The Armenian Genocide: The 8 Steps That Led to the Annihilation of a People

The Armenian Genocide: The 8 Steps That Led to the Annihilation of a People

Natasha sheldon - May 2, 2017

The Armenian Genocide: The 8 Steps That Led to the Annihilation of a People
Armenian Orphans. Google Images

“Turkification”

Killing, however, was not the solution. For some, the aim was to eradicate the Armenian identity: its culture, its religion and ensure uniformity. To this end, Armenian men, women, and children were subjected to “Turkification”: the absorption and transformation of alien entities within the Turkish state.

A letter to the American Secretary of State from the ambassador in turkey, dated July 20, 1915, detailed the Turkification of children. Orphans in state orphanages were to be remade in a Turkish image. This was especially easy if the children were so young they could not remember their parents – or young enough to forget. Armenian names were removed and replaced with Turkish ones and children were placed with Turkish families.

Most able-bodied men were contained or executed. But early in 1916, perhaps as part of the war effort, officials decided to offer remaining Armenian soldiers the option of conversion to Islam. Many refused.

But women were given no choice and their Turkification was more of an appropriation as some were forced into marriages with Turks to deprive them of inheritance rights or worse still, sold as sex slaves.

Their captors on the marches routinely abused women and girls, with commanders telling their men to use them as they wanted. British diplomat Gertrude Bell filed a report based on the account of a captured Ottoman soldier that told how 12,000 Armenians left in the hands of Kurdish guards were told to wipe out all but the young women. The fate of these young women was probably the slave markets of Damascus and Mosel where their guards sold them as sex slaves as a way of lining their own pockets.

Turkification did not end with people. As part of the movement, it became policy to destroy all Armenian items and property of cultural and religious significance. Armenian churches were either destroyed or re-styled as mosques. After 1923, UNESCO reported that out of 913 Armenian historical monuments in turkey, 464 were obliterated, 252 in ruins and 197 damaged.

The Armenian Genocide: The 8 Steps That Led to the Annihilation of a People
Turkish Official Teasing Armenian Children with Bread. Google Images

The Concentration Camps

In January 2016, it was estimated that only 10% of those deported had made it to their destinations alive. These final destinations were 25 concentration camps set up between Aleppo and Mosel.

The New York Times of August 21, 1916, reported that English minister Rev Buxton confirmed statements made by Lord Bryce months before in the House of Lords that people were being ‘swept away with a methodical thoroughness.” Rev Buxton had been working with a relief effort and had described how hundreds and thousands were being kept in camps specifically designed to kill.

Their captors deprived the inmates of food and water. One account described how 450 children were housed in 5-6 meters square tent and fed just 150 g of bread a day – if they were lucky. Others described people so hungry, they would search horse manure for grain.

The conditions were a breeding ground for disease and famine Dysentery was rife. Mass graves grew up around the camps of 60,000 Armenians who died there of starvation and disease.

The Armenian Genocide: The 8 Steps That Led to the Annihilation of a People
Australian Soldiers with the Armenian dead. Google Images

After 1918

The end of the First World War should have marked the end of the genocide. The allies occupied Constantinople, and trials began to bring the perpetrators of the genocide to justice. But many of the perpetrators such as Talaat Pasha had escaped to Germany where they went into hiding where they were tried in absentia.

The Ottoman Empire was finally broken up after its partitioning by the allies. Many Armenians who had succeeded in fleeing were brave enough to return and take up their lives again. But they found the new regime was no more sympathetic to them than the last. The Turkish War of Independence between Turkish nationalists and Sultan Mehmet VI who nationalists believed was complicit in the allied subjugation of the region was in full swing.

Nationalist forces continued to expel and eradicate Armenians in Cilicia in southern Turkey and Smyrna the home of the last intact Armenian community. The persecution only ended in 1923 when, after annexing most of Anatolia and ousting the sultan, Turkey was formally declared a republic and recognized as a nation. Then, and only then were they content to leave the Armenians alone.

But by this time, the Turkish Armenians were largely no more, reduced to a few hundred thousand people. Armenia itself did not exist as an independent state until 1991 when Russia Armenia regained independence.

Even today, the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge the genocide ever took place and it is illegal in Turkey to talk about it. But the evidence of this forgotten genocide speaks for itself.

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