Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
History has hundreds of incidents that are not favorable to mankind. It includes acts of murder, betrayal, and genocide against fellow man. As the events are exposed and addressed, those involved have moved forward in an attempt to learn from their mistakes. The future is made easier and brighter when events are cleansed, and relations improve between the parties that were once on the opposite ends of the horrible acts. The first act of genocide in the twentieth century is one that is still hotly debated today: Turkey’s genocide of the Armenian people. By denying the genocidal actions on Armenians in 1915, Turkey leaves no room for closure on one of the twentieth century’s biggest black spots.
It was during the last days of the Ottoman Empire that the Armenians were targeted by the nation that is today Turkey. Going into World War I, the Ottomans began to feel that many of their problems originated with the ‘impurities’ that existed within their borders. Failure had to come from those that were within and betrayed the true Turks. That included the Armenians who had been living the area for three thousand years. During this time, the Armenians had been subjugated by many nations, particularly Muslim Turks, and still prospered. The rule of the Ottomans began to change all that as the social structure was turned upside down by new laws implemented to subjugate the minorities. Armenians were Christian while the Ottomans had followed the religious route of Islam. The Ottomans instituted it where non-Muslims were treated as “second-class subjects deprived of basic rights.” In a sense, the genocide began in the late 1800s as the rights of the citizens who had been there for generations were removed and the thoughts of the Turkish people were slanted against the Armenians.
During the years 1915 to 1918, the Armenians were targeted by the Ottoman Empire in a ‘deportation’ process that was systematically designed to eliminate the Armenians from the land. This official act resulted in over 300,000 deaths according to Turkish officials though Armenians claim that over one million people were murdered during that time. Many fought back to stay in their homeland, but the Turkish police/soldiers chased them even into churches where they would burn the people alive in if they could not get them out. The empire wanted all Armenians out even if it meant the death of them including women and children. Despite many eyewitness accounts from Armenians, Germans, Russians, Americans, and even Turkish people, the country of Turkey officially denies the genocidal acts.
Turkey claims that genocide was not the intent of the old Ottoman Empire as there was “no premeditation in the deaths, no systematic attempt to destroy a people.” Historians view it differently as they see a plan divided into three parts and “conceived with secrecy and deliberation and implemented with organization and efficiency” which fits the official definition of genocide. Most of the world has viewed the actions as genocide though Turkey still denies it. The denials have changed throughout the years starting with the typical scapegoat tactics, to complete blindness to the events, to blaming all actions on the Armenians themselves. The biggest support for all their stances is the fact that there was no official documents created by the Ottoman government stating that there was a genocide in effect or at least a close enough description of such as the term had not been invented yet.
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