Armenian Genocide

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The Armenian Genocide (Armenian: Հայոց ցեղասպանություն Hayots tseghaspanutyun), also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the Armenian Massacres and, traditionally by Armenians, as Medz Yeghern (Armenian: Մեծ Եղեռն, "Great Crime"), was the Ottoman government's systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects inside their historic homeland, which lies within the present-day Republic of Turkey. The number of victims is estimated at between 800,000 and 1.5 million. The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders from Constantinople to Ankara, the majority of whom were eventually murdered. The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre. Other indigenous and Christian ethnic groups such as the Assyrians and the Ottoman Greeks were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government, and their treatment is considered by some historians to be part of the same genocidal policy. Most Armenian diaspora communities around the world came into being as a direct result of the genocide.

Decapitated heads of Armenians placed on stakes.

* * * Raphael Lemkin was explicitly moved by the Armenian annihilation to define systematic and premeditated exterminations within legal parameters and to coin the word genocide in 1943. The Armenian Genocide is acknowledged to have been one of the first modern genocides, because scholars point to the organized manner in which the killings were carried out in order to eliminate the Armenians, and it is the second most-studied case of genocide after the Holocaust.
Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, denies the word genocide as an accurate term for the mass killings of Armenians that began under Ottoman rule in 1915. It has in recent years been faced with repeated calls to recognize them as genocide. To date, 29 countries have officially recognized the mass killings as genocide, a view which is shared by most genocide scholars and historians.

An Armenian mother beside the corpses of her five children.

* * * Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Resolution, 24 April 1998
"Today we commemorate the anniversary of what has been called the first genocide of the 20th century, and we salute the memory of the Armenian victims of this crime against humanity".
As a response to continuing denial by the Turkish state, many activists from Armenian Diaspora communities have pushed for formal recognition of the Armenian genocide from various governments around the world. Twenty-nine countries and forty-three U.S. states have adopted resolutions acknowledging the Armenian Genocide as a bona fide historical event. On 4 March 2010, a US congressional panel narrowly voted that the incident was indeed genocide; within minutes the Turkish government issued a statement critical of "this resolution which accuses the Turkish nation of a crime it has not committed". The Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) and the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) have as their main lobbying agenda to press Congress and the President for an increase of economic aid for Armenia and the reduction of economic and military assistance for Turkey. The efforts also include reaffirmation of a genocide by Ottoman Turkey in 1915.

Armenian monastery in Bitlis with severed heads and corpses in the foreground.

* * * As of 2015, Israel, the United Kingdom and United States do not recognize what happened a century ago as a "genocide". Despite his previous public recognition and support of genocide bills, as well as election campaign promises to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide, U.S. President Barack Obama, although repeating that his views on the issue have not changed, has abstained so far from using the term "genocide". In his 24 April commemoration statements Obama has referred to the Armenian Genocide by its Armenian synonym, Medz Yeghern (spelled "Meds Yeghern" in the statements). Despite a large number of direct descendants of the Armenian genocide living in Jerusalem, specifically in the Armenian Quarter, Israel still refuses to recognize the genocide.
Pope Francis described it as the "First genocide of the XX century", causing a diplomatic row with Turkey. The bishop of Rome defended his pronouncement by saying it was his duty to honour the memory of the innocent men, women and children who were "senselessly" murdered by Ottoman Turks 100 years before he became Pontiff. He also called on all heads of state and international organizations to recognize "the truth of what transpired and oppose such crimes without ceding to ambiguity or compromise." In a resolution, the European Parliament commended the statement pronounced by the Pope and encouraged Turkey to recognise the genocide and so pave the way for a "genuine reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples".

After the 1918 Armistice, Armenians who were massacred on February 28, 1919 in Aleppo, were laid out in front of the Armenian Relief Hospital. (The Independent, March 27, 1920)

* * * On 24 April 2015, the German parliament overwhelmingly adopted a resolution recognising the Genocide. Leading the debate, the Bundestag president Norbert Lammert declared, "What happened in the middle of the First World War in the Ottoman Empire under the eyes of the world was a genocide."
A bill penalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide has been introduced in the Russian State Duma in November 2015.

Armenians being hanged during the Armenian Genocide by German and Turkish guards

* * * June 2, 2016 The German parliament has passed a symbolic resolution recognizing the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as a "genocide."
The resolution was passed with a "striking majority" said President of the German Bundestag Norbert Lammert, with only one politician voting against it and one abstaining.
Between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians, and other minorities, are estimated to have been killed by what was then-Ottoman Turkey during World War One.

Tortured Armenian woman with child as reported by the Iskri Newspaper of Russia

* * * Turkey has always rejected the term "genocide," saying there was no systematic attempt to destroy a people.
Many Turks also view the Armenians as having been a threat to the Ottoman Empire in a time of war, arguing that people of various ethnicities -- including Turks -- were killed during the violence. Some Turkish leaders also fear a genocide acknowledgment could lead to demands for huge reparations.

Armenian children, victims of the Turkish assault

* * * Meanwhile, some Armenians feel their nationhood cannot be fully recognized unless the extent of the killings of their ancestors is acknowledged.

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