armenian genocide

By: Staff Writer Gabe Wanissian

April 24th will be the 99th anniversary of what is considered to be the date of commencement for the Armenian Genocide; “The Forgotten Holocaust,” as some call it. From 1915-1923, historians say that 1-2 million Christian minorities consisting of Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks perished by the hands of the Ottoman Empire, what is known in the modern day as Turkey.

The Armenian Genocide is not as widely known or studied in mainstream culture, but awareness through the vigilance of people such as author Peter Balakian, who spoke at BCC back in 2009, has helped enlighten the world on the tragic events. “Evidence comes in many forms. It comes in photographs, it comes in texts and telegrams, and it also comes in bones,” says Balakian.

Balakian’s uncle and Armenian Bishop, Giorgis Balakian, had written a personal memoir that was found and later restored. Balakian chose to title this crucial piece of work as the “Armenian Golgotha.” The word Golgotha was an accurate word choice to portray the horrific atrocities that occurred. As depicted in the Bible, Jesus of Nazareth was forced to carry his cross on the path called Golgotha; the Christian minorities carried the same burden, as death marches into Syrian wastelands and caves were the most widely used form of killing in the Armenian Genocide.

The acts carried out by the Ottoman Empire coincided with the first World War. As the Ottoman rule began to dwindle, a progressive and radical political group known as the Young Turks sought to reinvigorate the dwindling nation. Led by a dictatorial trio of Talaat Pasha, Enver Pasha, and Djemel Pasha, The Young Turk movement rose to the helm of the Turkish government in 1908. The Ottoman Empire had now returned to form, except the increasing prevalence of Christian minorities was seen as a hinderance to their expansion. “In 1915, the Turkish Government began and ruthlessly carried out the general massacres and deportations of Armenians,” said Winston Churchill in “The World Crisis,” his personal account on World War I.

What first started off as deportations and arrests morphed into the ransacking of towns and villages, women being held captive as sex slaves, the mandatory death walks for the elderly and children, and the execution of men on the spot.

By 1919, Sultan Mehmed VI, who had once been thrilled of the Young Turk movement presence, had began to disdain the group for indirectly thrusting the Ottoman empire into World War I. The three Pashas were tried in military court, and facing potential arrest, they fled to Constantinople; by 1923 the movement ceased to exist.

While international attention was prevalent during the atrocities, Turkeys disinterest in recognizing the acts as a genocide and preferring to use the terms “Armenian-Turkish War” eventually led to the death of over 1 million Christian minorities fall by the wayside in the public eye. Unfortunately, the extermination of a race that ended up being forgotten enticed and eventually inspired Adolf Hitler. “I think one of the most important links in the Armenian Genocide and the Nazi Genocide of the Jews can be found in Hitler’s statements during speeches,” states Balakian. Historians who have looked for connections often site Hitler’s speech that he gave eight days before invading Poland on August 22, 1939. “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians” were the final words delivered by Hitler at the end of his rally. Those words unveil a dark intention of many genocides, that the extermination of a race isn’t enough; not until history books fail to mention their existence.

Hitler failed in his destructive plans, and so did The Three Pashas when it came to the Armenian Genocide. As of today, Armenian Genocide studies are regarded as the 2nd most observed Genocide by historians. 21 countries have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide as a historical fact. To the chagrin of many, The United States, Great Britain, and Turkey have yet to acknowledge the events. That has not stopped from preventing world-wide recognition from the people. April 24th is an important day for humanity; knowing the past prevents history from repeating itself.