by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 22, 2015) — One hundred years ago on the 24th of this month, what is considered by many scholars and students of history to have been a genocide of Armenian Christians throughout the Ottoman Empire began with the imprisonment, deportation and murder of approximately 250 Armenian intellectuals from the city of Constantinople, now Istanbul.
During the 19th century, Armenians, Jews, Greeks, Assyrians and other religious and ethnic minorities coexisted within the Empire, although they were considered inferior to their Muslim rulers, who banned them from military service and imposed an extra tax on them called a “jizyah.”
In the year 301 AD, the Armenians officially declared themselves Christians, launching the first Orthodox Christian church. Their names typically end in “ian” or “yan,” which means “son of.” If the prefix “Der” or “Ter” appears in the surname, it indicates that there has been a Christian priest in the family.
A translation of the name “Hanjian” belonging to this writer is virtually impossible to find, but it is said to mean “the son of an innkeeper.”
The Ottoman, or Turkish, Empire was founded in 1299 and expanded with the overthrow of the Byzantine Empire and the city of Constantinople in 1453. The Ottoman Empire was a Sunni Muslim caliphate which encompassed territory including southeastern Europe, the Balkans, North Africa, Syria, and Mesopotamia (now Iraq), stopping at Persia, which is modern-day Iran.
Sultan Abdul-Hamid ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1876 until 1909. Although instituting a constitution, judicial system and permitting independent governing bodies within the caliphate, the new system of government lasted only two years.
As Ottoman power declined by encroaching “colonialism” from Russia in the latter third of the 19th century, the sultan became a unifying figure to Muslims worldwide. According to historyofislam.com, “…with the advance of colonialism, vast areas of the Islamic world had come under European domination. France in North Africa, Russia in Central Asia, Britain in India and Austria-Hungary in Bosnia had large Muslim populations under their rule. These powers were as vulnerable with respect to their Muslim subjects as were the Ottomans with respect to their Christian subjects. The Ottoman Sultan was also the Caliph of Islam. He occupied a position in the Islamic religious-political space similar to that of the Pope in Rome with respect to Roman Catholics. The prestige of this position could be used to pressure the Christian European powers and make them take their hands off the only remaining independent Islamic state.”
According to numerous sources, conflict between the Armenians and Turkish Muslims began at the incitement of the Russians, who coveted Ottoman lands and claimed that Christians were mistreated under the sultan’s rule. In 1875, Greece, Bulgaria and Bosnia experienced independence movements wherein Muslims were driven out or killed in large numbers. Those who survived fled to Istanbul and Anatolia.
After the upheavals in Greece, Serbia and the Balkans, Armenians called for their political independence, which the sultan viewed as a threat to his power. History.com quotes him as having said, “I will soon settle those Armenians. I will give them a box on the ear which will make them…relinquish their revolutionary ambitions.”
In 1895, the sultan began displacing Armenians, Greeks and others in actions which turned deadly. President Grover Cleveland issued several statements about the violent clashes, one of which condemned “such dreadful occurrences in Turkey as have lately shocked civilizations.”
In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued a request to Congress asking it to “grant the Executive power to accept for the United States a mandate over Armenia. I make this suggestion in the earnest belief that it will be the wish of the people of the United States that this should be done. The sympathy with Armenia has proceeded from no single portion of our people, but has come with extraordinary spontaneity and sincerity from the whole of the great body of Christian men and women in this country by whose free-will offerings Armenia has practically been saved at the most critical juncture of its existence. At their hearts this great and generous people have made the cause of Armenia their own. It is to this people and to their Government that the hopes and earnest expectations of the struggling people of Armenia turn as they now emerge from a period of indescribable suffering and peril, and I hope that the Congress will think it wise to meet this hope and expectation with the utmost liberality. I know from unmistakable evidences given by responsible representatives of many peoples struggling towards independence and peaceful life again that the Government of the United States is looked to with extraordinary trust and confidence, and I believe that it would do nothing less than arrest the hopeful processes of civilization if we were to refuse the request to become the helpful friends and advisers of such of these people as we may be authoritatively and formally requested to guide and assist.”
This writer recently learned that while living in the Ottoman Empire, her Armenian maternal great-grandfather operated a printing press advocating for greater freedoms for religious minorities, particularly Armenians. Upon a tip from a friendly Turk about a forthcoming raid, he was able to hide the evidence of his endeavors and flee to Greece. His wife and infant daughter, however, were captured and briefly jailed. During an apparent struggle, the baby was dropped and broke her hip. Having failed to receive medical care, this writer’s grandmother always walked with a shuffling gait.
Several distinctive family photos show the girl’s father, Nishan, armed defensively with a bayonet and dressed in black, white and gold clothing.
When Sultan Abdul-Hamid was removed from power by a group calling itself the “Young Turks” in 1909, the Armenian and Turkish populations initially believed that the new leaders would usher in an era of “freedom, equality and justice.” However, like the sultan, the Young Turks viewed the Armenians as a threat to their power, and in 1914, having joined World War I on the side of Germany, they declared “jihad” on all Christians.
Beginning with the rounding up of the intellectuals, who were largely apolitical, a systematic annihilation of Armenians took place in which older men, women and children were forced to leave their homes, walk hundreds of miles without food or water, and were murdered in cold blood or crucified. By 1923, a total of 1.5 million were dead.
Obama reportedly promised to recognize the extermination of Armenians as a “genocide” but did not deliver on that pledge because of “opposition from some at the State Department and the Pentagon,” according to The Guardian. As a result, Obama has been criticized by media on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum.
Survivors’ accounts of their experiences can be found here.
In 1915, the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief was formed comprising church groups and other charitable organizations which brought humanitarian relief through the U.S. embassy in Constantinople to Armenians who had literally been “starving.”
In 1919, the committee was renamed by Congress as “Near East Relief” and credited by one American historian as having “quite literally kept an entire nation alive.”
Both Pope John Paul II and more recently, Pope Francis, have recognized the deaths of the 1.5 million Armenians who died as a genocide. On Wednesday, an observance commemorating the Armenian genocide is taking place on Capitol Hill in the Cannon Caucus Room from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. EDT. A memorial service will take place on Thursday outside of the White House from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Other events will occur on Friday, throughout the weekend and into the month of May.
On Wednesday, Israeli President Reuvin Rivlin described the 1915 killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a “genocide.” Turkey has never acknowledged the killings as a genocide and recalled its Vatican ambassador after Pope Francis’s use of the term in which he called the killings “the first genocide of the 20th century” during mass last Sunday.
An American band based in Los Angeles, “System of a Down,” comprises four men of Armenian descent, some of whose predecessors perished in the pre-genocide attacks, were ushered to safety by compassionate Turks during the extermination, or grew up in orphanages in surrounding countries. Los Angeles contains a large ethnic Armenian community which will host a “March for Justice” on Friday beginning at 10:00 a.m. PDT at Sunset Boulevard & Western Avenue in “Little Armenia.”
On April 16, people around the world recognized Holocaust Remembrance Day to honor the 6 million Jews and others who were murdered by the Nazis under the demonic command of Adolf Hitler, who was quoted as having told his generals, “Kill without mercy! Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
In today’s Middle East, terrorist groups including ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Hamas, Ansar al-Sharia, and others are massacring and displacing Christians and other religious minorities by the thousands. Schoolgirls and other citizens have been abducted and sold into slavery; crucifixions, burning alive of captives and other types of torture have been carried out.
Beginning last summer after ISIS’s overtaking of large areas of Iraq, Obama has been perceived as unresponsive to the genocide of Yazidis and other religious sects. On Tuesday, Fox News’s Kirsten Powers said that Obama “is not a humanitarian president. He sits back while hundreds of thousands of Christians get slaughtered and doesn’t say a word.”
“On the Record” host Greta Van Susteren also asked publicly, “How much more is the world going to tolerate?” in regard to the ongoing murder of Christians and non-Muslims by terror groups.
Last summer, ISIS declared a new Islamic caliphate with its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph. On Tuesday, al-Baghdadi was reported by The Guardian to have been injured in a U.S. air strike, a claim the Pentagon has denied.
A Turkish news agency reported on Monday that if Obama’s schedule permits, he will be present upon the opening of a “Turkish-American Culture and Civilization Center” in Lanham, MD which occupies 15 acres just outside of Washington, DC.
Rather than expressing concern over their slaughter given that he himself has claimed to be one of them, Obama has denounced Christians in at least two public forums in recent months: in February during an address at the National Prayer Breakfast at which an accused Sudanese terrorist was an invited guest, and on April 7 when he called them “less than loving” in an apparent reference to their general opposition to “gay marriage.”
According to former Rep. Steve Stockman, the Obama regime refused to share intelligence it possessed with Nigeria regarding the whereabouts of Boko Haram members because the African nation prohibits “same-sex marriage.” Last month, Stockman told a Nigerian Christian bishop in response to his question of “Is it really true that black lives don’t matter?” that “To me it’s racism.”
The killings of Christians continue in northern Africa and specifically, in Libya, where the Obama regime set the stage for the deposing of Muommar Gaddafi in 2011, after which he was murdered. Benghazi, Libya saw the murder of four Americans by Islamic terrorists, the details of which have still not been made fully public. However, in January of last year, a U.S. Senate report called the loss of life “avoidable.”
Is the genocide of Christians happening again at the hands of a new Islamic caliphate?
What is America doing to assist the victims of Islamic barbarism today?
This story was updated at 8:46 a.m. EDT, April 23, 2015.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.