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Mass crimes against humanity and genocides

Genocide against Armenians, the
"Great Catastrophe" of 1915-1922


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Quote:

  • "There are times, young fellah, when every one of us must make a stand for human right and justice, or you never feel clean again." Lord John Roxton in The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Time Location Perpetrators Victims Number of victims
1915 to 1922 Turkey Muslim government Armenian and other Christians 1.5 million Armenian Christians; unknown number of Greek Christians and Assyrians

The Genocide:

"The [Christian] Armenian genocide of 1915-1916 effectively wiped out the Armenian population of Turkey, claiming some 1.5 million victims. Perhaps 75,000 Armenians endure in Turkey today, most of them in Istanbul."

"The Armenian Genocide occurred in a systematic fashion, which proves that it was directed by the Turkish government." This was the Ittihat ve Terakki government -- also known as the "Young Turks" -- of the Ottoman Empire.

"First the Armenians in the army were disarmed, placed into labor battalions, and then killed. Then the Armenian political and intellectual leaders were rounded up on [1915-]April 24 and killed. Finally, the remaining Armenians were rounded up, told they would be relocated, and then marched off to concentration camps in the desert between Jerablus and Deir ez-Zor where they would starve and thirst to death in the burning sun...The authorities in Trebizond, on the Black Sea coast, did vary this routine: they loaded Armenians on barges and sank them far out at sea." 2

Although the main victims of this genocide were Armenian Christians, the approximately five million Greek Christians living in Turkey at the start of World War I were also targeted for programs of deportation, forced marches leading to extermination, and ethnic cleansing. These victims have been almost entirely forgotten. They include Greek Orthodox victims living along the Anatolian coast in 1914, at Adrianople, Constatinople and Smyra during 1916, in Ordou in 1918, etc.

By 1923, Greece had received about a million refugees - mostly elderly and children Christians. Able-bodied adults did not make it to safety. 3.4.5.6

Mustafa Kemel, the founder of modern Turkey in 1923 , who later took the name of Ataturk, spoke openly about the genocide, calling it an "abomination of the past." However, the history books of current and past governments of Turkey have either denied that the genocide actually happened, or suggested that typhoid, the Russians and the Germans were responsible for massive loss of life. The use of the term "genocide" is  "categorically unacceptable," according to Yüksel Söylemez, the chairman of a group of former Turkish ambassadors. Turkish president Ahmet Necdet Sezer said the accusations of genocide are baseless and that they "upset and hurt the feelings of the Turkish nation."


Recent acknowledgments of the genocide:

Some have suggested that Turkish government's unwillingness to admit to the past atrocity by its predecessor may threaten its prospects for its future membership in the European Union. French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said:

"I believe that when the time comes, Turkey should come to terms with its past, be reconciled with its own history and recognize this tragedy. This is an issue that we will raise during the negotiation process. We will have about 10 years to do so and the Turks will have about 10 years to ponder their answer." 7

Developments 2001-now:

  • 2001-JAN-18: France passed a law branding as genocide the mass murder of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

  • 2005-JUN: Another resolution will be voted upon in 2005-JUN in the German Bundestag.

  • 2005-APR-24: The 90th anniversary of the genocide was observed. All survivors of the genocide will probably have died by the time of the next decennial remembrance.

  • 2005-MAR: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition leader Deniz Baykal agreed to address the past. The Prime Minister noted that the state archives in Ankara and Istanbul are open to everyone. He said that an independent entity -- like UNESCO -- might participate in an historical fact-finding mission.

  • 2008-SEP: In a dramatic move President Sargsyan of Armenia invited President Gul of Turkey to Armenia to watch a World Cup qualifier between their two soccer teams. This was followed by representatives of the two states meeting to discuss opening their border, establishing diplomatic relations, and generally improving tensions between the countries.

  • 2008-DEC-07: CNN presented a special program anchored by their Chief International Correspondent  Christiane Amanpour called "Scream Bloody Murder." It described various genocides thorough history with an emphasis on those who witnessed the atrocities, tried to stop them, and were ignored by the world.  Ara Khachatourian of Armenia Now.com was critical of the relative lack of coverage of the Armenian genocide, and commented:
    "Amanpour’s 'Scream Bloody Murder' is an important piece of journalism as it asks the very critical questions that could have prevented so many acts of Genocide. In its reporting, Amanpour is also very adept at pointing to US complicity in all these events, much like Samantha Power was in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book 'A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide'." 8.9
  • 2008-DEC-12: a group of about 200 Turkish academics, journalists, writers, artists, and other public figures sent an open letter to Abdullah Gul, the President of Turkey, urging him to recognize the mass murder as a genocide. issued an apology via the Internet for the genocide. This event has been generally acknowledged by historians outside of Turkey The intellectuals described the event as the "Great Catastrophe" and acknowledged that it was a "genocide." The letter said, in part:
    "The new situation formed in the South Caucasus as a result of the latest events, the bold step of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan to invite you to Yerevan and the meeting held reaffirm that establishing good-neighborly relations between Armenia and Turkey requires courageous and realistic solutions. First of all we face the knotty issue of the Armenian Genocide. ... The new situation formed in the South Caucasus as a result of the latest events, the bold step of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan to invite you to Yerevan and the meeting held reaffirm that establishing good-neighborly relations between Armenia and Turkey requires courageous and realistic solutions. First of all we face the knotty issue of the Armenian Genocide"
    According to Pakrat Estukian, editor of the Istanbul-based Armenian-Turkish newspaper, Agos, each of the signatories of the petition were not pressured to sign. They did it only after "... listening to the voice of their conscience." 10

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Genocide history brief," at:  http://www.maxpages.com/genocide/Genocide_History 
  2. "The Armenian Genocide," at: http://www.hr-action.org/armenia/
  3. Sofia Kontogeorge Kostos, "Before the Silence," at: http://www.umd.umich.edu/
  4. "Memories from Smyrni - 1900 - 1922,"  at: http://smyrnialbum.s5.com/
  5. Roberto Lopes, "The Hellenic Genocide," at: http://www.hellenicgenocide.org/
  6. Bernhard Zand, "Armenian Genocide Plagues Ankara 90 Years On," Der Spiegel, 2005-APR-25. at: http://service.spiegel.de/
  7. "Turkey 'must admit Armenia dead;," BBC News, 2004-DEC-13, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  8. Ara Khachatourian, "Documented omission: CNN special report ignores Armenian history on genocide," Armenia Now.com, 2008-DEC-05, at: http://www.armenianow.com/
  9. Samantha Power "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," Harper Perennial, (2007). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
    Amazon.com review by Shawn Carkonen:
    "During the three years (1993-1996) Samantha Power spent covering the grisly events in Bosnia and Srebrenica, she became increasingly frustrated with how little the United States was willing to do to counteract the genocide occurring there. After much research, she discovered a pattern: "The United States had never in its history intervened to stop genocide and had in fact rarely even made a point of condemning it as it occurred," she writes in this impressive book. Debunking the notion that U.S. leaders were unaware of the horrors as they were occurring against Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Iraqi Kurds, Rwandan Tutsis, and Bosnians during the past century, Power discusses how much was known and when, and argues that much human suffering could have been alleviated through a greater effort by the U.S. She does not claim that the U.S. alone could have prevented such horrors, but does make a convincing case that even a modest effort would have had significant impact. Based on declassified information, private papers, and interviews with more than 300 American policymakers, Power makes it clear that a lack of political will was the most significant factor for this failure to intervene. Some courageous U.S. leaders did work to combat and call attention to ethnic cleansing as it occurred, but the vast majority of politicians and diplomats ignored the issue, as did the American public, leading Power to note that "no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on." This powerful book is a call to make such indifference a thing of the past."
  10. Gayane Mkrtchyan, "Appeals for Genocide recognition: Intellectuals in Armenia, Turkey address 1915 events," Armenia Now, 2008-DEC-12, at: http://www.armenianow.com/

Site navigation: Home page > Laws & religionGenocide > here

or: Home page > Religious violence Genocide >  here


Copyright © 2001 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JAN-1
Latest update: 2008-DEC-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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