Armenia: The Forgotten Genocide

Maria Gevorkian discusses the plight and the genocide of the Armenian people - a genocide still denied by some today.

‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’ – Adolf Hitler

Often when I inform someone of my ethnicity they are either A) left bewildered as they have never heard of Armenia B) confuse it with [insert country name which sounds like Armenia] or C) recall on the Kardashians. Armenia was in fact the first country to adopt Christianity as it’s official religion back in 301 AD. Yet the narrative of the Armenian people remains deeply unknown, despite it’s historical and theological significance. Indeed this comes as no surprise as there is little light shed on the Middle East within the global platform, let alone on Armenia; an Apostolic Christian country seemingly less able in comparison to its neighbouring Islamic states (who are not only enriched with natural resources but also possess paramount military and economic powers).

Regardless of current events shedding more focus upon the Syrian Civil War and Yemenis conflict, another reason prevails for the lack of recognition of Armenians and a rather inhumane and disturbing one; that we were never meant to survive.

The approaching 24th of April marks the 102nd anniversary of bloodshed of 1.5 million Armenians who were killed by the Young Turk army of the Ottoman Empire. It was upon this tragic day in 1915 whereby the inhumane slaughters began, starting with 250 Armenian intellectuals who were captured and killed. The Turks aimed to undergo an ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Armenians from Turkish society which in many ways is also exemplified by Hitler who was immensely inspired by the Ottoman Empire’s barbaric attempt of exterminating the Armenian people. Whilst referencing the mass murders Hitler stated in a speech “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”, 25 years after the genocide.

The symmetry between Hitler and the Ottoman Empire’s agenda to exterminate the Jewish and Armenians people becomes more explicit whilst tracing back to events before the genocide. From 1894-96 under a series of ‘Hamidian Massacres’ up to 300,000 Armenians were brutally murdered under the rule of Sultan Abdul Hamdi II, often referred to as the ‘Bloody Sultan’. This exemplifies the gradual escalation towards exterminating Armenian people entirely from Turkish society, similar to the tragic fate of Jewish people. Disturbingly, a key difference remains between these humanitarian crimes against the Jewish people and Armenians. Unlike the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide is not recognised. It is ignored and denied. It is important to also note that 300,000 Assyrians and 100,000 Greeks were also part of the massacre and cleansing programme, facing the same fate as the 1.5 murdered Armenians. Although 29 countries (including France, Germany, Russia and Canada) and 48 out of 50 American states, have recognised the killings as an act of genocide, other countries have shamelessly denied Turkey’s crime.

Why is this?

This is undoubtedly the result of Western states prioritising their relationship with Turkey, hence, the genocide of 1915 has been more often; denied, forgotten or purposely ignored. The irony prevails as the term ‘genocide’ was coined to describe the Armenian killings which were followed by the Holocaust, yet many states continue to deny that the Armenian genocide happened at all. The most classic case is Obama, who promised to accept the Armenian genocide and iterate the fact that what happened during the period of 1915- 1923 was a genocide, failed to keep his promises once he became president. Despite Obama’s disappointing execution of policies, the most controversial aspect within this topic is Turkey’s complete and utter denial of the genocide in contrast to Germany, who despite having had it’s role in the killings, accepted the events of 1915 -1923 as genocide. In 1915 German troops were sent to Turkey to begin the extermination of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks, this was in accordance with the previous agreement of a military alliance between Germany and the Ottoman Empire in August 1914. German vice consul and commander of a joint German-Turkish special guerrilla force, described plans to “destroy” the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire.

Every year as the 24th of April approaches, Armenians become more passionate about the genocide and aim to shed as much light as possible to the victims who died merciless deaths all in all for their identity of simply being Armenian and Christian. Genocide denial by the majority of Western states depicts the flaw in our international system, the tendency to ignore the crimes against humanity. There is no structure of international moral comprehension that states have been compelled to follow or act upon. There is no recognition of the estimated millions of people who have been killed in genocides. Hence, this will continue as there is seemingly no urge to recognise these killings as crimes against humanity.