Let's Talk Turkey

Part II

Armenian Genocide:

Never have there been a people more badly treated and abused by the Turks than the Armenians. Everybody has heard about the Armenian Genocide except Turkey. Up till today Turkey refuses to acknowledge the horrendous events of 1915 and indeed even before that from 1894-1896.

But it all started well before that – in 1514 the Ottomans occupied Armenia (the first nation in the world to make Christianity its official religion) after the battle of Galdiran. The Armenians skilled craftsmen even then were taken advantage of by the occupiers and their skills put to use without being given a just reward. In general under Ottoman rule things took a turn for the worse and many Armenian families felt that they had no option except to move elsewhere. This was the first movement of Armenians to Syria-for many sought Syria and found sanctuary there. Others chose Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan.

The main reason for the Armenian genocide was Turkey's wish to Turkify the whole region. In 1909 the Armenians of Adna were slaughtered and those residing in 'West Armenia" were forced to emigrate. This was not a whim of the moment policy but one that was well planned for.

 In March 1915 Armenians resistance centers were destroyed and in April 1915 a governmental decree was issued that specified that all Armenians living under the "Ottoman Empire" must leave. This started with arrests of over 200 intellectuals, politicians and men of religion in Istanbul. All of them were sent to prisons in Anatolia where they were later executed Armenians also had to relinquish their arms if they had any. This was followed by displacement, exile and killings in all Armenian areas-all according to a time schedule. Armenian lands and money were seized. This encompassed everything that belonged to the Armenian Church too and amounted to considerable wealth.

The Ottoman Empire at that time was on its death bed and the decision of what came to be known as the Armenian genocide rests entirely with the "Young Turk Movement". They took that decision and used "special militia's" whose job was to commit these atrocities on the Armenians.

One million and a half Armenians met their end-the first genocide to be committed in the Twentieth century. As stated earlier all these events were planned for earlier in 1910 in the conference of Salonika where it was decided that the form of the Ottoman Empire which encompassed many ethnicities should change so that a new strong country be formed-one with one ethnicity the Turkic one.

World War I saw the implementation of this plan based on three points displacing Armenians then, gathering them in designated areas and the final stage- eradicating them. The three designated areas were along the axes of Ras-Al-Ein to Mosel (Iraq), along the Euphrates from Maskaneh to Deir Ez-Zour (Syria) and also from Aleppo to the Red Sea passing through Hama-Homs-Damascus-Al-Quds and Amman, or an alternative route one that passes through Houran (Syria).

1915 saw a huge wave of forced Armenian displacement. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were put on a convoy that later on came to be known as the "death convoy" and it was in the Syrian dessert that most of them met their end and the dessert turned into a mass grave.

In that way the fate of the Armenians was sealed and those who did not die on that barbaric journey where they had to walk for endless days with no protection from harsh environmental conditions found that death awaited them anyway. Death squads using different horrific techniques guaranteed the extermination of the remaining Armenians. 

Those who survived even these killings ended up in the Syrian Desert and it is possible that the Turks then might have wished for the Arabs to continue their trend of butchery but that did not happen…..

In Syria Armenians were given safety and sanctuary as in the rest of the Arabs countries that they fled to. This can be confirmed though a letter sent by Sheriff Hossein of Mecca in the year 1917 where he asks that Armenians be treated well and respectably. Armenians gained the sympathy and compassion not only on an official level in the Arab countries but also on a popular level. Armenians were helped to flee and hide from Turkish cruelty.

Moslem Arabs and Syrians in particular met the Armenians with the grace and dignity that these people deserve in contrast to Europeans who knew of the plan to ethnically cleanse the Armenians. It is to be noted that at that period Syrian newspapers like "Al Muktabes", "Al Asima" "Al Kabas" "Al Afkar" and others were completely honest in their depiction of the suffering and pain that Armenians faced and so it can be said that Syrian media from the year 1871 until the year 1930 documented the detailed horrific incidents of what happened to the Armenians and so started a long-lasting relation between Armenians and Syrians based on basic human principles that encompass trust, respect and appreciation.

The Ottoman Empire's bloody legacy did not stop at the doors of the Armenians only but spread to other people–for in Syria they invented the stake a cruel and depraved device-a way of torturing people to death where a person is forced to sit on a pole with a sharp head–the sharp head entering slowly inch by inch into that person's posterior taking up to three days of torturous pain for that person to die.  

As stated before, Turkey alone denies strongly the word "genocide" and calls it "reciprocal killings" from both sides (Armenians and Turkish) that happened during WWI. Today many countries have recognized the Armenian genocide with even the possibility of the United States following suit. This can be said to be a positive step for it forces Turkey to acknowledge responsibility in committing genocide on the Armenian people which could eventually lead to returning the lost rights of the Armenians–and what is just as important as Turkey acknowledging the Armenians genocide is Turkey compensating what it has taken from the Armenians whether lives, land or wealth.

To be continued with Armenian testimonies passed down through generations

A special thanks to MP Dr. Nora Arissian

And Dr. Sarkis Bornzasian  author of the book "The Armenian of Damascus"


Editor in Chief

Reem Haddad

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.