Frequently Asked Questions About Genocide

 


What is the Armenian Genocide?

The atrocities committed against the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire during W.W.I are called the Armenian Genocide. Genocide is the organized killing of a people for the express purpose of putting an end to their collective existence. Because of its scope, genocide requires central planning and a machinery to implement it. This makes genocide the quintessential state crime as only a government has the resources to carry out such a scheme of destruction. The Armenian Genocide was centrally planned and administered by the Turkish government against the entire Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. It was carried out during W.W.I between the years 1915 and 1918. The Armenian people was subjected to deportation, expropriation, abduction, torture, massacre, and starvation. The great bulk of the Armenian population was forcibly removed from Armenia and Anatolia to Syria, where the vast majority was sent into the desert to die of thirst and hunger. Large numbers of Armenians were methodically massacred throughout the Ottoman Empire. Women and children were abducted and horribly abused. The entire wealth of the Armenian people was expropriated. After only a little more than a year of calm at the end of W.W.I, the atrocities were renewed between 1920 and 1923, and the remaining Armenians were subjected to further massacres and expulsions. In 1915, thirty-three years before UN Genocide Convention was adopted, the Armenian Genocide was condemned by the international community as a crime against humanity.   [top]


Who was responsible for the Armenian Genocide?

The decision to carry out a genocide against the Armenian people was made by the political party in power in the Ottoman Empire. This was the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) (or Ittihad ve Terakki Jemiyeti), popularly known as the Young Turks. Three figures from the CUP controlled the government; Mehmet Talaat, Minister of the Interior in 1915 and Grand Vizier (Prime Minister) in 1917; Ismail Enver, Minister of War; Ahmed Jemal, Minister of the Marine and Military Governor of Syria. This Young Turk triumvirate relied on other members of the CUP appointed to high government posts and assigned to military commands to carry out the Armenian Genocide. In addition to the Ministry of War and the Ministry of the Interior, the Young Turks also relied on a newly-created secret outfit which they manned with convicts and irregular troops, called the Special Organization (Teshkilati Mahsusa). Its primary function was the carrying out of the mass slaughter of the deported Armenians. In charge of the Special Organization was Behaeddin Shakir, a medical doctor. Moreover, ideologists such as Zia Gokalp propagandized through the media on behalf of the CUP by promoting Pan-Turanism, the creation of a new empire stretching from Anatolia into Central Asia whose population would be exclusively Turkic. These concepts justified and popularized the secret CUP plans to liquidate the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turk conspirators, other leading figures of the wartime Ottoman government, members of the CUP Central Committee, and many provincial administrators responsible for atrocities against the Armenians were indicted for their crimes at the end of the war. The main culprits evaded justice by fleeing the country. Even so, they were tried in absentia and found guilty of capital crimes. The massacres, expulsions, and further mistreatment of the Armenians between 1920 and 1923 were carried by the Turkish Nationalists, who represented a new political movement opposed to the Young Turks, but who shared a common ideology of ethnic exclusivity.   [top]


How many people died in the Armenian Genocide?

It is estimated that one and a half million Armenians perished between 1915 and 1923. There were an estimated two million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire on the eve of W.W.I. Well over a million were deported in 1915. Hundreds of thousands were butchered outright. Many others died of starvation, exhaustion, and epidemics which ravaged the concentration camps. Among the Armenians living along the periphery of the Ottoman Empire many at first escaped the fate of their countrymen in the central provinces of Turkey. Tens of thousands in the east fled to the Russian border to lead a precarious existence as refugees. The majority of the Armenians in Constantinople, the capital city, were spared deportation. In 1918, however, the Young Turk regime took the war into the Caucasus, where approximately 1,800,000 Armenians lived under Russian dominion. Ottoman forces advancing through East Armenia and Azerbaijan here too engaged in systematic massacres. The expulsions and massacres carried by the Nationalist Turks between 1920 and 1922 added tens of thousands of more victims. By 1923 the entire landmass of Asia Minor and historic West Armenia had been expunged of its Armenian population. The destruction of the Armenian communities in this part of the world was total.   [top]

Were there witnesses to the Armenian Genocide?

There were many witnesses to the Armenian Genocide. Although the Young Turk government took precautions and imposed restrictions on reporting and photographing, there were lots of foreigners in the Ottoman Empire who witnessed the deportations. Foremost among them were U.S. diplomatic representatives and American missionaries. They were first to send news to the outside world about the unfolding genocide. Some of their reports made headline news in the American and Western media. Also reporting on the atrocities committed against the Armenians were many German eyewitnesses. The Germans were allies of the Turks in W.W.I. Numerous German officers held important military assignments in the Ottoman Empire. Some among them condoned the Young Turk policy. Others confidentially reported to their superiors in Germany about the slaughter of the Armenian civilian population. Many Russians saw for themselves the devastation wreaked upon the Armenian communities when the Russian Army occupied parts of Anatolia. Many Arabs in Syria where most of the deportees were sent saw for themselves the appalling condition to which the Armenian survivors had been reduced. Lastly, many Turkish officials were witnesses as participants in the Armenian Genocide. A number of them gave testimony under oath during the post-war tribunals convened to try the Young Turk conspirators who organized the Armenian Genocide.   [top]

What was the response of the international community to the Armenian Genocide?

The international community condemned the Armenian Genocide. In May 1915, Great Britain, France, and Russia advised the Young Turk leaders that they would be held personally responsible for this crime against humanity. There was a strong public outcry in the United States against the mistreatment of the Armenians. At the end of the war, the Allied victors demanded that the Ottoman government prosecute the Young Turks accused of wartime crimes. Relief efforts were also mounted to save "the starving Armenians." The American, British, and German governments sponsored the preparation of reports on the atrocities and numerous accounts were published. On the other hand, despite the moral outrage of the international community, no strong actions were taken against the Ottoman Empire either to sanction its brutal policies or to salvage the Armenian people from the grip of extermination. Moreover, no steps were taken to require the postwar Turkish governments to make restitution to the Armenian people for their immense material and human losses.   [top]

Why is the Armenian Genocide commemorated on April 24?


On the night of April 24, 1915, the Turkish government placed under arrest over 200 Armenian community leaders in Constantinople. Hundreds more were apprehended soon after. They were all sent to prison in the interior of Anatolia, where most were summarily executed. The Young Turk regime had long been planning the Armenian Genocide and reports of atrocities being committed against the Armenians in the eastern war zones had been filtering in during the first months of 1915. The Ministry of War had already acted on the government's plan by disarming the Armenian recruits in the Ottoman Army, reducing them to labor battalions and working them under conditions equaling slavery. The incapacitation and methodic reduction of the Armenian male population, as well as the summary arrest and execution of the Armenian leadership marked the earliest stages of the Armenian Genocide. These acts were committed under the cover of a news blackout on account of the war and the government proceeded to implement its plans to liquidate the Armenian population with secrecy. Therefore, the Young Turks regime's true intentions went undetected until the arrests of April 24. As the persons seized that night included the most prominent public figures of the Armenian community in the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, everyone was alerted about the dimensions of the policies being entertained and implemented by the Turkish government. Their death presaged the murder of an ancient civilization. April 24 is, therefore, commemorated as the date of the unfolding of the Armenian Genocide.   [top]


Are the Armenian massacres acknowledged today as a Genocide according to the United Nations Genocide Convention?

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, describes genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." Clearly this definition applies in the case of the atrocities committed against the Armenians. Because the U.N. Convention was adopted in 1948, thirty years after the Armenian Genocide, Armenians worldwide have sought from their respective governments formal acknowledgment of the crimes committed during W.W.I. Countries like France, Argentina, Greece, and Russia, where the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and their descendants live, have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. However, as a matter of policy, the present-day Republic of Turkey adamantly denies that a genocide was committed against the Armenians during W.W.I. Moreover, Turkey dismisses the evidence about the atrocities as mere allegations and regularly obstructs efforts for acknowledgment. Affirming the truth about the Armenian Genocide, therefore, has become an issue of international significance. The recurrence of genocide in the twentieth century has made the reaffirmation of the historic acknowledgment of the criminal mistreatment of the Armenians by Turkey all the more a compelling obligation for the international community.   [top]

Forget the Armenian Genocide. Why should we be concerned with something that happened 75 years ago and 8,000 miles away?

Genocide is a crime against humanity, and there is no statue of limitations on genocide -- not even one 75 years old.

The fact that a major crime against humanity takes place 8,000 miles away from the United States makes it no less a crime. Was Hitler justified in killing Jews because he was 5,000 miles away? Should American troops not defend Saudi Arabia because Saddam Hussein is 9,000 miles away?

It was the old Ottoman Empire that committed the crime, but present-day Turkey becomes an accomplice after the fact by its expensive campaign of denial, denial not only for itself but for the old Ottoman Empire. This principle of becoming an accomplice by the cover-up of a crime is part of the rule of law.   [top]

What have Americans to do with the Armenian Genocide?

America was the first country to recognize the Armenian Genocide and continued to recognize it until misguided officials sought favor with the Republic of Turkey by joining in an ugly, and quite unnecessary, distortion of history.

The Armenian Genocide was witnessed by hundreds of American missionaries in the Ottoman Empire who worked among the Armenians and have testified to their destruction by the Ottoman government.

The Genocide was also witnessed by American consular officials, stationed in the areas inhabited by the Armenians, who reported it to the American ambassador in Istanbul.

The American Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., confronted the Young Turk leaders, and then he telegraphed the American Secretary of State calling the Turkish action an attempt at "racial extermination."

The American Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, wired U.S. Ambassador Morgenthau to continue the strongest possible protest to the Ottoman government on behalf of the Armenians. The Armenian Genocide was well-reported in the American press, and the U.S. Senate held hearing which affirmed its reality.

President Woodrow Wilson agreed to draw the boundaries of a free Armenia and sent a message to Congress asking for permission to establish a U.S. mandate over the new state.

[I ask this] "Not only because it [the mandate] embodied my own convictions and feeling with regard to Armenia and its people, but also, and more particularly, because it seemed to me to be the voice of the American people expressing their deep sympathies. At their hearts, this great and generous people [the Americans] have made the case of Armenia their own.

The American people raised millions of dollars to aid the victims of the Genocide. Our older citizens will remember aid to the "starving Armenians."

President Herbert Hoover wrote in his Memoirs:

Probably Armenian was known to the American school child in 1919 only a little less than England ... of the staunch Christians who were massacred periodically by the Mohammedian Turk, and the Sunday School collections of over fifty years for alleviating their miseries. . . .   [top]

All these Americans who reported the Armenian Genocide were biased against us. They were not telling the truth.

There was no reason for the Americans to lie. America was a neutral power during the time of the Armenian Genocide. In fact America never did go to war against Turkey but kept up diplomatic relations so that it could intervene on behalf of the Armenians.

Anyway, who are the Turks to accuse the Americans of lying?   [top]

Why not leave historical questions to the historians? Why should the issue of the Armenian Genocide be fought out in Congress?

The Turks have adopted the line of "leave Armenian history to the historians" because they are losing their propaganda battle. The issue of the Armenian Genocide is not a question of historical truth, that has been settled; it is rather an issue of morality and the acceptance of the truth.

History is too important to leave to historians. By leaving the Armenian injustice of World War I uncorrected, the stage was set for the Holocaust of World War II. The abandonment of the Armenians was not lost on Hitler. Hitler said before sending his troops into Poland, "Go, go kill without mercy. Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians."   [top]

Why should America acknowledge the Armenian Genocide now?

America is the moral leader of the world. We must set the record straight, to rehabilitate America's innocence, extricate the U.S. from an ugly distortion of history, and to restore America's respectability in the eyes of our European allies who, accepting the truth, are amazed at Americas hypocrisy.

No principled Turk should be offended by the truth. After all, a large number of Armenian survivors of the Genocide owe their lives to devout Turks. To be a patriotic Turk does not require hating Armenians or distorting history.   [top]

There is more than one side to every story.

Truth is not divisible by two. Is there another side about Hitler who gassed Jews, about Stalin who starved Ukrainians, or about Pol Pt and the Khmer Rouge who massacred Cambodians? Of course not. Genocide is so blatant an evil that it has no other side to the story.   [top]

It is your word against ours.

The Turks themselves have confessed in earlier times. Prime Minister Damat Ferid Pasha placed the blame squarely on the Young Turk Party. Mustafa Kemal Pasha {Ataturk} said {in a 1926 interview with a Swiss reporter that} the Young Turks "should be made to account for the lives of millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse from their homes and massacred. . . ."

After the war, the Turks held courts-martial to prosecute and convict the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide. Several were sentenced to death.   [top]

Why do Armenians get all the sympathy, Turks died too. Perhaps some three million Turks died during the period of the alleged genocide against the Armenians.

It is doubtful that three million Turks died in World War I. Turkish propagandists usually use the more correct, but still deceptive, expression "three million Muslims." Yes, three million Muslims probably did die in WW I, but so did twenty million Christians.

T he Turks died, unfortunately, because their own government led them into World War I against the European Allies. Many Turkish Muslims also died fighting Arab Muslims, who were seeking their freedom from Ottoman oppression, and Indian Muslims who where with the British Middle East army in Mesopotamia. All this Muslim blood, then, is on the head of the Ottoman Turkish government and not on the victimized and helpless Armenians.

There were only around three million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, most of them old men, women, and children, and they can hardly be blamed for the death of three million "Turks or Muslims."   [top]

The Armenians were killed in a civil war, or an ethnic feud; it was not genocide.

When the armed government of 25 million people turns on and exterminates an unarmed minority of three million old men, women, and children, it is hardly an "intercommunal struggle", "an ethnic feud", or "civil war"; it is nothing more or less than genocide.   [top]

Why pick on Turkey? Turkey is a "model modern Moslem country."

Since when do model countries deny their citizens human rights and religious freedom?

Turkey's thinly veiled military dictatorship with its long history of human rights abuses, its repression of the legitimate aspiration of the Kurds for cultural autonomy, its historic antagonism towards the Arabs, and its invasion of Cyprus, hardly make Turkey a "model modern Moslem country."

If the Turks are disliked and feared by most Europeans, the Kurds, the Arabs, the Greeks, and the Armenians, perhaps there is some reason. The Turks ought to throw off their atavistic ghazi mentality, modernize their feudal agrarian economy, and outgrow their penchant for military government and abuse of human rights.   [top]

We have opened the Turkish archives. The Turkish archives do not prove there was an Armenian Genocide.

The Turkish archives covering the period of the Armenian Genocide are not opened to the public. They are only open to Turkish scholars and persons friendly to Turkey.

Th e Turkish archives have been closed so long that scholars have no idea of what is being purged. Furthermore, the work of the Genocide was done under the aegis of the Committee of Union and Progress, a shadow government similar to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and in particular by its Special Organization (Teskilat-i Mahsusa) under the notorious Dr. Behaettin Shakir who was sentenced to death in absentia by a Turkish court-martial following World War I. Will their records be opened?   [top]

American Admiral Mark Bristol's testimony proves there was no Genocide. Admiral Bristol proves that Morgenthau was lying.

Ambassador Morgenthau, who informed the world about the Armenian Genocide, was there when it happened. Admiral Mark Bristol, who became U.S. High Commissioner in Turkey after World War I, did not even arrive in Turkey until 1920. Since Bristol was not in Turkey during the Genocide, and the Armenians had already been killed, he had to ask the Turks what happened. Bristol could only talk to the executioners of the Armenians, the Turks. The Turks are hardly creditable witnesses to their own crime.

Bristol, a stern military man, liked the military junta ruling the post-World War I Turkey, and he eagerly talked about the "bad qualities" of the Armenians and Greeks. Do "bad qualities" justify a genocide? If so, that might put even the Turks and Americans at risk.   [top]

The only reason that the Turks aren't allowed into the European Community is their Islamic religion.

What concerns the Europeans is not the religion of the Turks, but rather their values. Judeo-Christian culture, which characterizes the Western world, is dedicated to developing a moral society. Democracy and faith in the beneficent value of truth is the current manifestation of this aspiration. If the Turks were to thirst after justice and righteousness, values to which we in the West aspire, they would most certainly be welcomed in any society.

The first sign of this new morality would appropriately be for the present-day Turks to acknowledge the Ottoman genocide of the Armenians.   [top]

No one to date has been able to come up with creditable documentation of Hitler's alleged statement about the Armenians. Hitler never made the statement.

The Hitler statement, which the Turks have questioned, was authenticated by Dr. K.B. Bardakjian, at Harvard in 1985 from secret notes taken by German Admiral Wilhelm Canaris during Hitler's speech. {See K.B. Bardakjian, Hitler and the Armenian Genocide (Cambridge, MA: Zoryan Institute, 1985).}   [top]

How do the Armenians expect the American people to feel sorry for them when they support terrorism?

The assassinations, which only began in 1973, were stopped in 1983 by Armenian public opinion. Armenians do not need terrorists, because people of good will, having studied the Armenian case, now have greater understanding and sympathy.   [top]

Only 600,000 Armenians died in the Ottoman Empire during World War I, not 1.5 million, and they were killing Turks during that time.

The Turks play with numbers in a grotesque way. They argue that only 600,000 Armenians were killed not 1.5 million. Would this change the basic truth that a genocidal massacre occurred in 1915? Almost the entire Armenian population of Turkey was wiped out by its own government, the Turkish government. Does it really make the Turks better if they succeeded in killing only 600,000 Armenians and not 1.5 million? In any case, is was genocide.

The Turks insist that Armenians were also killing Turks. It is true that scores of Armenians fought back successfully. But how can you compare self-defense with murder? The Armenians were killed by their own government, the Turkish government; they sometimes fought back to protect themselves.   [top]

The Turks had to deport the Armenians from the eastern war front where they were helping the Russians who promised them a homeland.

Armenians all over Anatolia, not just on the eastern war front, were wiped out. The cities of Yozgard, Sivas, Ceasrea, Hajin, Marash, and Adana -- just to name a few -- are hardly in the east. One needs but to look at a map of Turkey to see this. Turks depend on American ignorance of geography to make such foolish claims.

Russia under the Tsars never offered the Armenians or any other subject peoples their freedom. The last tsar, Nicholas II, would not even share power with his own Russian people, which helped prompt the Russian revolution during World War I. {Russia even forbade Armenian refugees, who had managed to flee the Genocide, from returning to their lands, which the Russian armies had overran during the war.} Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky, foreign minister of Russia in 1895, summed it all up by saying, "Yes, Russia wants Armenia, but without the Armenians."   [top]

 

 













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