russian land. Enraged, the Turks promptly smashed this fledgling group with more vigor and tenacity than had been seen at any other time during the genocide.

The effects of this horrific event can be seen throughout history, and are still felt today. One of the most glaring reminders of the violence shown towards the Armenians was the Holocaust in Germany during World War II. Hitler followed the Young Turks blueprint almost exactly, dehumanizing and scapegoating an economically successful racial and religious minority during a time of crisis. Germany, just like the Ottoman Turks, was reeling after having suffered a military defeat in World War I, and was attempting to regain lost prestige. Germany, too, was struggling economically, and had a new and unstable government after Kaiser Wilhelm had abdicated, similar to the situation with the Sultan in the Ottoman Empire. A wealthy ethnic and religious minority was humiliating to the ruling race in Germany, just as the Armenians were to the Turks before the genocide. To fully illustrate just how similar these two crimes against humanity were, in a 1939 statement, Adolf Hitler himself illustrates his use of the Turkish blueprint to justify his actions in Poland, saying “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Perhaps, if people had in fact remembered the Armenian Genocide, this second tragedy may have been avoided. Had the tragedy in the Ottoman Empire been fully understood throughout the global community, then perhaps the leaders of the world in the 1940s would have seen the warning signs, and prevented such a tragedy from happening again.

In fact, even today there are a very determined group of individuals who not only “do not speak of the Armenians”, but deny the fact that a genocide occurred. Many Turks still claim that there was no crime committed against the Armenians, suggesting that the Armenians “decided their own fate” by openly fighting alongside the Triple Entente during the First World War and against the Ottoman Empire during the Balkan War (Case). This view believes that the Turks were justified in their actions against the Armenians, and argue that very few were actually killed, rather, that they were simply deported from their homeland. Others concede that the Armenians did suffer great losses, but refuse to accept the fact that the atrocities were carried out by the Ottoman Empire and its military. Instead, they suggest that the Armenians were victims of pillaging Kurds who were in the area at the time (Case). That being said, the belief that the events of 1915 through 1917 were in fact genocidal in nature is held widely throughout the international community among scholars. It is incredibly difficult to deny that the events did take place and, the Young Turks had the motive, intent, and ability to carry out such a heinous crime against humanity.

Still, this debate raises questions about the area of knowledge of history itself, and how people gain historical knowledge. The recounting of the Armenian Genocide suggests that there is no “absolute truth” within history, and that bias, both conscious and unconscious, clouds judgement and alters the recitations of events. This forces the learner to be incredibly wary of his or her sources, and to always consider whether or not the informer may be knowingly or unknowingly harboring ulterior motives and is allowing these to influence the presentation of material.

Additionally, the forcible removal of Armenians from Armenia has had an incredible impact upon the culture. For many years, the language was in danger of dying out, and the massacres of the genocide have left Armenia as one of the most sparsely populated nations to this day. Indeed, 102 years later, the scars left by the assaults can still be seen and felt. That being said, one could also argue that the horrors of 1915 have unified and united the Armenian diaspora, and led to a cultural, religious, and ethnic pride as strong as any in the world. The Armenian people were forged in the fire of genocide, but have passed that test and prevailed with flying colors. There are now more than twice as many ethnic Armenians worldwide as there were when the Young Turks attempted to annihilate them, which is a testament to the Armenian spirit and resilience (Hartunian XIX).

In conclusion, the main causes of the Armenian Genocide were the economic, political, religious, and social situations of the Ottoman Empire at the time, as well as the history of conflict in the region. The events which unfolded between 1915 and 1917 constitute one of the greatest assaults upon humanity in the history of the world, yet the Armenian Genocide remains under-researched and under-taught in many schools. It is important that this trend is broken. Humanity must study the past in order to avoid repeating the atrocities committed so many years ago. People must learn to be aware of the sins of the past in order to create a better tomorrow. That, after all, is the noblest reason to pursue the study of history.

“Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Nazi Germany (1933-45).” Adolf Hitler — Statement on the Armenian Genocide. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 March, 2017.

Akyol, Mustafa. “What Was behind the Ethnic Cleansing of Armenians?” Al-Monitor. N.p., 12 April 2015. Web. 11 March, 2017.

“The Armenian Genocide (1915-16): Overview.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d. Web. 11 March, 2017.

“Armenian National Institute.” Armenian National Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 March, 2017.

Dadrian, Vahakn N. The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. New York: Berghahn, 2008. Print.

Case, Holly. “Two Rights and a Wrong.” Nation, vol. 296, no. 13, 4/1/2013, pp. 33-37.

Framework, Analysis, and Legal Definition Of Genocide. OFFICE OF THE UN SPECIAL ADVISER ON THE PREVENTION OF GENOCIDE (OSAPG) (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

“Genocide.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 11 March, 2017.

Hartunian, Abraham H. Neither to Laugh nor to Weep: An Odyssey of Faith: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide. Belmont, Mass.: Armenian Heritage, 1999. Print.

Rounding up activists and community leaders

Although the Armenian Genocide is considered to have officially begun on the night of April 24th, 1915, it's clear that there was systematic persecution of the Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire long before the events of 1915. On the night of April 23rd and over the course of the following day, over 200 Armenian activists, writers, and community leaders were rounded up by Ottoman police in Constantinople, today known as Istanbul, in an effort to exterminate Armenian leadership. During the next few weeks, over 2,000 Armenian people were deported from Constantinople "aboard trains that left Hyderpasa for Ankara." The deportations were justified with the claim the Armenian people were conspiring with the Russians against the Ottoman Empire, but there's little evidence to support this claim.

According to Grigoris Balakian, a Christian priest who was among those arrested, "It was as if all the prominent Armenian public figures—assemblymen, representatives, revolutionaries, editors, teachers, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, merchants, bankers, and others in the capital city—had made an appointment to meet in these dim prison cells." Although many ended up being executed, "those of us still alive envied those who had already paid their inevitable dues of bloody torture and death."

In 1915, the Young Turk regime also "passed new laws providing for the annexation of Armenian businesses and trades" and legitimized the seizure of the property of Armenian people. But some people didn't wait for their Armenian neighbors to get deported and robbed them outright.

Why Cenk Uygur Needs to Dump the Name ‘The Young Turks’ (Guest Blog)

As a student attending the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Cenk Uygur penned a paper in which he denied the Armenian Genocide. In his 1991 missive “Historical Fact or Falsehood?” — published in The Daily Pennsylvanian — Uygur argued that the claims of an Armenian Genocide were not based on historical facts and concluded that it was grounded in propaganda.

Uygur joined a dubious club of Turkish apologists who continue to deny the Armenian Genocide, despite historical evidence and eye-witness accounts in what many scholars believe to be the first genocide of the 20th century. While many Americans undoubtedly know little about this part of Uygur’s life, they do know him as the founder and host of the widely popular political and opinion talk show, “The Young Turks.” And if they were to dig deeper, they would find out that the show is named after the architects of the Armenian Genocide.

The Young Turks is often referred to as the reform movement within the Ottoman Empire that sought to replace an absolute monarchy with a constitutional government. The term has been popularized over the years to describe groups of people who are progressive in thought while seeking radical reform. But for families like mine, it represents the worst in human nature. After all, it was The Young Turks who engineered and systemically killed more than 1.5 million Armenians through wholesale massacres and deportations. To this day, Turkey denies any culpability in the Armenian Genocide and has embarked on a decades-long campaign to dismiss and question its validity.

As a grandson to survivors of the Armenian Genocide, I find the name reprehensible and highly insensitive. It’s one of the reasons why the Armenian-American community has campaigned relentlessly and pushed Uygur to change the name of his show to no avail. Sticking to his guns, Uygur has defended the name and has insisted that the name of the show has nothing to do with the Armenian Genocide. But given his history of denial, we should be skeptical of his candor and interpretation of the show’s meaning. When pressed about it, Uygur has claimed that he has come around on this issue and has disavowed his statements and opinions on the veracity of the Armenian Genocide. But if he truly feels that way, then why doesn’t he change the name of the show considering how offensive it means to Armenian-Americans? It only sows more doubt about his true feelings and questions the authenticity behind his apparent epiphany.

The irony behind the name is that “The Young Turks” purports to be a progressive, left-leaning show. But it’s tantamount to naming a program after the Third Reich, Khmer Rogue or the United States of the Confederacy — names that hardly connote open-minded thinking. To his credit, Uygur has built and created a show that reaches a wide and broad audience through emerging media platforms like YouTube and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. In some ways, his success has come at the expense of Armenian Genocide recognition. The show’s ubiquity is a constant and stark reminder of how far we still need to go in seeking justice and changing public perception. There should be little room or nuance in defending a name that represents and marks one of the darkest chapters in world history. We shouldn’t be celebrating that past, but rather admonishing it.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve witnessed our country finally coming to grips with systemic racism. Through the Black Lives Matter protests and movement, we’re seeing a groundswell of interest in reprioritizing our history and what that symbolism means for our future. Whether it’s redesigning flags that feature the Confederate flag or tearing down statues and renaming military bases after Confederate generals, this reckoning should also be applied to “The Young Turks.” Symbolism can play a large role in how we see ourselves as a society and simply changing names can make a difference.

Acknowledging that we were wrong and are willing to learn from the past can be constructive so that we never repeat it again. It’s not something we can wish away and hope that it finds its way into the dustbin of history.

Uygur still has a chance to be on the right side of history. If he truly believes in the ethos of progressivism then he’ll change the name of his show and make things right. It’s often said that the last stage of genocide is denial. That’s why it’s vitally important that we make recognition of the Armenian Genocide a priority. Honoring those responsible for genocide doesn’t help in those efforts. Names matter.

Further Reading:

I recommend the following books that have shed so much light on the Armenian Genocide for me personally.

The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire (2012) by Taner Akçam
The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History (2011) by Raymond Kevorkian
The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (2009) By Peter Balakian
The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East (2005) By Robert Fisk


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