Friday, April 24, 2015

One and a half million dead: the one hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

They had been ridiculed and spat upon for hundreds of years.  The ultra-nationalists in power launched dehumanizing propaganda against them.  Their semblance of official protection had been stripped away and made them relegated to a class of life undeserving of life.  Their property was confiscated.  And in the end they were beaten and butchered and starved and raped and shot and crucified and whoever was left were herded onto railroad cars to be sent off to concentration camps stretching from border to border.

And it took place nearly thirty years before the Nazis implement their "final solution".  But it was not a Germany frenzied by the mad ravings of a failed artist, or any other European nation.  It was instead the Ottoman Empire.  The time was World War I.  And the target for extermination was Armenian Christians as well as many other minorities that did not fit the criteria of existence by the Muslim government.

It was one hundred years ago today, on April 24th, 1915, that the Armenian Genocide began, starting with the arrest and eventual murder of nearly three hundred ethnic Armenian leaders and intellectuals.  Very soon after, the government widened its scope to include all of the predominantly Christian minorities: peoples who had enjoyed some measure of toleration since the days of the fall of Constantinople.  But no more.

By the end of the war, one and a half million Christians, Jews, and racial minorities had been killed by the Ottomans.

Armenians being evicted by Ottoman soldiers
Nearly three-quarters of the Armenian people were wiped out.  To this day, the Armenian Christian community is still reeling from what can only be described as the first genocide of the Twentieth Century.  A genocide that  for one reason or another, the rest of the world for the large part seems entirely ignorant of or else consciously denies that it was nothing more than a "mass deportation", if there is any acknowledgement at all.

Naked Christian girls, crucified during the Armenian Genocide
Today, the modern nation of Turkey refuses to address the facts of the genocide.  I can't understand why.  Even Germany acknowledges that it was her own people... if not itself as a modern state... who perpetrated the Holocaust.  In Turkey there is outright disavowal of any responsibility altogether.  It would be wrong to lay the blame on the Turkish government for something that happened under Ottoman rule but even so: this is and will ever remain a very dark spot on Turkish history.  And it's past time that there be some owning-up to that.  By Turkey and by the rest of the world.  Including the United States.

The Armenian Genocide Museum has a vast amount of material about the genocide, including much photo documentation of the atrocities.  It is well worth reading, if for no other reason that because it is a vivid chronicle of the situation and events that led up to the slaughter.

May we learn from it.  May such a thing as this never happen again.

2 comments:

Attila Gokbudak said...

Chris. You are a good friend and I sincerely respect what the Armenian people went through. But, there are two complications: One, ASALA, an Armenian terrorist group killed Turkish diplomats over the dispute of history in the '70s and '80s. The murders happened in the USA, Canada and Europe. Secondly, many in the Armenian diaspora want land that is now within Turkey, such as the provinces of Diyarbakir, Erzurum and Van. As a Turkish-American, many will say I have a highly subjective view. But, I actually think the Turkish government should have done more to confront this ugly matter when it was apparent it was going to be a reason to isolate Turkey culturally and politically. It is truly an ugly matter. Alas, it is one which can not be easily resolved.

Chris Knight said...

Out of respect and admiration for your background, I was looking forward to hearing from you about this, Tilly. You are right: the Turkish government could have long ago headed off many lingering issues had it confronted the fact that its predecessor *did* commit what can only be described as one of the three biggest atrocities of the twentieth century (along with the Holocaust and the Stalinist purges).

That such a thing did not happen in the wake of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk's reforms and the secularization of Turkey is something that I cannot understand. Condemning the genocide then would have been a HUGE step toward disavowal of the Ottoman Empire which preceded it. The Genocide was a religiously-mandated extermination of predominantly Christian ethnic miniorities, carried out under pretense of removing political dissent. And Attaturk *hated* the Young Turks who he openly acknowledged were responsible for the massacres. He *should* have pounced on addressing the Armenian holocaust right then and there. But he didn't. Sad that. More so personally since I've long been an admirer of Attaturk.

Someone told me today that they had never heard of this event, until I had posted about it on this blog. It wasn't until 1995 when I first learned of it and it still boggles my mind that such a thing has gone generally unremarked-upon in the western histories of the common citizenry.

As I said in the post, may such a thing never happen again. I like to believe that we are generally wiser now than we were a hundred years ago.

Friday, April 24, 2015

One and a half million dead: the one hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

They had been ridiculed and spat upon for hundreds of years.  The ultra-nationalists in power launched dehumanizing propaganda against them.  Their semblance of official protection had been stripped away and made them relegated to a class of life undeserving of life.  Their property was confiscated.  And in the end they were beaten and butchered and starved and raped and shot and crucified and whoever was left were herded onto railroad cars to be sent off to concentration camps stretching from border to border.

And it took place nearly thirty years before the Nazis implement their "final solution".  But it was not a Germany frenzied by the mad ravings of a failed artist, or any other European nation.  It was instead the Ottoman Empire.  The time was World War I.  And the target for extermination was Armenian Christians as well as many other minorities that did not fit the criteria of existence by the Muslim government.

It was one hundred years ago today, on April 24th, 1915, that the Armenian Genocide began, starting with the arrest and eventual murder of nearly three hundred ethnic Armenian leaders and intellectuals.  Very soon after, the government widened its scope to include all of the predominantly Christian minorities: peoples who had enjoyed some measure of toleration since the days of the fall of Constantinople.  But no more.

By the end of the war, one and a half million Christians, Jews, and racial minorities had been killed by the Ottomans.

Armenians being evicted by Ottoman soldiers
Nearly three-quarters of the Armenian people were wiped out.  To this day, the Armenian Christian community is still reeling from what can only be described as the first genocide of the Twentieth Century.  A genocide that  for one reason or another, the rest of the world for the large part seems entirely ignorant of or else consciously denies that it was nothing more than a "mass deportation", if there is any acknowledgement at all.

Naked Christian girls, crucified during the Armenian Genocide
Today, the modern nation of Turkey refuses to address the facts of the genocide.  I can't understand why.  Even Germany acknowledges that it was her own people... if not itself as a modern state... who perpetrated the Holocaust.  In Turkey there is outright disavowal of any responsibility altogether.  It would be wrong to lay the blame on the Turkish government for something that happened under Ottoman rule but even so: this is and will ever remain a very dark spot on Turkish history.  And it's past time that there be some owning-up to that.  By Turkey and by the rest of the world.  Including the United States.

The Armenian Genocide Museum has a vast amount of material about the genocide, including much photo documentation of the atrocities.  It is well worth reading, if for no other reason that because it is a vivid chronicle of the situation and events that led up to the slaughter.

May we learn from it.  May such a thing as this never happen again.

2 comments:

Attila Gokbudak said...

Chris. You are a good friend and I sincerely respect what the Armenian people went through. But, there are two complications: One, ASALA, an Armenian terrorist group killed Turkish diplomats over the dispute of history in the '70s and '80s. The murders happened in the USA, Canada and Europe. Secondly, many in the Armenian diaspora want land that is now within Turkey, such as the provinces of Diyarbakir, Erzurum and Van. As a Turkish-American, many will say I have a highly subjective view. But, I actually think the Turkish government should have done more to confront this ugly matter when it was apparent it was going to be a reason to isolate Turkey culturally and politically. It is truly an ugly matter. Alas, it is one which can not be easily resolved.

Chris Knight said...

Out of respect and admiration for your background, I was looking forward to hearing from you about this, Tilly. You are right: the Turkish government could have long ago headed off many lingering issues had it confronted the fact that its predecessor *did* commit what can only be described as one of the three biggest atrocities of the twentieth century (along with the Holocaust and the Stalinist purges).

That such a thing did not happen in the wake of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk's reforms and the secularization of Turkey is something that I cannot understand. Condemning the genocide then would have been a HUGE step toward disavowal of the Ottoman Empire which preceded it. The Genocide was a religiously-mandated extermination of predominantly Christian ethnic miniorities, carried out under pretense of removing political dissent. And Attaturk *hated* the Young Turks who he openly acknowledged were responsible for the massacres. He *should* have pounced on addressing the Armenian holocaust right then and there. But he didn't. Sad that. More so personally since I've long been an admirer of Attaturk.

Someone told me today that they had never heard of this event, until I had posted about it on this blog. It wasn't until 1995 when I first learned of it and it still boggles my mind that such a thing has gone generally unremarked-upon in the western histories of the common citizenry.

As I said in the post, may such a thing never happen again. I like to believe that we are generally wiser now than we were a hundred years ago.