Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Armenian Genocide (Calling a Spade a Spade)

Photo credit: Henry Morgenthau (Wikimedia Commons)
April 24, 2015 is the centennial of the first genocide that took place in the 20th century. The Armenians who were the victims of the catastrophic human tragedy want the world to know and remember the sufferings of their ancestors and the atrocities perpetrated by the forces of the defunct Ottoman Empire at the height of World War I. It is claimed by various reliable sources that as many as 1.5 million Armenians were systematically exterminated by the Ottoman authority using its military and other institutions.

Photo credit: Aurora Mardiganian (Wikimedia Commons)

Wikimedia Commons
The massacres took place with the backdrop of the First World War and the Russian Revolution which resulted to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II of Russia. The Ottoman Empire on which the present day country of Turkey is carved out joined the war on the side of the Central Powers which included among its allies Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Russia, a rival power of the Ottoman Empire joined the war on the side of the allies which also included France and Great Britain among other nations. The event of the Russian Revolution saw the Russian forces withdrew its participation in the war in order for the Czar to attend to more pressing domestic political issues at home. Although the Allied Forces were victorious in the war and the Ottoman Empire defeated, minorities such as the Armenians who sided with the Russians suffered unimaginable sufferings at the hands of the Ottoman forces and administrators. Atrocities inflicted on the Armenians include summary executions and their expulsions from their native lands and deportation to other territories within the empire. They were made to march to hostile environment like the desert and were exposed to the heat and other elements without food.

Wikimedia Commons
Turkish authorities asserted that the huge number of casualties of the Armenians during the First World War was not a Turkish Ottoman conspiracy to exterminate the Armenians as a people. And that the casualties were the result of the war on which the Armenians sided with the Ottoman Turks’ enemies- the Russians. Turkey added that Armenians casualties include those who died from other causes like diseases and starvation, and that Turkey too had its share of large casualties during the war, and that the enemies too had committed acts of brutalities against the Ottoman Turks during the war.

Pope Francis in his mass at the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican on April 12, 2015, called the tragic event during the First World War as genocide. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey quickly condemned the Pope’s declaration calling it spreading hatred and unfounded claims against Turkey. He even went further by recalling his ambassador to the Vatican. Receiving criticism on his remark, the pope also got appreciation from different organizations and countries for his candidness and courage to say things in history as what they really are. The European parliament also made non-binding resolution calling the Armenian slaughter genocide.

Armenians around the world are earnestly making effort to let the world know of the genocide during the Ottoman era. During Barrack Obama’s first presidential campaign he made hints to the Armenian-American political supporters that the United States would consider a proposal to call the massacre genocide. But since then after his election as president no official announcement has come from his office regarding the proposal.

The Armenian campaign has already got so much attention and world recognition for the memorable but tragic event. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian who is of Armenian descent and her husband Kanye West have visited several memorials and events that are related to the genocide.

Photo Credit: Henry Morgenthau (Wikimedia Commons)
The Armenian genocide was an event on which a mighty Muslim Ottoman Empire used its armed forces and other resources to systematically annihilate the Armenians who were its small minority Christian subjects. The need for the world to recognize the genocide comes at a time when a group such as ISIS, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups are wreaking havoc in the Middle East and Africa, killing people because they do not share their belief. Turkey can also show its sincerity by admitting the excesses of its predecessors, the Ottoman Empire, and calling their action genocide. Turkey was not yet a republic when the reported massacre took place from 1915-1918.