A culmination of events spanning centuries led to the Armenian Genocide. Between 1688-1913, Ottoman Turkish power declined through war and loss of territory. In the wake of the Balkan Wars in the early 20th century, the new Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) government sought to create a homogenous Turkish State. Known as the “Young Turks,” the rulers began to promote an ideology known as “Pan Turkism,” and saw the indigenous Armenian population as an obstacle to their goal and a scapegoat for the empire’s decline.
Following and under the cover of World War I, the Ottoman Turks planned and executed a systematic genocide against the Armenian population. After the Turkish army’s loss at the Battle of Sarikamis, the Ottoman Turks falsely attributed their defeat to Armenian treachery. On April 24, 1915, Turkish authorities rounded up Armenian intellectuals and community leaders. Most of them were assassinated or forcibly exiled. Turkish leaders ordered the deportation of Armenians to “relocation centers,” marching them into the barren Syrian Desert without food or water. Men and teenage boys were separated from deportation caravans and killed under the direction of Young Turk officials. Women and children were driven for months over mountains and deserts. Some were kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery, stripped naked, and forced to walk under the scorching sun. The Young Turks also created a “Special Organization,” which organized “killing squads.” They drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them, and burned them alive.
Ultimately, about 60 to 65 percent of the Armenian population was annihilated, about 1,500,000 people. Of the many thousands of orphans who survived, many were forcibly married or converted and raised as non-Armenians. Armenian community and private properties, including schools, churches, cultural institutions, businesses, and personal belongings were destroyed, or they were confiscated by the government and distributed to Turks. Other Christians, including Greeks and Assyrians, were similarly targeted, and hundreds of thousands were murdered. Large-scale massacres continued during the last years of the Ottoman Empire by Turks until the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
What’s Happening Now:
The Genocide has been documented extensively but denial of the Armenian Genocide by the government in Turkey has gone on from 1915 to the present. In more recent decades, Turkey has intensified its campaign after Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Holland, and Switzerland officially recognized the Armenian Genocide.
On Saturday, April 24, 2021, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, President Biden officially recognized the genocide. In a statement, Biden said: “The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today. We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”
We applaud President Biden’s decision to recognize the 1915 systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government as genocide. While it has taken far too long, 106 years, this acknowledgment provides a significant step for the victims, survivors, and their descendants.
To learn more about the Armenian Genocide, please join us on Tuesday, June 9 at 10:00 am (CDT) for our Facebook Live series featuring Greg Bedian, a third-generation descendant.
LA Times – “Biden formally recognizes killing of more than 1 million Armenians as genocide”
Politico – “Why Biden’s Armenian Genocide Declaration Really Is a Big Deal”