108 years ago, the Turkish government began a near decade lasting event that would forever change history, the Armenian Genocide. Today, April 24th is the day of remembrance in which we recognize the horrific events that destroyed an entire community. The Armenian Genocide was a massively devasting event that does not have light shed on it often, so days like today are incredibly important to recognize. By taking the time to remember the horrors that spanned nearly a decade, we can hopefully generate conversations that will help us make sure we do not find ourselves repeating the past.
What is the Armenian Genocide?
The Armenian Genocide spanned nearly a decade during World War I, officially being recognized as beginning in 1915 and lasting all the way until 1923. The awful attacks against the Armenians taking residence in the Ottoman Empire were first carried out by the Young Turks government group and then furthered by the Kemalist government. Their ideology was to create the “Great Turan,” a plan to expand their region to reach from the Bosphorus Strait to the Altai, a republic region of Russia. To the Young Turks, the Armenians were roadblocks in accomplishing this goal. They first began plotting ways to exterminate the community of people in 1911 and 1912 in order to accomplish their land growth plan. When World War I began in 1914, they were able to begin to take action to execute their own one-sided war and did so in a 4-phase plan.
The plan started when they drafted 60,000 Armenian men into the Ottoman army and then subsequently disarmed them and had Turkish soldiers, meant to fight alongside the Armenian men, murder them. The second phase was an event that occurred on April 24th, 1915, which then lead to April 24th being the recognized day of remembrance. On this day in 1915, the Young Turks arrested hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and state leaders. They then proceeded to murder all those that they arrested. The third phase began when the Ottoman leaders exiled mass amounts of women, children, and elderly people to Syria. On this exile trek, thousands were murdered, killed by an epidemic disease, or forcibly Islamized.
The fourth and final phase was a simple one: denial. The Turkish government fought hard to create a narrative that painted them as doing no wrong. They spread false historical retellings of what happened and used propaganda to manipulate people to their side of history. To this day, the Turkish government pretends they were not behind the heinous actions that occurred for 8 years. This has allowed them to continue on with a cultural genocide. They renamed cities and historic sites, destroyed countless Armenian monuments, and converted Armenian churches into mosques.
To put a numeric value on the atrocities that occurred from 1915-1923, there were nearly 2 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire prior to World War I. By 1923, 1.5 million Armenians had been killed, and any that were still alive had been exiled or Islamized.
The horrors that the Armenian people faced from 1915-1923 did not truly end in 1923. They are forever haunted by the atrocious acts against their ancestors, the erasure of their culture, and the coverup attempts to hide that these acts were done against them. It is important for anyone, not just those of Armenian descent, to remember these events every day, but especially today. If you have the means to, show support to the Armenian community today. Go to a local Armenian restaurant, go to an Armenian owned business, or donate to an Armenian foundation. It is incredibly important to always show support for this marginalized group, but especially today the 108th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and Day of Remembrance.