"After All, Who Today Remembers the Genocide of the Armenians?"
“Our strength lies in our intensive attacks and our barbarity...After all, who today remembers the genocide of the Armenians?” -Adolph Hitler, persuading others that The Holocaust would be tolerated-
The Congressional Foreign Relations Committee, by a vote of 23-22, approved a resolution condemning the 1915 slaughter of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as “genocide”. The resolution was passed despite a last-minute Obama administration effort to derail it, which has put a chill on America’s relations with Turkey.
As a result of that vote, Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Washington, a move it pulled when a 2007 committee passed a similar resolution. It worked for Turkey in 2007 and the resolution did not pass. So, indications are that the current resolution has an uncertain future in Congress, despite the fact that it is a Democratic Congress and Obama promised as a Presidential candidate that he would support such a resolution.
Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks lived in harmony in the Ottoman Empire for centuries. Since only Muslims can receive the benefits of full citizenship in Muslim countries, Armenians lived under the conditions of dhemitude imposed by Sharia Law. They were in effect second-class citizens, and as such they had to put up with certain special hardships, like additional taxes.
Despite this, there was little violent conflict until things began to change at the end of the 1800’s, when the Ottoman Empire began to crumble and Armenians and Turks had different views of the future. When European powers began to increasingly ask for the better treatment of Armenians, the Turkish government would respond by treating the Armenians worse. From 1894-6, hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in the Hamidian Massacres ordered by Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
According to a Wikipedia article on these massacres, the French ambassador at that time described Turkey in flames with "massacres everywhere," and all Christians being murdered "without distinction”. The Armenians lost thousands of people, some say as many as 300,000 in the Hamidian Massacres, but they continued to dream of a better life. A coup by “progressive” young Turks in 1908 that replaced the Sultan’s government was supported by Armenians, but promised reforms never came.
Again, Armenians dreamed of independence, while the Turks in power began to envision a new Pan-Turkic empire spreading all the way to Turkish- speaking sections of Central Asia. Since Armenians were the only ethnic group separating two pockets of Turkish speakers, the Turks, who dreamed of a new world order of Turkish dominance, wanted to get rid of them. The Turks with these dreams were known as the Young Turks, and they masterminded a plan to completely eradicate the Armenian race in a step towards fulfilling their pan-Turkic dreams.
World War I gave the Young Turk government the cover it needed to carry out its plan, since world powers were involved in fighting “the war that would end all wars”. On April 24th 1915, hundreds of Armenian leaders were summoned to Istanbul and murdered. (The photo on the left was taken an hour brfore the unsuspecting victims were killed.) The government then turned its attention to the leaderless Armenians, who were told they would be relocated. Across the Ottoman Empire, the same events were repeated from village to village, from town to town. It was all part of the carefully orchestrated plan devised by theYoung Turks.
First, the Armenians were asked to turn in hunting weapons for the war effort. Then, the able-bodied men were arrested or "drafted" to help in the wartime effort, taken elsewhere, and immediately killed or worked to death. When the villages and towns were emptied of the men, the remaining women, children, elderly and infirmed were gathered for a "temporary" relocation. They were told to only bring what they could carry. The Armenians obediently followed the instructions of their government and were "escorted" by Turkish guards in death marches.
The Armenians were raped, starved, and murdered along the way. According to witnesses, the Turks either committed these atrocities or turned a blind eye while their comrades did. The Armenians eventual destination for resettlement was the dreadful Syrian Desert. Of those, who somehow miraculously survived the march, many would eventually be killed or die, or somehow survive until a way to escape was found. Those that survived and escaped received assistance from "good Turks," foreign missionaries (who often recorded these events), or Arabs. Between 1915 and 1923, 1.5 million Armenians (men, women, and children) were murdered or died of their abuse at the hands of the unrelenting, ruthless Young Turk goverment. Today, despite the evidence, Turkey denies it ever happened.
Did Genocide Occur?
*Photos of that time say it did.
Did Genocide Occur?
*Leaders of that time said it did.
Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, US Ambassador to Ottoman Empire said in 1919:
“When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact. . . . I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915.”
Count Wolff-Metternich, German Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1916 wrote in a telegram:
“In its attempt to carry out its purpose to resolve the Armenian question by the destruction of the Armenian race, the Turkish government has refused to be deterred neither by our representations, nor by those of the American Embassy, nor by the delegate of the Pope, nor by the threats of the Allied Powers, nor in deference to the public opinion of the West representing one-half of the world.”
Theodore Roosevelt on May 11, 1918, wrote in a letter to a friend:
“...the Armenian massacre was the greatest crime of the war, and the failure to act against Turkey is to condone it ... the failure to deal radically with the Turkish horror means that all talk of guaranteeing the future peace of the world is mischievous nonsense.”
Did Genocide Occur?
What Can We Do Now?
There was an Armenian Genocide, there was a Jewish Genocide, there was a Rwandan Genocide, there is Genocide in Darfur.... When will it stop? When we face the truth and confront the issue, it will be a start. Helping others to face the sins of their past will keep them from allowing it to happen again. As George Santayana pointed out, "Those who can't remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
In the end, you can't be friends with people who commit genocide and then deny it ever happened, because their denial shows they do not recognize the inherent value of every human being, no matter their race , sex, ethnicity or religion. Worse yet, the arrogance necessary for denial, in the face of so much evidence, shows they have no shame for the atrocities they committed, as if it didn't matter and was of no consequence. It's as simple as that. Our Congressional Committee did the right thing; let's hope Congress and our President follow its lead. A country's moral authority is measured by the actions of its leaders.