At the end of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire was in decline. The crumbling Muslim empire was failing and both the leaders and the Muslim population sought someone to blame. The Armenians were Christians that had been absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, and, despite being unfairly treated by the Ottoman Empire (higher taxes, fewer legal rights and political freedoms), they flourished. The Muslim leadership feared that this Christian population would side more with other Christian nations than with the Turks and therefore viewed them as the enemy.
In the late 19th century a pogrom was started against the Armenians, villages were ransacked and hundreds of thousands of Armenians were massacred. In 1908 a new government came into power in Turkey and this gave the Armenians hope that their persecution would be over. Instead the new government sought Turkish purity and therefore believed that the non-Turkish, non-Muslim Armenians were a threat to the state.
On April 14, 1915, a new genocide against the Armenians began. Special organization squads were formed made up of murderers and ex-convicts. They were given the sole duty of eliminating the Christian presence in the country. Armenian children were taken and given to Turkish families after being converted. Women were forced to join Turkish harems. Muslim families took over the homes and belongings of murdered and deported Armenians. Armenians were burned, drowned, crucified, thrown off cliffs, and forced on endless death marches to be “deported.”
In 1922 when the killing finally ceased there were only 388,000 Armenians left in the Ottoman Empire. Most estimates put the number killed at around 1.5 million. To this day the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge the genocide that occurred against the Armenians. The Turkish government continues to refer to the events of 1915 as deportations, not genocide.