What was the Armenian Genocide? This is one of the most frequently asked questions about the atrocities of 1915 that killed 1.5 million of Armenians. Down below you can find the answers to some of your questions concerning this topic.
In 1915, the leaders of the Ottoman Empire set in motion a plan to exterminate and massacre an entire race of people.
Today, numerous historians can call those terrible events by its name, genocide, a preplanned and premeditated extermination campaign against about 2 million Armenians.
Nevertheless, Turkish government still refuses to acknowledge this fact and it is even punishable by law to speak about the genocide. But the denial of what happened with Armenians during that era is just the continuation of that crime according to Armenians.
It is as much about the future as is it is about the past, as when the past is denied and forgotten, genocide is still occurring.
But now let’s go deep into the topic and find out “what was the Armenian genocide“.
What was the Armenian Genocide: The Religious and Economic Motive Behind the Massacres
How Did Armenians Live in Ottoman Empire Before Genocide?
Before jumping into the topic of “what was the Armenian Genocide?” let’s find out what was the main motive and the roots of it.
The Ottoman Empire was a Muslim kingdom, but for maintaining their autonomy they permitted Christian Armenians, at the same time viewing them as “infidels”. As a matter of fact, Armenians were treated unequally and unfair.
Not to mention the fact that Christian minorities had to pay higher taxes than, to say, Muslims. Furthermore, Armenians had restricted political and legal rights.
In spite of these kind of persecution of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, the Armenian community was better educated and more prosperous than the Turkish population.
When the Young Turks came to power they envisioned the so called “Turkification” process and sought to assimilate Turkish society and create a homogenous Turkish state. As it is known, the approach of the government under the Young Turks heightened and escalated the “Armenian question” to the point of genocide.
The one that declared that would solve that question once and for all was the infamous autocratic Turkish.
Armenian Financial Wealth was Four Times Larger Turkey’s Foreign Debt
As it was already mentioned, the major motive of the Young Turks for the extermination of the Armenian community was not only the religious difference. To clarify, religious aspect was only used to justify that terrifying actions against the target group.
Religion was kind of a propaganda measure for mobilizing and getting support from the Muslim majority for easier extermination of Armenians. Primarily, the basic reason was the economic one.
This means that Armenian, who lived on the territory of Turkey were recognized as enemies. Besides, the first one who killed the enemy could receive his/her property according to the Sunni law (but the five percent of the Armenian wealth was transferred to the budget of the Young Turks).
Thus, as we see, Turkish government adopted a law that made it legal to seize the real estate, movable property and even the bank accounts of all Armenians.
What is more, even some Turkish historians indicate that the economy of modern-day Turkey is based on the property and wealth that was grabbed from Armenians.
To illustrate, let’s mention the fact that in spite of the harsh war conditions, the budget of the Ottoman Empire had an unprecedented growth during the years of 1914 and 1918.
What was the Armenian Genocide: Who Took the Initiative?
The prehistory of the Armenian Genocide, actually, began long before 1915. During the period of 1894-1896 about 150,000 Armenians were killed and over 100,000 Armenians were forced to leave their homes.
Furthermore, approximately 500,000 Armenians were totally depleted when the Turkish government confiscated their property. Eventually, the main massacres of the Armenians reached to its peak in 1915 when the new government of Young Turks come to power.
Their regime came to power by brutally removing all opposition and liberal parties. The party managed to create a network of trustworthy and loyal people who would always obey to the leadership and its orders.
To put it differently, the party was in full control of literally everything that happened in Turkey. Thus, it was easy for them to execute a large-scale genocide when there as an opportunity.
What was the Armenian Genocide: Why is April 24th the Memorial Day?
The night of April 24, 1915 is marked as the first phase of the Armenian genocide. It is often characterized as “eliticide” (like genocide) that refers to the deportation and abolition of the targeted group, namely the Armenian intellectuals, on that day.
Particularly, only in Constantinople (currant Istanbul) 2,345 Armenian intellectuals were arrested, tortured and executed in the following weeks.
Correspondingly, that date labeled the beginning of the genocide and is its annual commemoration day.
What was the Armenian Genocide: The Outcome of the Genocide
Though the main part of the Armenian genocide was realized between 1915 and 1916, it continued throughout the period 1915-1923. On the whole, it was about 1.5 million of Armenian population that was deported, severely abused and massacred.
To say nothing of women and girls that were raped, kidnapped or sold in slave markets to Turkish and Kurdish harems. Furthermore, many of them committed suicide to escape that fate.
In fact, the Armenian genocide can be described as a “successful genocide” because the policy of the Young Turk of cleansing Turkey and crating “Turkey for Turks” was succeeded.
As a matter of fact, in 1923 it resulted in a virtually pure Turkish Turkey.
What was the Armenian Genocide: Eyewitnesses Have a Lot to Tell
There were many eyewitnesses who later told about that horrific events and even had some footage of what had happened.
Among those eyewitnesses were doctors, nurses, Christian missionaries, school and university teachers from Germany, Austria, USA, Sweden, Denmark and Norway who just happened to be in Turkey.
Not to mention that there were also many foreign officers and soldiers of the Ottoman Army, foreign ambassadors and diplomats that witnessed that terrible events. Some of them published report, books, memoirs and photographs of the events.
As he served in the German armed forces he began documenting everything that was happening during that period. Wegner later stated:
However, he didn’t stop at just taking photos. He wrote an open letter to US President Woodrow Wilson asking for support to the Armenians. There is also a documentary film depicting what Wegner deemed as the “martyrdom of the Armenians”, known as “Destination Nowhere: The Witness”.
What was the Armenian Genocide: Is Turkey Willing to Take Responsibility?
Even today, the Turkish government refuses to call what happened with the Armenians in 1915 as an actual genocide.
Can we call this politics? Sure, we can! Turkey denies the conclusions of historians, saying that there were no deliberate “crimes against humanity”. And indeed, in Turkey it is even considered as crime or else “insulting Turkishness” to raise that issue of the Armenians.
On the eve of the 99th anniversary of the Armenian genocide Recep Tayyip Erdogan, offered condolences for those events that, as he described, had “inhumane consequences.”
And since Turkey is regarded as a strategic ally for many countries, including the United States, much of them do not acknowledge the term “genocide” to what happened with the Armenians in 1915.
Although, due to diplomatic relations it hasn’t yet gained worldwide recognition (even though most of European countries and some in Latin America recognized it), it remains a fact that World War I served as a cover for the Ottoman Empire, like World War II served as a cover for the Nazi Holocaust.
By the way, while in Yerevan Pope Francis called Armenian slaughter “genocide” and urged political powers to never forget the Armenian Genocide. As a result, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Vatican.
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