A small country in the Middle East, Armenia is East of Turkey, and just above Iran.
Both Turkey and Armenia were once part of the Ottoman Empire, also known as the Turkish Empire.
Genocide: “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” (Article Two of the UN convention 1948)
The Ottoman Empire was Muslim and was ruled as a Caliphate (a State where Islam is recognised as top law).
It was pretty massive: containing Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and parts of North Africa and many more.
Christians such as the Armenians were allowed to practice their own religion BUT were taxed more and were treated as second class citizens.
The Ottoman/Turkish Empire was one of the largest and longest lasting empires in history. However, come 1915 it had lost land, money and esteem: a shadow of its former glory. A political group of discontented army officers called the Young Turks took power of the remaining Ottoman Empire in 1908.
The Young Turks led Turkey into WWI on Germany’s side. Bad move. They lost a major battle against Russia in Sarikemish, right on the border between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. Armenian volunteers in the area fought alongside the Russians – against their Turkish rulers. Fearing Armenians across the whole of the Ottoman Empire would follow suit and side with the enemy the Young Turks decided to do something about it.
In the Turkish capital city Constantinople (Now Istanbul) Ottoman or Turkish locals captured more than 200 members of the ethnic minority Armenian community. Most were killed and others were deported and their property seized. Starting as a way to neutralise potential political threats this was the start of a period of ethnic cleansing known as the Armenian Genocide.
When this finally ended a few years later over 1 million Armenians had been killed.
In 1922 the Ottoman empire was fully abolished and Turkey was recognised as a separate country. Armenia had less luck, and was absorbed by the Soviet Union (Think: Russia) until 1991 when Armenia was reinstated as its own independent country.
The death toll for the Armenian genocide is estimated 1-1.5 million. It was only a few years later, that the same amount of people died in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. Just to put things into perspective of course, the Armenian genocide was a big deal.
Of course, Auschwitz was just one camp, and in total 11 million people died in the Holocaust in WW2 – which may be why you’ve heard of it, and not the Armenian Genocide.
But it’s not just about numbers.
So why haven’t you heard about this? Because the majority of people accept the Holocaust as FACT whereas the Armenian Genocide still isn’t universally accepted. This is a fact too guys.
The Big Issue: Turkey still won’t own up. Yep, you heard that right. They say the killings were a regrettable consequence of the war, but that no systematic or planned genocide of Armenians took place.
They also say the number of dead is much lower, around 300,000 and that many Turks were killed in the conflict…
These claims clash with reports from the time – a New York Times report suggested that a “policy of extermination” was taking place.
And let’s not forget: Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, came up with the word “genocide” in a book about the Holocaust published in 1944. He previously had written about the events in Turkey and stated in a 1949 documentary that “genocide had happened so many times… first to the Armenians”
So the guy who came up with the word “genocide” considered the Armenian events a genocide, and yet…
US President Barack Obama will make a speech today marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
However, he will NOT actually say the word “genocide“. Instead he will use the term “Meds Yeghern” an Armenian term meaning “the great calamity”. Not quite the same thing…
Why won’t he use the word? Because only 20 countries have formally accepted the Armenian Genocide and the USA ain’t on that list. Neither is the UK.
Reasons to keep Turkey sweet: Turkey is a big ally to the US in the Middle East, assisting them in the fight against Islamic State. So Obama won’t be upsetting them by saying the word “Genocide” any time soon.
Same goes for the UK : a leaked foreign office document from 1999 stated the UK relied so much on good relations with Turkey so would not recognise the genocide. Not dodgy at all…