The Armenian Genocide, the systematic mass murder, and expulsion of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians carried out in Turkey and adjoining regions by the Ottoman government between 1914 and 1923, is commemorated on April 24th every year.
The Armenian Genocide was an atrocity that occurred within the context of a wider religious cleansing across Asia Minor that lasted 10 years and included Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians. They were all Christians who were also subjects of the Ottoman Empire.
The religious cleansing was actually the first in modern times, and it fit the pattern of genocides that would follow in the century ahead.
It is worth noting that the Nazis in the following decades were transfixed by the events that occurred in Turkey in those nightmarish years of mass killings and deadly deportations—and saw in them a pattern that they could emulate for their own twisted ends.
The Armenians, in many ways, bore the brunt of the slaughter, but ethnic Greeks and Assyrians were also massacred in similar ways—and for the same reason: They were scapegoats in a crumbling empire that saw Christians as a dangerous and potentially treasonous population inside the country.
There was a strong nationalistic impulse to create a “Turkey for the Turks,” and that meant a homogeneous population based on “Turkishness” and the Muslim faith.
The persecution of Armenians began in 1914
Initially, it was just a campaign of boycotting Armenian businesses and shops. But within months, it culminated in acts of violence and the murder of key Armenian politicians and persons of importance. By April 15, 1915, almost 25,000 Armenians were slain in the province of Van.
On April 24, 1915, the Ottomans arrested 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople and sent them to Chankri and Ayash, where they were later murdered.
On the same day, the editors and staff of Azadamart, the leading Armenian newspaper of Constantinople, were arrested, to be executed on June 15th in Diyarbekir, where they had been taken and imprisoned.
The Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople and Zohrab, an Armenian deputy in the Ottoman Parliament, petitioned the Turkish authorities on behalf of the arrested Armenians of Constantinople. The answer was that the government was dissolving the Armenian political organizations.
Within nine months, more than 600,000 Armenians were massacred. Of those who were deported during that time, more than 400,000 died of the brutalities and privations of the southward march into Mesopotamia, raising the number of victims to one million. This became known to the rest of the world outside Turkey as the Armenian Genocide.
In addition, 200,000 Armenians were forcibly converted to Islam to give Armenia a new Turkish sense of identity and strip Armenians of their historical past as the first Christian state in the world.
On August 30, 1922, Armenians who were living in Smyrna were victims of yet more Turkish atrocities. The “Smyrna Disaster” of 1922, which was aimed at Christian Greeks who were living in the seaside city, involved thousands of Armenians, as well. Turkish soldiers and civilians set all the Greek and Armenian neighborhoods on fire, forcing the fleeing of Greeks and Armenians to the harbor, where thousands were killed or drowned.
On April 24, 1919, prominent figures of the Armenian community who had survived the atrocities held a commemoration ceremony at the St. Trinity Armenian church in Istanbul. Following its initial commemoration in 1919, the date became the annual day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide.
Yet, somehow, ever since the horrific events of 1915, Turkey has methodically denied the fact that the Armenian genocide occurred. Despite Turkish denials, the genocide has been unanimously verified by the International Association of Genocide Scholars and become internationally recognized with the intention of upholding moral responsibility above political purposes.
President Biden recognizes the Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide was officially recognized by US President Biden on April 24, 2021 in an official declaration. It ended a consistent policy of non-recognition that guided Biden’s predecessors.
“Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” the American President said.