Our modern history with genocide began in Armenia
By Kimberly Horg-Webb
“Who remembers now the destruction of the Armenians?”
This infamous question, attributed to Adolf Hitler, is inscribed on a wall of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. A bold statement argued about by scholars, it represents millions of people of Armenian descent still fighting for recognition of the murders of their family members almost 100 years ago.
Genocide Remembrance Day, held on April 24, is a day to reflect on those who died. Between 1915 and 1923, according to historical accounts, around 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed on the orders of the Ottoman Empire.
Until the late 19th century, Armenians were living in harmony with other ethnic groups. But the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire, which led to Russian control over a large part of Armenian territory, led to problems. Russian support of Christians within the Ottoman Empire weakened the Ottoman government’s control by leading Armenians to believe they could regain independence. Armenian Christians were subject to Islamic dhimmi laws, which granted them lesser status and fewer legal rights than Muslim Ottoman citizens had under sharia law. Resentment between the groups escalated to conflict, abuse and violence.
Armenian survivors say that they were forced from their homes by the Ottoman government through mass evacuations and murders. Rape, famine and murder became so widespread that, whether an intended goal or not, the result was to exterminate a large portion of the Armenian population.
The present-day Turkish government disputes many facts of the forced evacuation and mass deaths. Although the Turkish government does not dispute that the Ottoman government ordered the evacuation of Armenians, they reject calling it “genocide.” Instead, the Turks allege that the deaths among Armenians at the time were the result of interethnic strife, disease and famine related to the turmoil of World War I.
Turkey's Genocide Dilemma
Written by Jasper Mortimer
History surrounds the newly refurbished park where old men sit and smoke and stray dogs bark on the slopes beneath Ankara Castle. There are the massive medieval walls of the citadel, the Museum of Anatolian Civilization at the park’s southern end, and across the valley stands a column erected by the Romans in the fourth century.
But there is nothing in Hisar Park that reveals its own history, what happened there before it became a park.
Photographs of the area taken in the early 1900s, such as those published in Ankara Magazine in November 2005, show a densely built district called Hisaronu, which means “in front of the castle.”
The houses were posh – three stories high with balconies and flagpoles – and the men in the street were smartly dressed in black coats and fezzes. After all, Hisaronu was home to the city’s mohair merchants, doctors and lawyers. It was also known as the Armenian Quarter.
Two events destroyed Hisaronu in the decade 1910–1920. The first came in 1915 when the Ottoman authorities applied the policy of “deporting” Armenians to remote parts of the empire. But this did not empty the district, as Greeks and Muslims lived there as well. Then in 1917 an accidental fire sped through the wooden-clad buildings of Hisaronu and razed it.
Curiously, Hisaronu’s inhabitants never rebuilt their homes. Many of them had second homes, with gardens, on the outskirts of the city, and they may have lived there in the hard times that followed World War One. The Greek residents may have left Turkey in the exchange of populations that accompanied the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923.
But what became of the Armenians?
The census of 1914 said there were 11,646 Armenians in Ankara, but the census of 1927 recorded only 705; “so we can conclude that more than 10,000 Armenians were forced to leave Ankara in 1915,” the journalist Seden Bayat wrote in an Ankara magazine article.
Thursday (April 24) is the 93rd anniversary of what is regarded as the start of the crackdown on the Armenians. On the night of 24 April, 1915 police arrested 235 leading members of the Armenian community in Istanbul, then the capital of the Ottoman empire.
During the next seven years up to 1.5 million Armenians died, either through massacres or deprivation in forced marches, according to Armenians. Turkey denies this, saying that 300,000 Armenians died in civil strife that emerged after Armenians in eastern Anatolia sided with invading Russian troops.
But there was no local strife or collusion with the enemy to justify the deportation of Armenians in Ankara and Istanbul. And it is the persistence of such questions, or the failure to answer them, that burdens Turkey like a ball and chain.
1) Never forget
2) Turkey's Genocide Dilemma