The Armenian genocide, which was perpetrated by Turkey, is commemorated every year on April 24.
Who Did the Killing
In 1915, leaders of the Turkish government known at the time as the “Young Turks,” decided to massacre and expel the estimated two million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks had taken power in 1908 after overthrowing the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
By 1922, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were shot, crucified, beheaded and tortured, raped, drowned or starved to death – men, women and children.
Leaders were first singled out and shot, after which many of the woman and children were marched into the desert to die or starvation or exposure. The few who survived were taken to concentration camps where they were killed.
Some children were kidnapped and converted to Islam while a number of Armenian women were forced into harems or served as slaves to the Turks.
Hamid started the genocide more than 20 years earlier when he murdered hundreds of thousands of Armenians in programs between 1894 and 1896 in response to an Armenian campaign to be treated with basic civil rights.
The goal of the Young Turks was to cleanse the Ottoman Empire of non-Turkish/Muslim blood, which, as dhimmis, they viewed as inferior and a threat to the state.
By the end of the killings in 1923, only 388,000 Armenians remained in the Ottoman Empire.
Genocide of Christian Assyrians and Greeks at the Same Time
Simultaneously, the Turks committed genocide against the Assyrians and Greeks, two other Christian communities. Three-hundred-thousand Assyrians were murdered while the Greeks killed numbered 750,000.
In 1923, a population exchange between Turkey and Greece ended the killings and resulted in 1.2 million Christian Greeks being expelled from Turkey while 400,000 Muslims living in Greece moved to Turkey.
What Happened to the Perpetrators
When the Ottoman Empire surrendered to the Allies in 1918, the leaders of the Young Turks escaped to Germany where they were promised immunity for their crimes.
Less than two decades later, in devising his plan to exterminate the Jews, Hitler was said to have been “inspired” by the Armenian genocide. A week before his invasion of Poland in a speech given in his home in Obersalzberg, Hitler was quoted as saying, “I have put my Death’s Head formations in place with the command relentlessly and without compassion to send into death many women and children of Polish origin and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space we need. Who after all is today speaking about the destruction of the Armenians?”
Turkey Has Always Denied the Genocide
As with Hitler exterminating the Jews, Turkey has maintained the killings were done in “self-defense” and has never acknowledged the genocide or made reparations. In fact, it is still a punishable crime in Turkey to discuss the Armenian genocide.
As late as 2010, then Turkish prime minister (and now president) Recep Tayyip Erdogan threated to expel 100,000 Armenians in response to an Armenian Genocide Remembrance Bill presented to the House of Commons in the UK.
Towns in Turkey still commemorate days when they were “liberated” from Armenian invaders, celebrating the days with children and townspeople reenacting the events through public plays.
Streets, public buildings, municipal districts and the like are still named after the leaders of the genocide.
Cemal Azmi, known as the Butcher of Trabzon for his role in the slaughter – with special cruelty to children whom he drowned by the thousands by sending them out to the Black Sea and capsizing their boats—had a school named after him in 2003. Eyewitnesses said that Azmi was also known to take young Armenian girls and have orgies with them before he killed them.
Documentation and Survivors
Most of the Armenians living in the U.S. today are children and grandchildren of survivors of the genocide.
Although the Turks restricted photography of the atrocities, pictures taken by American missionaries and diplomats of the deportations and results of the killings were leaked out of the country.