One hundred and two years ago today, April 24th, is the date that is set to be the start of the Armenian Genocide. The Ottoman government rounded up Armenians, mostly Ottoman citizens, and deported them from Constantinople to the region of Ankara. Thousands were murdered. Phase one was the complete killing off of able-bodied males, through massacre, force labor, etc., and phase two consisted of deportation of women, children, and the elderly to the Syrian desert on death marches.
The reason behind the actions of The Young Turks toward the Christian Armenian population was to “cleanase the country from the non-coreligionists” in reaction to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. During the death marches, the deportees were deprived of food, water, and subjected to rape, robbery, and massacre.
On July 24th 1908, a coup d’état staged by officers in the Ottoman Third Army, part of the Young Turk movement, removed Abdul Hamid II from power, and restored constitutional monarchy on the country. The Young Turk movement wanted to reform administration, and modernize it to European standards; being an anti-Hamidian coalition, made up of the liberal constitutionalists and the nationalists (the former being more pro-rights for the minorities, including Armenians).
In November 1914, Shaykh ul-Islam proclaimed Jihad against Christians, which was later used as an excuse to commence the Armenian Holocaust. Another factor, was Enver Pasha when he lost the Russo-Turkish war of 1887-78, and blamed his defeat on Armenians. February 25th 1915, Directive 8682 was released, which called for the removal of all ethnic Armenians from the military posts, and their demobilization.
They were then assigned to unarmed Labor Battalions, though in the end, they would be ultimately executed. Later, Jevdet Bey, on April 19th 1915, demanded 4000 soldiers from the city of Van; the latter knowing that it was only a pretext to massacre the able-bodied males of Van so it could be left defenceless.
They offered him 500 men and exemption money, to which Jevdet Bey responded with, “If the rebels fire a single shot, I shall kill every Christian man, woman, and every child, up to here (pointing to his knee).”[x] He accused the Armenians of rebellion, and was determined to crush it at any cost. The siege began the next day, April 20th 1915, when an Armenian woman was harassed, and the two Armenian men defending her were killed by Ottoman soldiers. [Read more: Defence of Van]
During the death marches, there is no evidence that there were facilities to sustain the life of hundreds of thousands of deportees. By August 1915, The New York Times wrote, “the roads of the Euphrates are strewn with corpses of exiles, and those who survive are domed to certain death. It is a plan to exterminate the whole Armenian people.” [x]
Lasting from 1919 to 1923, the top range estimate of killed Armenians goes up to 1.5 million. Photographs from the era show atrocities of any kinds, from mass killings, to dead children, and knife-tortured women. The methods used range from mass burning, drowning, torture, to gas, poison, disease, and starvation. There were reports of children being loaded into boats, then thrown into the sea.
The modern Turkish governments, however, deny the use of the phrase “Armenian Genocide”, with Erdogan threatening foreign countries for using it,writes Business Insider. Seven years ago, The Guardian reports about Erdogan threatening to expel 100,000 Armenian immigrants, because the US and Sweden agreed to call the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide. More recently, in 2016, Erdogan claimed that the genocide charge is being used as a blackmail against Turkey.
“The Armenian issue is a useful blackmail opportunity against Turkey all around the world, and it is even starting to be used as a stick… I am addressing the whole world. You may like it, you may not. Our attitude on the Armenian issue is clear from the beginning. We will never accept the accusations of genocide.”