A centenary

The Armenian genocide. A century ago. At least humans have outgrown genocide since then.

Oh wait…

Widely accepted historical accounts say that between 1 million and 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives at the hands of Ottoman forces in what was then eastern Turkey.

Between 1915 and 1922 the Teskilat e-Mahsus (special organisation) carried out a campaign of mass murder, deportation, pillage and rape against the minority Christian Armenians.

What does that sound like? Oh…Yazidi, Ahmadiyya, Uyghur, Jews, Christians, Muslims, immigrants, foreigners, natives, aboriginals…

The Guardian received more than 500 responses to a callout for first-hand experiences of persecution. Some are based on transcripts and audio recordings, others are stories recited through the generations.

While it is impossible to independently verify every detail, the stories contribute to an overwhelming narrative of death, loss and destruction.

It was night-time in Dalvor when 12-year-old Beso Gasparian’s family were warned of the proximity of Ottoman soldiers. She fled with her mother and her eight-year-old brother, Manuk, to a hill above the village to hide their valuables and wait for the rest of their family to join them.

But as dawn came a massacre erupted. They watched as the soldiers beheaded her father and stabbed her two-year-old nephew before turning on the boy’s mother, Kveh. She was seven months’ pregnant.

The three of them returned to the village the following night to bury the dead. “The scene was hellish. We put the killed baby on my sister’s chest and covered them with stones. But we couldn’t find my father’s corpse,” wrote Lusya Araqelyan, recounting the story told to her by her grandmother.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is very disturbed about this. Not the genocide, of course, but people calling it genocide.

Turkey’s president has lashed out at country leaders who have recognized the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide on the centenary of the massacres.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday accused France, Germany, Russia and Austria — whose leaders or parliaments recently described the killings as genocide — of supporting “claims constructed on Armenian lies.” He accused the United States of siding with Armenia although President Barack Obama stopped short of using the term in his annual message.

It was all just a misunderstanding, I guess.



  1. lorn says

    The interesting connection for me was that Hitler was, apparently, quite interested in the Armenian genocide. He took it as a valuable lesson in how to commit mass murder on an industrial scale and get away with it. He realized that other nations would take a very long time to publicly accept the charge, they would be easily deflected by alternative explanations, and even after openly acknowledging the crime they would be very slow to do anything about it. That last bit being, in part, because many nations have their own history of elimination troublesome populations and accusing others of genocide can backfire as people become sensitized to the plight of out of favor groups.

  2. themann1086 says

    Lorn @1: bring up the genocide committed against the Native Americans to present day Americans and watch the defensive reactions and outrage. Or that Hitler took inspiration from the kkk and their campaigns against blacks in america. Oh say can you see…

  3. moarscienceplz says

    All this does is make Erdogan look petty and childish. It wasn’t his country that committed this genocide, it was a defunct empire. I’m very sorry about the USA’s genocide of native peoples, but I don’t accept direct moral responsibility for it because I wasn’t there. (Yes, I do understand that I benefit from the resources that were stolen, and I do think about ways to make amends for that, as I hope the Germans and the Turks do as well). Erdogan’s flat denial of the Armenian genocide makes it appear that he is trying to claim that Turks are “not that kind of people”. This is of course wrong. We ALL are “that kind of people”. We all have the ability to be chauvinists and bigots and to devalue the lives of “people not like us”. Denying the undeniable facts of the Armenian genocide does not lift up the Turks, it presses them down.

  4. lorn says

    themann1086 – Yes, you get the idea. There is a lot of dirty linen out there that people are desperate to avoid hanging out in public. It is hard to sing about national exceptionalism and admit such deep problems, like so many other nations, at the same time. This resistance represents a real obstacle to facing reality and meaningful reform.

    Add to the list Henry Ford getting the Order of the German Eagle and setting up a US version of the Hitler Youth. And the fact that slavery in the US was replaced with forced prison labor and sharecropping. Institutions that were not reformed until the 40s. I know far more about the US issues but I have been told, on good authority, that most nations have some history of seeking to remove or eliminate groups that proved to be problematic.

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