by Sharon Rondeau
On April 24, 1915, the mass murder of Armenians, Assyrians, and other non-Muslim peoples within the Ottoman Empire (1299-1909) commenced with the seizing and imprisonment of approximately 250 Armenian doctors, merchants, writers, educators, and other intellectuals living in Constantinople by Muslim Turks on what has come to be known as Red Sunday.
At the Ottoman Empire’s influence and power diminished over the latter half of the 19th century in European conflicts, its rulers came to fear that non-Muslims within its geographical area were not loyal to the Sultan and posed a threat to his remaining power. Beginning in 1895, violent clashes between Muslim Turks and Armenians ended in the deaths of hundreds of Armenians. Many fled southeast to Syria and Iraq or west to Greece, Western Europe, Canada and the U.S.
In 1909, a group of revolutionaries, the Young Turks, overthrew Sultan Abdul-Hamid, promising new reforms and greater freedoms for all within the Empire. However, the Young Turks turned on Christians and began a systematic annihilation of the Armenian population, which was concentrated in what is now Istanbul.
Beginning on April 24, 1915 and stretching over eight years, Armenians and other Christians were forced from their homes into the desert on death marches, during which they were starved, physically abused and tortured, and killed outright.
On Friday, attendees and observers of events tweeted thousands of photos and comments recognizing the genocide.
In Los Angeles, which is home to nearly 200,000 Armenians, Wilshire Boulevard was closed as a result of a reported 130,000 marchers taking part in the six-mile March for Justice which ended at the Turkish consulate.
Modern-day Turkey has not acknowledged that the killings were systematic and genocidal in nature, claiming that the 1.5-million figure often cited as the death toll is “inflated.” Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan responded with anger after Pope Francis called the actions against the Armenians “the first genocide of the 20th century,” recalling his ambassador to the Vatican.
Despite a 2008 pledge to formally recognize the atrocities carried out against the Armenian people as a genocide, Barack Hussein Obama issued a statement on Thursday which fell short and disappointed many. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry claimed that Obama’s official White House statement was “one-sided.”
In 2007, Rep. Nancy Pelosi had supported a resolution in the House of Representatives terming the killings a genocide but pulled it from a vote on the House floor after Turkey recalled its U.S. ambassador and threatened to bar U.S. soldiers from its military bases during the Iraq incursion. Today, however, Pelosi released a statement in which she said, “…100 years ago, from 1915 to 1923, the leaders of the Ottoman Empire conceived and carried out a genocide against the Armenian people.”
In 1915, U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau reported that he was told by then-Ottoman Minister of the Interior Mehmet Talaat that “the Armenian problem” had been largely solved by the extermination of “three quarters” of the Armenian population in several eastern cities.
Nations around the world which have recognized the mass murders as a genocide include Sweden, Russia, Uruguay, Canada, France, Austria, Germany, Lebanon, Holland, Greece, Italy, Venezuela and many more.
Forty-three U.S. states have recognized the atrocities as genocide.
On April 16, The Arab American News based in Dearborn, MI published an historical article in which it reported that “It has been a century since the Ottomans massacred 1.5 million Armenians and drove hundreds of thousands out of their ancestral homeland in what is today Turkey. But 100 years after the tragedy, Armenians are still holding on to the culture and identity that survived through the pain passed across the generations.”
At an arts museum in Istanbul where the intellectuals were reportedly first deported from the city before being murdered, both Turks and Armenians remembered those slain a century ago. Marches and events were also held in Jerusalem, Beirut, Moscow, Paris, Jordan, Tehran, Marseille, Montevideo, New York City, Chicago and other U.S. cities, and Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.
In an article reposted from The Boston Globe at Act! for America, columnist Jeff Jacoby called the Armenian genocide “a jihad,” a term used by modern-day terrorist groups including ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others. Since the spring of last year, ISIS has been conducting the systematic murders, torture, expulsion and enslavement of Christians and other non-Muslims as well as having desecrated and destroyed some of the oldest Christian churches and antiquities known to man.
In a tweet posted late Friday, the observation was made that “genocide attempts” made by ISIS “are inspired by the success of the #ArmenianGenocide,” referring to the topic’s hashtag.
In a message sent to subscribers on Friday, Act! for America founder Brigitte Gabriel, who seeks to expose the dangers of radical Islam, wrote, in part:
The world’s indifference to the Ottoman Empire’s actions against the Armenians emboldened the Nazis to begin the Holocaust. Genocide must be stopped, not only because it saves lives now, but also because it stops genocides in the future.
Today, we remember all those Christian Armenians who lost their lives.
Today, we call for action to stop the ongoing massacres in the Middle East.
Today, we renew our pledge: Never Again.