Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Telegrams of Death

Telegrams of Death

Followings are translations of four telegrams proving the complicity of the Turkish government in the planning and execution of the Armenian genocide:

To the Government of Aleppo,
Although the extermination of the Armenian element, which has for centuries been desirous of destroying the sure foundation of our Empire, and has now taken the form of a real danger, had been decided upon earlier than this, circumstances did not permit us to carry out this sacred intention. Now that an obstacles are removed, and the time has come for redeemingour fatherland from this dangerous element, it is urgently recommended that you should not be moved to feelings of pity on seeing their miserable plight; but, by putting an end to them all, try with all your might to obliterate the very name 'Armenia' from Turkey. See of it that those to whom you entrust the carrying out of this purpose are patriotic and reliable men.
Minister of the Interior

To the Government of Aleppo,
September 9, 1915 - All rights of the Armenians to live and work on Turkish soil have been completely cancelled, and with regard to this the Government takes all responsibility on itself, and has commanded that even babes in the cradle are not to be spared. The results of carrying out this order have been seen in some provinces. In spite of this, for reasons unknown to us, exceptional measures are taken with 'certain people', and those people instead of being sent straight to the place of exile are left in Aleppo, whereby the Government is involved in an additional difficulty. Without listening to any of their reasoning, remove them -women or children, whatever they may be, even if they are incapable of moving; and do not let the people protect them, because, through their ignorance, they place material gains higher than patriotic feelings, and cannot appreciate the great policy of the Government in insisting upon this. Because instead of the indirect measures of extermination used in other places -such as severity, haste (in carrying out the deportations), difficulties of traveling and misery -direct measures can safely be used there, so work heartily.
General Orders have been communicated from the War Office to all the Commanders of the Army that they are not to interfere in the work of deportation.Tell the officials that are to be appointed for that purpose that they must work to put into execution our real intent, without being afraid of responsibility. Please send cipher reports of the results of your activities every week.
Minister of the Interior

To the General Committee for settling the deportees
January 10, 1916 - Enquiries having been made, it is understood that hardly ten percent of the Armenians subjected to the general deportation have reached the places destined for them; the rest have died from natural causes, such as hunger and sickness. We inform you that we are working to bring about the same result with regard to those who are still alive, by using severe measures.

To the Government of Aleppo,
January 15, 1916. - We hear that certain orphanages which have been opened receive also the children of the Armenians. Whether this is done through ignorance of our real purpose, or through contempt of it, the Government will regard the feeding of such children or any attempt to prolong their lives as an act entirely opposed to its purpose, since it considers the survival of these children as detrimental. I recommend that such children shall not be received into the orphanages, and no attempts are to be made to establish special orphanages for them.
Minister of the Interior


Monday, April 28, 2008

Holland Doc: Het land van onze grootouders

Dutch Documentary about Armenian Genocide



P.S.Copy and paste the link onto your browser and wait for some seconds.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Let’s Talk About Armenian Genocide

Let’s Talk About Armenian Genocide

From the desk of James McConalogue on Sat, 2006-10-07 15:41

Why is it that Turkey is still unable to recognise the atrocities committed against the Armenians? Furthermore, why is it that the EU is entirely antagonistic towards the idea of Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, recognising their genocidal past? Last July, I reported to The Brussels Journal on the unjust suppression of the freedom of expression in Turkey. The most high-profile case pertained to the trial of Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk in December 2005 after the author had claimed in a Swiss newspaper that 30,000 Kurds and one million Ottoman Armenians were killed in Turkey yet nobody in the Turkish population would dare talk about it. The trial was dismissed by the Turkish Ministry of Justice at the beginning of 2006.
Two previous reports had also scrutinised the legal proceedings against the novelist, Elif Shafak. Shafak, author of Bastard of Istanbul, faced charges of “insulting Turkishness” under the primitive legislation. Subsequent to an earlier dismissal, the seventh High Criminal Court revived the charges made by Kemal Kerincsiz’s nationalist jurist group, ‘The Unity of Jurists.’ Fortunately, in the final week of September, Shafak was immediately acquitted although it is difficult to determine whether the acquittal arose because of EU pressure (threatening Turkish membership) or because the text truly did not “insult Turkishness” according to Turkey’s dated legislation.
The suppression of free expression has occurred for authors such as Shafak and others like her, precisely because of the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, prohibiting “insulting Turkishness”. The legislation was passed in 2005 as a measure of harmonizing Turkish law with Copenhagen criteria of the European Union.
Interesting in both the cases of Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak is how these novelists came to represent such a gigantic insult to Turkishness. Both novelists had referred to their mass killing – or genocide – of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire. It is those references to the Armenian genocide that led charges to be made by Kemal Kerincsiz’s Unity of Jurists. The Turkish government still denies the conceptual definition of the Armenian genocide.
However, the acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide has now become a central issue for the Turkish government. It is so important that the EU Commission spokesperson, Krisztina Nagy, commented after the acquittal of Shafak trial that Article 301 “continues to pose a significant threat to freedom of expression in Turkey and all those who express a non-violent opinion.” Accordingly, EU member-states have considered reform of Article 301 as important as the Cyprus issue, tackling minority rights and social violence, in order for the EU to properly consider Turkish accession.
However, has the EU’s request for reform of Article 301 missed the point? After all, the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, has already hinted at an acceptance to change the legislation. Should the EU, instead, as a condition of EU entry demand that the Turkish government acknowledge the Armenian genocide? In both the cases of Pamuk and Shafak – and eighty or so other authors – many of the legal proceedings against Turkish writers have arisen as a result of references to the Armenian genocide. That is the real obstacle for the Turkish government and frankly, its revisionist approach to the nation’s history is not at all suited to a future of diplomacy. It is essentially denying a holocaustal error of its past. Furthermore, all other national governments across the globe (other than Turkey) have classified the Armenian events that occurred between 1915 and 1917 as genocide. International authorities recognise the event as the Armenian genocide, a direct set of policies that led to the persecution and death of 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians. It cannot be named something else. It cannot be ignored. Neither can it be understood from the Turkish historical perspective as a ‘civil war.’
That is why I paid strong attention to the French President, Jacques Chirac’s words on 30 September. In a visit to Yerevan, the French President declared to news agencies: “Should Turkey recognize the genocide of Armenia to join the EU? […] I believe so. Each country grows by acknowledging the dramas and errors of its past. […] Can one say that Germany which has deeply acknowledged the holocaust, has as a result lost credit? It has grown.”
It is certain that Chirac’s desire to enforce the acceptance of the mass-killings as genocide amongst other EU accession conditions has not been aligned with that of other European nations. Other EU member-states seem to be fairly relaxed in letting Turkey off the hook on the genocide issue. The last MEP interim report on Turkey’s EU accession removed the request for an acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide. More worryingly, the MEPs removed the condition of EU accession out of fears that Turkish nationalists would be incited into aggression against this.
It is never a good sign that a major political sanction should be removed from a country simply out of fear of reprisals. Yet, that is exactly what has happened. In brief, Europeans have decided not to ask the Turkish to recognise the Armenian genocide simply because it is scared that the Turks might actually bite. And, if the Turks do bite? Well that can only be a result of a troubled national Turkish culture – largely unable to confront significant genocidal errors – and not because Europe has asked the wrong question. There are rumours that the French will continue to push the ‘genocide recognition rule’ as a condition of EU entry, but if they are alone on that effort, then there is very little that can be done to ensure it will be among the requisites for EU entry. It might also be thought that Chirac could not afford to push the condition too far, since it may bring substantial damage to Franco-Turk relations before Turkey has even begun to attempt its progress towards European harmonization. Whether the European harmonization process is a good and worthwhile path for either Turkey or Europe will always remain unclear.


Ambassador Morgenthau Excerpts

Ambassador Morgenthau Excerpts

The Central Government now announced its intention of gathering the two million or more Armenians living in the several sections of the empire and transporting them to this desolate and inhospitable region [the Syrian desert]… The real purpose of the deportation was robbery and destruction; it really represented a new method of massacre. When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.
All through the spring and summer of 1915 the deportations took place. Scarcely a single Armenian, whatever his education or wealth, or whatever the social class to which he belonged, was exempted from the order…
Scarcely had the former possessors left the village, when Mohammedan mohadjirs - immigrants from other parts of Turkey - would be moved into the Armenian quarters. Similarly all their valuables… [were] then parceled out among the Turks.
Before the caravans were started, it became the regular practice to separate the young men from the families, tie them together in groups of four, lead them to the outskirts, and shoot them. Public hangings without trial - the only offense being that the victims were Armenians - were taking place constantly. The [soldiers] showed a particular desire to annihilate the educated and the influential… I was constantly receiving reports... [of Armenian men marched to a] secluded valley, a mob of Turkish peasants fell upon them with clubs, hammers, axes, scythes, spades, and saws.
A guard of [soldiers] accompanied each convoy… From thousands of Armenian cities and villages these despairing caravans now set forth; they filled all the roads leading southward… When the caravans first started, the individuals bore some resemblance to human beings; in a few hours, however, the dust of the road plastered their faces and clothes, the mud caked their lower members, and the slowly advancing mobs, frequently bent with fatigue and crazed by the brutality of their "protectors," resembled some new and strange animal species. Yet for the better part of six months, from April to October 1915, practically all the highways in Asia Minor were crowded with these unearthly bands of exiles. They could be seen winding in and out of every valley and climbing up the sides of nearly every mountain - moving on and on… every road led to death. Village after village and town after town was evacuated of its Armenian population… about 1,200,000 people started on this journey to the Syrian desert.

Detachments of [soldiers] would go ahead, notifying the Kurdish tribes that their victims were approaching, and Turkish peasants were also informed that their long-waited opportunity had arrived. The Government even opened the prisons and set free the convicts… Thus every caravan had a continuous battle for existence… Turkish roughs would fall upon the women, leaving them sometimes dead from their experiences or sometimes ravingly insane.

And thus, as the exiles moved, they left behind them another caravan - that of dead and unburied bodies, of old men and of women dying in the last stages of typhus, dysentery, and cholera, of little children lying on their backs and setting up their last piteous wails for food and water.
The most terrible scenes took place at the rivers, especially the Euphrates. Sometimes, when crossing this stream, the gendarmes would push the women into the water, shooting all who attempted to save themselves by swimming. Frequently the women themselves would save their honor by jumping into the river, their children in their arms… In a loop of the river near Erzinghan… the thousands of dead bodies created such a barrage that the Euphrates changed its course for about a hundred yards.
At another place, where there were wells, some women threw themselves into them… [and] were drowned and, in spite of that, the rest of the people drank from that well, the dead bodies still remaining there and polluting the water.
In one particular death march… On the seventieth day a few creatures reached Aleppo. Out of the consigned convoy of 18,000 souls just 150 women and children reached the destination. A few of the rest… were still living as captives of the Kurds and Truks; all the rest were dead.
I have no means told the most terrible details…
Whatever crimes the most perverted instincts of the human mind can devise, and whatever refinements of persecution and injustice the most debased imagination can conceive, became the daily misfortunes of this devoted people. I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this.


Hitler and the Armenian Genocide

Hitler and the Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide was one of the most compelling human rights crises of World War I, helping to inspire Adolf Hitler three decades later to carry out the atrocities of World War II. Hitler's quote is still relevant today because the forces of denial and revisionism are still striving to expunge from history the record of this enormous crime against humanity - the first modern genocide of the 20th century.It is only through learning and remembering past atrocities that we are able to work toward their prevention and become a more humane society.

* * * *
On August 22, 1939, in preparation for the impending invasion of Poland, Hitler stated to Reichmarshal Hermann Goering and the commanding generals at Obersalzberg...

"Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter - with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It's a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me.

I have issued the command - and I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad - that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness - for the present only in the East - with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

This quote is the English version of the German document handed to Louis P. Lochner in Berlin. It first appeared in Lochner's What About Germany? (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1942), pp. 1-4. The Nuremberg Tribunal later identified the document as L-3 or Exhibit USA-28. Two other versions of the same document appear in Appendices II and III. For the German original cf. Akten zur Deutschen Auswartigen Politik 1918-1945, Serie D, Band VII, (Baden-Baden, 1956), pp. 171-172.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Armenian Genocide

Armenian Genocide


Special Thanks to the Author of the Video Heghine A' Daniel

Turkey and its Christians

The cross and the crescent

Why Christians feel under threat in today's Turkey

THIS has been a bad year for Orhan Picaklar. As a Protestant missionary in Samsun, on the Black Sea, he has had death threats and his church has been repeatedly stoned. Local newspapers called him a foreign agent. A group of youths tried to kidnap him as he was driving home. His pleas for police protection have gone unheeded.

Mr Picaklar is not alone. All over Turkey, Christians are under attack. In January Hrant Dink, an ethnic Armenian newspaper editor, was shot dead in Istanbul by a teenager who said he had “insulted Turkishness”. In April two Turks and a German, all evangelists, were murdered in Malatya. Their killers bound and tortured them before slitting their throats. In December an Italian Catholic priest was knifed by a teenager in Izmir. Another Italian priest was shot dead in Trabzon in 2006.

Many blame the attacks on a new ultra-nationalism, tinged with Islamic militancy, that has swept across Turkey. Unemployed teenagers in the Black Sea region seem especially prone to it. “The plight of Christians is critical,” says Husnu Ondul, president of the Ankara-based Turkish Human Rights Association. Like many others, he believes that the “deep state”, comprising a few judges, army officers and security officials who need enemies to justify their grip on power, is behind the attacks.

That may seem far-fetched. Yet evidence leaked to the media in the Dink and Malatya cases points to collusion between the perpetrators and rogue elements in the police and the army. It also suggests that the Istanbul police were tipped off about Mr Dink's murder a year before it was carried out. “So why did the Istanbul police do nothing to prevent it?” wonders Ergin Cinmen, a lawyer for the Dink family.

Respecting the religious freedom of non-Muslims is essential to Turkey's hopes of joining the European Union. Laws against Christians repairing their churches have been relaxed. Overriding objections from pious constituents, the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party has just restored an ancient Armenian church in eastern Turkey. School textbooks are being purged of an anti-Western bias.

Yet many Christian grievances remain. The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, resists calls to reopen the Greek Orthodox Halki seminary on Heybeli island off Istanbul, shut down in 1971. Turkey refuses to recognise the ecumenical title of the Greek Orthodox patriarch, Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of over 200m Orthodox Christians. The patriarch, a loyal Turkish citizen, has lobbied hard for Turkey's EU membership. But this has only reinforced suspicions among ultra-nationalist detractors, who accuse him of trying to “Christianise” Turkey and wanting a Vatican-style state in the heart of Istanbul.

Never mind that the Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul has dwindled to 4,000 souls, many of them too old to follow their children abroad. Nor that the patriarch must under Turkish law be a Turkish citizen, a rule which is making it difficult to find a successor to Bartholomew I. “They [ie, the Turks] apparently won't regard the conquest of Constantinople as complete until the patriarchate ceases to exist and all Christians have been frightened away,” suggests one restorer of icons in Istanbul.

The government has yet to approve a draft bill to help non-Muslims recover thousands of properties that have been confiscated by the state and either sold or left to decay. The Aya Yorgi church in Istanbul's Edirnekapi district, which was badly damaged in an earthquake, is one sad example. Its walls are cracked, its roof is leaking; a marble angel lies in pieces on the floor. “All we ask is to be permitted to rescue our church, but we cannot hammer a single nail,” complains Bishop Dionysios, a Greek Orthodox prelate who still conducts services there.

Many Christians concede that AK has treated them better than its secular predecessors did. They blame the deep state for their recent troubles. But the excuse of the deep state's power is wearing thin after AK's big victory in July's general election. “With such a strong mandate, the government's failure to meet our demands can only mean one thing, that the deep state is still in charge,” says a Christian priest. Or perhaps that AK believes in religious freedom for Muslims, but not Christians.

Dec 19th 2007 | ISTANBUL


Monday, April 21, 2008

Case Study:The Armenian Genocide 1915-1917

Case Study:The Armenian Genocide 1915-1917


The Armenian genocide was one of the most massive "root-and-branch" exterminations ever carried out against a defenseless people. In 1915, as World War I raged, the Turkish government (ruler of the Ottoman Empire) decided upon the systematic extermination of most of the male Armenian population, and the forced deportation of the remainder, mostly women, children, and the elderly. The deportation became a death march, with extreme violence and deprivation leading to the death of most of the survivors of the initial gendercide -- as was intended. By the time the exhausted and traumatized survivors reached refuge in neighbouring countries, up to three-quarters of the entire Ottoman Armenian population had been exterminated.

The background

Armenians are one of the most ancient peoples of the Near East, having lived in the southern Caucasus region for as long as 3,000 years. Christianized early in the first millennium, they formed by the 19th century the largest non-Muslim population in the Ottoman Empire. Peaceful relations between Armenians and Ottoman Muslims had long been the norm: despite acts of discrimination, Armenians were referred to as "the loyal millet." This changed in the 19th century, as the forces of nationalism swept both the Ottoman realm and Armenians themselves, and as the Ottoman Empire -- "the sick man of Europe" -- began to crumble in the face of regional revolts. Calls by European powers for protection of the Armenian population had the opposite effect: the regime of Sultan Abdul Hamid II viewed such outside "intervention" as a threat to its sovereignty, and responded in 1896 with a massive campaign of killing, in which at least 200,000 Armenians died. Though one of the most atrocious imperial acts of the 19th century, it was merely a harbinger of the fullscale genocide that was to descend two decades later.
In 1908, a group of modernization-minded officers -- "the Young Turks" -- toppled the Ottoman Sultan. Armenians generally welcomed the new regime, viewing it as a progressive alternative to Ottoman despotism. But the "Young Turk" movement (with its political party, the Committee of Union and Progress [CUP]) was rapidly taken over by a small group of fanatical nationalists, headed by the triumvirate of Enver Pasha, Cemal Pasha, and Talat Pasha. The trio began to plot the extermination of the Armenian population, seen as a potentially traitorous "fifth column."
The events of World War I, which saw Turkey allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary against Britain, France, and Russia, gave these architects of genocide the opportunity they sought to implement their plan. One of the movement's leading ideologues, Dr. Nazim, told a closed session of the CUP Central Committee in February 1915 that "if this purge is not general and final, it will inevitably lead to problems. Therefore it is absolutely necessary to eliminate the Armenian people in its entirety, so that there is no further Armenian on this earth and the very concept of Armenia is extinguished. We are now at war. We shall never have a more suitable opportunity than this." (Quoted in G.S. Graber, Caravans to Oblivion: The Armenian Genocide, 1915, pp. 87-88.)
The slaughter began on April 24, 1915, with a classic act of "elitocide": some 600 Armenian notables, all male, were rounded up in Istanbul and murdered. Today, April 24 is commemorated by Armenians worldwide as "Genocide Memorial Day." Much worse was to come.

The gendercide against Armenian men

Like the Jewish holocaust, the Armenian genocide represents a case of a clear-cut, "pre-emptive" targeting of the male population, followed by a "root-and-branch" extermination of as many of the survivors as could be killed outright or driven to death. The two gendercidal strategies followed at the outset were 1) the mobilization of "battle-age" Armenian men for service in the Turkish army, followed by the execution or death through overwork of some hundreds of thousands of them; and 2) the concomitant rounding-up and mass slaughter of remaining community males. The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, provided one of the most gut-wrenching descriptions of "The Murder of a Nation" in a report to his superiors, published after the war (the U.S. was at the time neutral in the conflict). He summarized the first strategy as follows:
In the early part of 1915, the Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army were reduced to a new status. Up to that time most of them had been combatants, but now they were all stripped of their arms and transformed into workmen. Instead of serving their country as artillerymen and cavalrymen, these former soldiers now discovered that they had been transformed into road labourers and pack animals. Army supplies of all kinds were loaded on their backs, and, stumbling under the burdens and driven by the whips and bayonets of the Turks, they were forced to drag their weary bodies into the mountains of the Caucasus. Sometimes they would have to plough their way, burdened in this fashion, almost waist high through snow. They had to spend practically all their time in the open, sleeping on the bare ground -- whenever the ceaseless prodding of their taskmasters gave them an occasional opportunity to sleep. They were given only scraps of food; if they fell sick they were left where they had dropped, their Turkish oppressors perhaps stopping long enough to rob them of all their possessions -- even of their clothes. If any stragglers succeeded in reaching their destinations, they were not infrequently massacred. In many instances Armenian soldiers were disposed of in even more summary fashion, for it now became almost the general practice to shoot them in cold blood. In almost all cases the procedure was the same. Here and there squads of 50 or 100 men would be taken, bound together in groups of four, and then marched out to a secluded spot a short distance from the village. Suddenly the sound of rifle shots would fill the air, and the Turkish soldiers who had acted as the escort would sullenly return to camp. Those sent to bury the bodies would find them almost invariably stark naked, for, as usual, the Turks had stolen all their clothes. In cases that came to my attention, the murderers had added a refinement to their victims' sufferings by compelling them to dig their graves before being shot.
Morgenthau describes one such episode in July 1915, in which some 2,000 Armenian "amйlйs" ("such is the Turkish word for soldiers who have been reduced to workmen") were dispatched from the city of Harpoot, ostensibly for a road-construction project:
The Armenians in that town understood what this meant and pleaded with the Governor for mercy. But this official insisted that the men were not to be harmed, and he even called upon the German missionary, Mr. Ehemann, to quiet the panic, giving that gentleman his word of honour that the ex-soldiers would be protected. Mr. Ehemann believed the Governor and assuaged the popular fear. Yet practically every man of these 2,000 was massacred, and his body thrown into a cave. A few escaped, and it was from these that news of the massacre reached the world. A few days afterward another 2,000 soldiers were sent to Diarbekir. The only purpose of sending these men out in the open country was that they might be massacred. In order that they might have no strength to resist or to escape by flight, these poor creatures were systematically starved. Government agents went ahead on the road, notifying the Kurds that the caravan was approaching and ordering them to do their congenial duty. Not only did the Kurdish tribesmen pour down from the mountains upon this starved and weakened regiment, but the Kurdish women came with butcher's knives in order that they might gain that merit in Allah's eyes that comes from killing a Christian. These massacres were not isolated happenings; I could detail many more episodes just as horrible as the one related above ...

Like the opening "elitocide," this strategy was designed to strip the Armenian community of those who might effectively mobilize and defend it, as Morgenthau notes: "Throughout the Turkish Empire a systematic attempt was made to kill all able-bodied men, not only for the purpose of removing all males who might propagate a new generation of Armenians, but for the purpose of rendering the weaker part of the population an easy prey." A prominent modern scholar of the genocide, Vahakn Dadrian, concurs: "Though [the] mobilization had many other objectives, it served a major purpose for the swift execution of the plan of genocide. By removing all able-bodied Armenian males from their cities, villages, hamlets, and by isolating them in conditions in which they virtually became trapped, the Armenian community was reduced to a condition of near-total helplessness, thus an easy prey for destruction. It was a masterful stroke as it attained with one blow the three objectives of the operation of traping the victim population: a) dislocation through forcible removal; b) isolation; c) concentration for easy targeting." (Dadrian, The History of the Armenian Genocide [Berghahn Books, 1995], p. 226.)
With this "conscription-as-gendercide" thus accomplished, the Turkish authorities turned their attention to the remaining male population. The authorities were now free to turn to the destruction of the remainder of the Armenian population. Armenians were told they were to be deported to "safe havens" in third countries. The deportation process, was seen as simply another tool of genocide, as Morgenthau notes: "The real purpose of the deportation was robbery and destruction; it really represented a new method of massacre. When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact."
Before the caravans were dispatched, however, a final assault was made on the few Armenian males remaining. Morgenthau again:
The systematic extermination of the men continued; such males as the persecutions which I have already described had left were now violently dealt with. Before the caravans were started, it became the regular practice to separate the young men from the families, tie them together in groups of four, lead them to the outskirts, and shoot them. Public hangings without trial -- the only offense being that the victims were [male] Armenians -- were taking place constantly. The gendarmes showed a particular desire to annihilate the educated and the influential. From American consuls and missionaries I was constantly receiving reports of such executions, and many of the events which they described will never fade from my memory. At Angora all Armenian men from fifteen to seventy were arrested, bound together in groups of four, and sent on the road in the direction of Caesarea. When they had travelled five or six hours and had reached a secluded valley, a mob of Turkish peasants fell upon them with clubs, hammers, axes, scythes, spades, and saws. Such instruments not only caused more agonizing deaths than guns and pistols, but, as the Turks themselves boasted, they were more economical, since they did not involve the waste of powder and shell. In this way they exterminated the whole male population of Angora, including all its men of wealth and breeding, and their bodies, horribly mutilated, were left in the valley, where they were devoured by wild beasts. After completing this destruction, the peasants and gendarmes gathered in the local tavern, comparing notes and boasting of the number of "'giaours" that each had slain. In Trebizond the men were placed in boats and sent out on the Black Sea; gendarmes would follow them in boats, shoot them down, and throw their bodies into the water. When the signal was given for the caravans to move, therefore, they almost invariably consisted of women, children, and old men. Any one who could possibly have protected them from the fate that awaited them had been destroyed.

The gendercide against Armenian women

The forced deportation of the women, childerly, and elderly left alive after the gendercide against Armenian men gave rise to some of the most hellish scenes in recorded history. Some Armenian women and children were offered the alternative of conversion to Islam and subsequent slavery in Turkish homes, but it is generally held that only a thousand or so accepted. The rest were driven from their homeland at bayonet-point, and forced to run a vicious gauntlet of soldiers and marauding tribespeople. "Women who lagged behind were bayoneted on the road, or pushd over precipices, or over bridges," writes the historian Arnold Toynbee (quoted in Leo Kuper, Genocide, p. 111). Morgenthau offers an unforgettable description of their torment:
The whole course of the journey became a perpetual struggle with the Moslem inhabitants. Detachments of gendarmes would go ahead, notifying the Kurdish tribes that their victims were approaching, and Turkish peasants were also informed that their long-waited opportunity had arrived. The Government even opened the prisons and set free the convicts, on the understanding that they should behave like good Moslems to the approaching Armenians. Thus every caravan had a continuous battle for existence with several classes of enemies -- their accompanying gendarmes, the Turkish peasants and villagers, the Kurdish tribes and bands of Chйtйs or brigands. And we must always keep in mind that the men who might have defended these wayfarers had nearly all been killed or forced into the army as workmen, and that the exiles themselves had been systematically deprived of all weapons before the journey began. ... Such as escaped ... attacks in the open would find new terrors awaiting them in the Moslem villages. Here the Turkish roughs would fall upon the women, leaving them sometimes dead from their experiences or sometimes ravingly insane. After spending a night in a hideous encampment of this kind, the exiles, or such as had survived, would start again the next morning. The ferocity of the gendarmes apparently increased as the journey lengthened, for they seemed almost to resent the fact that part of their charges continued to live. Frequently any one who dropped on the road was bayoneted on the spot. The Armenians began to die by hundreds from hunger and thirst. Even when they came to rivers, the gendarmes, merely to torment them, would sometimes not let them drink. The hot sun of the desert burned their scantily clothed bodies, and their bare feet, treading the hot sand of the desert, became so sore that thousands fell and died or were killed where they lay. Thus, in a few days, what had been a procession of normal human beings became a stumbling horde of dust-covered skeletons, ravenously looking for scraps of food, eating any offal that came their way, crazed by the hideous sights that filled every hour of their existence, sick with all the diseases that accompany such hardships and privations, but still prodded on and on by the whips and clubs and bayonets of their executioners.
"The passage of rivers, and especially of the Euphrates, was always an occasion of wholesale murder," writes Toynbee. Morgenthau notes that "In a loop of the river near Erzinghan ... the thousands of dead bodies created such a barrage that the Euphrates changed its course for about a hundred yards."
The end result of these torments was standardly near-total extermination. Morgenthau describes a typical convoy consisting of "18,000 souls," of whom "just 150 women and children reached their destination. A few of the rest, the most attractive, were still living as captives of the Kurds and Turks; all the rest were dead." "The last survivors often staggered into Aleppo [Syria] naked," writes Toynbee; "every shred of their clothing had been torn from them on the way. Witnesses who saw their arrival remark that there was not one young or pretty face to be seen among them, and there was assuredly none surviving that was truly old ..."
Their suffering was not over: many who had survived the earlier rampage starved to death or died of disease in the squalid camps established in Syria and Mesopotomia (Iraq). Massacres of Armenians by Turks continued even after the final defeat of the empire in 1918-19, with the Turkish invasion of the independent Republic of Armenia (see below).
"Whatever crimes the most perverted instincts of the human mind can devise, and whatever refinements of persecution and injustice the most debased imagination can conceive, became the daily misfortunes of this devoted people," Morgenthau summarized. "I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres of the past seem almost insignificant when compared with the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915."
Although the bulk of the slaughter was carried out in 1915, largescale massacres of Armenians continued until the end of World War I and even afterward. "In the last months of the war between 50,000 and 100,000 Armenians were massacred by Turkish troops in the various Caucasus campaigns. To this figure must be added the results of genocidal actions taken by Turkish nationalist forces in Cilicia [the Mediterranean region of southeastern Turkey] ... after the Mudros Armistice (October 30, 1918)." (Graber, Caravans to Oblivion, p. 148.)

How many died?

Morgenthau, working with limited information, claimed that "at least 600,000 people" had been killed in the genocide, "and perhaps as many as 1,000,000." Modern estimates tend to be higher, ranging from 1.1 to 1.8 million killed out of about 2.5 million Armenians alive in the Ottoman lands at the onset of the slaughter in 1915. As a proportion of population, it is believed that between half and three-quarters of all Ottoman Armenians died in the genocide. This is a death rate comparable to the Jewish holocaust, in which some two-thirds of European Jews were killed.

Who was responsible?

Primary responsibility for the genocide must rest with the trio of Enver Pasha, Cemal Pasha, and Talat Pasha, who dominated the Central Committee of the "Young Turk" government and planned the systematic extermination and expulsion of the Armenian population. At the ground-level, however, the genocide was carried out by many thousands of Turkish officers and soldiers, along with ordinary citizens (including Kurdish tribespeople) who saw the persecution of the Armenians as an ideal opportunity for plunder, rape, and kidnapping. The Armenians' status as a religious minority, and their reputation for higher levels of education and wealth than many other groups in the Ottoman Empire, made them the target of popular hatred and envy. The comparison with the position and fate of Jews in Germany and the Nazi-occupied territories is inescapable. As the Knights of Vartan Armenian Research Center has pointed out, there are in fact profound similarities between the Armenian and Jewish genocides. "Both people adhere to an ancient religion. Both were religious minorities of their respective states. Both have a history of persecution. ... Both are talented and creative minorities who have been persecuted out of envy and obscurantism."

The aftermath

Turkey's defeat in World War I, and the consequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire, offered surviving Armenians an opportunity for national self-realization. In 1918, an independent Republic of Armenia was declared. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was granted the right to draw up the boundaries of a new Armenian nation, formalized at the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. However, the Turkish government, under nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk, rapidly renounced the Treaty. In collusion with the newly-created Soviet Union, the Turks invaded Armenia and reconquered six of the former western Ottoman provinces granted to Armenia under the Treaty, along with the Armenian provinces of Kars and Ardahan. What remained of Armenia was swallowed up by the invading Soviet armies. After a brief period of cooperation with Armenian nationalist forces, the Soviets took complete control in 1921, and Armenia was incorporated into the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (SFSR) in 1922. A separate Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was created in 1936. The Armenian Communist Party was the only political party permitted to function under Soviet rule, which remained in place until 1991, when Armenians overwhelmingly voted for secession from the collapsing USSR. In the late 1980s, the boundary established between Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan became the subject of bitter conflict, as Armenians fought to unite the predominantly Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh with the new Armenian republic. A ceasefire was signed in 1994, but the enclave remains one of the "hot spots" of the volatile Caucasus region.
For many decades, the horrors inflicted upon the Armenian people were little-known in the outside world. Indeed, the Nazis' genocide against the Jews, the Poles, and others may have been facilitated by the "memory hole" into which the Armenians had fallen. "Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?" mused Adolf Hitler in 1939, as he ordered a merciless assault on the civilian population of occupied Poland.
In recent decades, fortunately, the lie has been put to Hitler's rhetorical question. Armenian scholars and activists, joined by numerous sympathizers around the world, have worked to research and publicize the genocide, and to gather the testimony of survivors before they pass from the earth. Gradually, much of the outside world has acknowledged the scale and character of the slaughter. The Europan Parliament in 1987 voted in favour of recognizing the Armenian Genocide, as did the Russian parliament in 1994. Also in 1994, Israel, after decades of state-sponsored suppression of the facts of the genocide (which was felt to distract from the "exceptional" character of the Jewish holocaust), informally recognized that the fate of the Armenians "was not war," but "certainly massacre and genocide, something the world must remember," in the words of Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin.
The major exception to the rule, predictably, is Turkey. In the brief interim (1918-20) between the Ottoman collapse and the ascendancy of the nationalist Ataturk regime, the Turkish government did hold trials for dozens of accused war-criminals, but only fifteen death sentences were passed, and only three insignificant actors actually executed. (The three main organizers of the genocide were subsequently killed -- Enver Pasha while leading an anti-Bolshevik revolt in Turkestan in 1922, and Cemal Pasha and Talat Pasha by Armenian assassination squads, who tracked them down to deliver summary justice.) The Ataturk government effectively cancelled the court-martial process (Ataturk himself claiming that the Armenians killed were "victims of foreign intrigues" and guilty of abusing "the privileges granted them"). (For more on the trials, see Vahakn Dadrian, "The Turkish Military Tribunal's Prosecution of the Authors of the Armenian Genocide", Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 11: 1 [Spring 1997].)
Since the early 1920s, successive Turkish governments have maintained an ostentatious silence on the subject, broken only to issue denials that the genocide ever occurred, and denunciations of those who assert that it did. In 1990, for example, the Turkish ambassador to the U.S. dismissed the holocaust as resulting from "a tragic civil war initiated by Armenian nationalists." The Turkish government has also devoted millions of dollars to a propaganda campaign aimed at western universities and a handful of compliant scholars. (See Amy Magaro Rubin, "Critics Accuse Turkish Government of Manipulating Scholarship", Chronicle of Higher Education, 27 October 1995.) They have had support from NATO and other western countries, which view Turkey as a linchpin of "stability" in the Near East. In the United States, for example, "conforming to Turkey's wishes, all congressional resolutions to recognize the Armenian Genocide have been opposed by the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations, and all such resolutions have thus far been defeated." (Levon Chorbajian, "Introduction," in Levon Chorbajian and George Shirinian, eds., Studies in Comparative Genocide, p. xxvi.)

As Stanley Cohen of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem puts it:

The nearest successful example [of "collective denial"] in the modern era is the 80 years of official denial by successive Turkish governments of the 1915-17 genocide against the Armenians in which some 1.5 million people lost their lives. This denial has been sustained by deliberate propaganda, lying and coverups, forging documents, suppression of archives, and bribing scholars. The West, especially the United States, has colluded by not referring to the massacres in the United Nations, ignoring memorial ceremonies, and surrendering to Turkish pressure in NATO and other strategic arenas of cooperation.


Genocide: An inconvenient truth

Genocide: An inconvenient truth

The Armenian genocide bill has been attacked by both the right and the left -- and it may make matters worse. But it's necessary.

By Gary Kamiya

Oct. 16, 2007 It was the first holocaust, one of the worst crimes of the 20th century. In 1915, during World War I, the ruling political party under the Ottoman regime ordered the extermination of its Armenian subjects. At least 800,000 and as many as 1.5 million men, women and children were murdered or died of disease, starvation and exposure. The details of the genocide, as laid out in books like Robert Fisk's "The Great War for Civilization" and Peter Balakian's "The Burning Tigris," are harrowing. Lines of men, women and children were roped together by the edge of a river, so that shooting the first person caused all the rest to drown. Women were routinely raped, killed and genitally mutilated. Some were crucified. Children were taken on boats into rivers and thrown off.
The genocide was not carried out by the Republic of Turkey, which did not exist yet, but by the ruling party in the final years of the collapsing Ottoman regime. To this day the Turkish government has never acknowledged that what transpired was a monstrous and intentional crime against humanity. Instead, it claims that the Armenians were simply unfortunate victims of a chaotic civil war, that only 300,000 to 600,000 died, that Turks actually died in greater numbers, and that the Armenians brought their fate on themselves by collaborating with the Russians.
Most historians reject these arguments. The definitive case that what took place was a genocide has been made by Turkish historian Taner Akcam, who in the 1970s was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Turkey for producing a student journal that deviated from the official line. He sought asylum in Germany, and now is a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota. In his 2006 book, "A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility," Akcam offers overwhelming evidence that leaders of the ruling political party, the Committee of Union and Progress, planned the Armenian holocaust. There was no military justification for the genocide: Some Armenians did fight against the Ottomans, but relatively few. In fact, Akcam argues, the genocide was driven by the Ottoman thirst for revenge after devastating military defeats, the desire to end foreign interference by the great powers, and above all by the strategic purpose of emptying the Turkish heartland of Christians to ensure the survival of a Muslim-Turkish state. Akcam argues that had the Armenians not been exterminated, Anatolia, the heart of what is now Turkey, would probably have been partitioned after the war by the victorious (and rapacious) great powers. The modern state of Turkey was thus built in large part on the intentional destruction of an entire people -- a moral horror that combines elements of America's destruction of Indians and Germany's extermination of Jews.
The International Association of Genocide Scholars, the leading body of genocide researchers, accepts that the destruction of the Armenians fits the definition of genocide and has called on Turkey to accept responsibility. Leading U.S. newspapers, including the New York Times, accept the genocide description. Twenty-three nations, including Argentina, Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Russia and Uruguay, have also formally recognized that what transpired was genocide.
For decades, Armenian-Americans and human rights advocates have tried to persuade the U.S. government to officially recognize that the mass killings constituted a genocide. But strategic and national security considerations have always stopped Washington from doing so. For decades, Turkey has been one of America's most important strategic allies -- first as a bulwark against the USSR during the Cold War, then as a key partner in George W. Bush's "war on terror." The only officially secular state in the Muslim world, it is the most politically moderate, economically advanced nation in the region. A NATO member, with close ties to Israel, home to a U.S. base through which most of the supplies to American forces in central Iraq are flown, it is an indispensable U.S. strategic asset.
For these reasons, Washington has never wanted to offend Ankara -- and if there is one sure way to do that, it's by bringing up the Armenian genocide. Although there has been some progress in opening up the subject, it remains explosive in Turkey. Those who assert that the genocide took place can be arrested under a notorious law (still on the books) that makes "insulting Turkishness" a crime. (Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk was convicted of violating this law.) In January 2007, the leading Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, was murdered because of his outspokenness on the issue, and state security officials were clearly involved. The genocide denial is not confined to official discourse: Most ordinary Turks, who have been taught a whitewashed official version of the slaughter, also deny it. Akcam and other historians say that because many of the Young Turks who founded the modern state were involved in the campaign, and the state was constructed on a mythical foundation of national unity and innocence, to bring up the Armenian horror is to threaten Turkey's very identity.
No American administration has ever dared to cross Turkey on this subject. But that may finally change. Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, defying pleas from the Bush administration and a letter signed by all living secretaries of state, voted 27-21 for a resolution that would make it official U.S. policy to recognize that the slaughter of the Armenians was an act of genocide. The resolution is nonbinding, but after years of bitter lobbying, it is the closest the U.S. government has yet come to acknowledging the genocide. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that she will bring it to a vote before the House, which is expected to pass it; the bill's fate in the Senate is less certain.


Armenian Genocide - 1915-1918 - 1,500,000 Deaths

Armenian Genocide - 1915-1918 - 1,500,000 Deaths

The Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the 20th Century, occurred when two million Armenians living in Turkey were eliminated from their historic homeland through forced deportations and massacres.
For three thousand years, a thriving Armenian community had existed inside the vast region of the Middle East bordered by the Black, Mediterranean and Caspian Seas. The area, known as Asia Minor, stands at the crossroads of three continents; Europe, Asia and Africa. Great powers rose and fell over the many centuries and the Armenian homeland was at various times ruled by Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Mongols.
Despite the repeated invasions and occupations, Armenian pride and cultural identity never wavered. The snow-capped peak of Mount Ararat became its focal point and by 600 BC Armenia as a nation sprang into being. Following the advent of Christianity, Armenia became the very first nation to accept it as the state religion. A golden era of peace and prosperity followed which saw the invention of a distinct alphabet, a flourishing of literature, art, commerce, and a unique style of architecture. By the 10th century, Armenians had established a new capital at Ani, affectionately called the 'city of a thousand and one churches.'
In the eleventh century, the first Turkish invasion of the Armenian homeland occurred. Thus began several hundred years of rule by Muslim Turks. By the sixteenth century, Armenia had been absorbed into the vast and mighty Ottoman Empire. At its peak, this Turkish empire included much of Southeast Europe, North Africa, and almost all of the Middle East.
But by the 1800s the once powerful Ottoman Empire was in serious decline. For centuries, it had spurned technological and economic progress, while the nations of Europe had embraced innovation and became industrial giants. Turkish armies had once been virtually invincible. Now, they lost battle after battle to modern European armies.
As the empire gradually disintegrated, formerly subject peoples including the Greeks, Serbs and Romanians achieved their long-awaited independence. Only the Armenians and the Arabs of the Middle East remained stuck in the backward and nearly bankrupt empire, now under the autocratic rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid.
By the 1890s, young Armenians began to press for political reforms, calling for a constitutional government, the right to vote and an end to discriminatory practices such as special taxes levied solely against them because they were Christians. The despotic Sultan responded to their pleas with brutal persecutions. Between 1894 and 1896 over 100,000 inhabitants of Armenian villages were massacred during widespread pogroms conducted by the Sultan's special regiments.
But the Sultan's days were numbered. In July 1908, reform-minded Turkish nationalists known as "Young Turks" forced the Sultan to allow a constitutional government and guarantee basic rights. The Young Turks were ambitious junior officers in the Turkish Army who hoped to halt their country's steady decline.
Armenians in Turkey were delighted with this sudden turn of events and its prospects for a brighter future. Both Turks and Armenians held jubilant public rallies attended with banners held high calling for freedom, equality and justice.
However, their hopes were dashed when three of the Young Turks seized full control of the government via a coup in 1913. This triumvirate of Young Turks, consisting of Mehmed Talaat, Ismail Enver and Ahmed Djemal, came to wield dictatorial powers and concocted their own ambitious plans for the future of Turkey. They wanted to unite all of the Turkic peoples in the entire region while expanding the borders of Turkey eastward across the Caucasus all the way into Central Asia. This would create a new Turkish empire, a "great and eternal land" called Turan with one language and one religion.
But there was a big problem. The traditional historic homeland of Armenia lay right in the path of their plans to expand eastward. And on that land was a large population of Christian Armenians totaling some two million persons, making up about 10 percent of Turkey's overall population.
Along with the Young Turk's newfound "Turanism" there was a dramatic rise in Islamic fundamentalist agitation throughout Turkey. Christian Armenians were once again branded as infidels (non-believers in Islam). Young Islamic extremists, sometimes leading to violence, staged anti-Armenian demonstrations. During one such outbreak in 1909, two hundred villages were plundered and over 30,000 persons massacred in the Cilicia district on the Mediterranean coast. Throughout Turkey, sporadic local attacks against Armenians continued unchecked over the next several years.
There were also big cultural differences between Armenians and Turks. The Armenians had always been one of the best-educated communities within the old Turkish Empire. Armenians were the professionals in society, the businessmen, lawyers, doctors and skilled craftsmen. And they were more open to new scientific, political and social ideas from the West (Europe and America). Children of wealthy Armenians went to Paris, Geneva or even to America to complete their education.
By contrast, the majority of Turks were illiterate peasant farmers and small shopkeepers. Leaders of the Ottoman Empire had traditionally placed little value on education and not a single institute of higher learning could be found within their old empire. The various autocratic and despotic rulers throughout the empire's history had valued loyalty and blind obedience above all. Their uneducated subjects had never heard of democracy or liberalism and thus had no inclination toward political reform. But this was not the case with the better-educated Armenians who sought political and social reforms that would improve life for themselves and Turkey's other minorities.
The Young Turks decided to glorify the virtues of simple Turkish peasantry at the expense of the Armenians in order to capture peasant loyalty. They exploited the religious, cultural, economic and political differences between Turks and Armenians so that the average Turk came to regard Armenians as strangers among them.
When World War I broke out in 1914, leaders of the Young Turk regime sided with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary). The outbreak of war would provide the perfect opportunity to solve the "Armenian question" once and for all. The world's attention became fixed upon the battlegrounds of France and Belgium where the young men of Europe were soon falling dead by the hundreds of thousands. The Eastern Front eventually included the border between Turkey and Russia. With war at hand, unusual measures involving the civilian population would not seem too out of the ordinary.As a prelude to the coming action, Turks disarmed the entire Armenian population under the pretext that the people were naturally sympathetic toward Christian Russia. Every last rifle and pistol was forcibly seized, with severe penalties for anyone who failed to turn in a weapon. Quite a few Armenian men actually purchased a weapon from local Turks or Kurds (nomadic Muslim tribesmen) at very high prices so they would have something to turn in.
At this time, about forty thousand Armenian men were serving in the Turkish Army. In the fall and winter of 1914, all of their weapons were confiscated and they were put into slave labor battalions building roads or were used as human pack animals. Under the brutal work conditions they suffered a very high death rate. Those who survived would soon be shot outright. For the time had come to move against the Armenians.
The decision to annihilate the entire population came directly from the ruling triumvirate of ultra-nationalist Young Turks. The actual extermination orders were transmitted in coded telegrams to all provincial governors throughout Turkey. Armed roundups began on the evening of April 24, 1915, as 300 Armenian political leaders, educators, writers, clergy and dignitaries in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) were taken from their homes, briefly jailed and tortured, then hanged or shot.
Next, there were mass arrests of Armenian men throughout the country by Turkish soldiers, police agents and bands of Turkish volunteers. The men were tied together with ropes in small groups then taken to the outskirts of their town and shot dead or bayoneted by death squads. Local Turks and Kurds armed with knives and sticks often joined in on the killing.
Then it was the turn of Armenian women, children, and the elderly. On very short notice, they were ordered to pack a few belongings and be ready to leave home, under the pretext that they were being relocated to a non-military zone for their own safety. They were actually being taken on death marches heading south toward the Syrian Desert.
Muslim Turks who assumed instant ownership of everything quickly occupied most of the homes and villages left behind by the rousted Armenians. In many cases, local Turks who took them from their families spared young Armenian children from deportation. The children were coerced into denouncing Christianity and becoming Muslims, and were then given new Turkish names. For Armenian boys the forced conversion meant they each had to endure painful circumcision as required by Islamic custom.
Turkish gendarmes escorted individual caravans consisting of thousands of deported Armenians. These guards allowed roving government units of hardened criminals known as the "Special Organization" to attack the defenseless people, killing anyone they pleased. They also encouraged Kurdish bandits to raid the caravans and steal anything they wanted. In addition, an extraordinary amount of sexual abuse and rape of girls and young women occurred at the hands of the Special Organization and Kurdish bandits. Most of the attractive young females were kidnapped for a life of involuntary servitude.
The death marches during the Armenian Genocide, involving over a million Armenians, covered hundreds of miles and lasted months. Indirect routes through mountains and wilderness areas were deliberately chosen in order to prolong the ordeal and to keep the caravans away from Turkish villages.
Food supplies being carried by the people quickly ran out and they were usually denied further food or water. Anyone stopping to rest or lagging behind the caravan was mercilessly beaten until they rejoined the march. If they couldn't continue they were shot. A common practice was to force all of the people in the caravan to remove every stitch of clothing and have them resume the march in the nude under the scorching sun until they dropped dead by the roadside from exhaustion and dehydration.
An estimated 75 percent of the Armenians on these marches perished, especially children and the elderly. Those who survived the ordeal were herded into the desert without a drop of water. Being thrown off cliffs, burned alive, or drowned in rivers.
During the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish countryside became littered with decomposing corpses. At one point, Mehmed Talaat responded to the problem by sending a coded message to all provincial leaders: "I have been advised that in certain areas unburied corpses are still to be seen. I ask you to issue the strictest instructions so that the corpses and their debris in your vilayet are buried."
But his instructions were generally ignored. Those involved in the mass murder showed little interest in stopping to dig graves. The roadside corpses and emaciated deportees were a shocking sight to foreigners working in Turkey. Eyewitnesses included German government liaisons, American missionaries, and U.S. diplomats stationed in the country.
During the Armenian Genocide, the Christian missionaries were often threatened with death and were unable to help the people. Diplomats from the still neutral United States communicated their blunt assessments of the ongoing government actions. U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, reported to Washington: "When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race..."
The Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Russia) responded to news of the massacres by issuing a warning to Turkey: "...the Allied governments announce publicly...that they will hold all the members of the Ottoman Government, as well as such of their agents as are implicated, personally responsible for such matters."
The warning had no effect. Newspapers in the West including the New York Times published reports of the continuing deportations with the headlines: Armenians Are Sent to Perish in the Desert - Turks Accused of Plan to Exterminate Whole Population (August 18, 1915) - Million Armenians Killed or in Exile - American Committee on Relief Says Victims of Turks Are Steadily Increasing - Policy of Extermination (December 15, 1915).
Temporary relief for some Armenians came as Russian troops attacked along the Eastern Front and made their way into central Turkey. But the troops withdrew in 1917 upon the Russian Revolution. Armenian survivors withdrew along with them and settled in among fellow Armenians already living in provinces of the former Russian Empire. There were in total about 500,000 Armenians gathered in this region.
In May 1918, Turkish armies attacked the area to achieve the goal of expanding Turkey eastward into the Caucasus and also to resume the annihilation of the Armenians. As many as 100,000 Armenians may have fallen victim to the advancing Turkish troops.
However, the Armenians managed to acquire weapons and they fought back, finally repelling the Turkish invasion at the battle of Sardarabad, thus saving the remaining population from total extermination with no help from the outside world. Following that victory, Armenian leaders declared the establishment of the independent Republic of Armenia.
World War I ended in November 1918 with a defeat for Germany and the Central Powers including Turkey. Shortly before the war had ended, the Young Turk triumvirate; Talaat, Enver and Djemal, abruptly resigned their government posts and fled to Germany where they had been offered asylum.
In the months that followed, repeated requests by Turkey’s new moderate government and the Allies were made asking Germany to send the Young Turks back home to stand trial. However all such requests were turned down. As a result, Armenian activists took matters into their own hands, located the Young Turks and assassinated them along with two other instigators of the mass murder.
Meanwhile, representatives from the fledgling Republic of Armenia attended the Paris Peace Conference in the hope that the victorious Allies would give them back their historic lands seized by Turkey. The European Allies responded to their request by asked the United States to assume guardianship of the new Republic. However, President Woodrow Wilson's attempt to make Armenia an official U.S. protectorate was rejected by the U.S. Congress in May 1920.
But Wilson did not give up on Armenia. As a result of his efforts, the Treaty of Sevres was signed on August 10, 1920 by the Allied Powers, the Republic of Armenia, and the new moderate leaders of Turkey. The treaty recognized an independent Armenian state in an area comprising much of the former historic homeland.
However, Turkish nationalism once again reared its head. The moderate Turkish leaders who signed the treaty were ousted in favor of a new nationalist leader, Mustafa Kemal, who simply refused to accept the treaty and even re-occupied the very lands in question then expelled any surviving Armenians, including thousands of orphans.
No Allied power came to the aid of the Armenian Republic and it collapsed. Only a tiny portion of the easternmost area of historic Armenia survived by being becoming part of the Soviet Union.
After the successful obliteration of the people of historic Armenia during the Armenian Genocide, the Turks demolished any remnants of Armenian cultural heritage including priceless masterpieces of ancient architecture, old libraries and archives. The Turks even leveled entire cities such as the once thriving Kharpert, Van and the ancient capital at Ani, to remove all traces of the three thousand year old civilization.
Refering to the Armenian Genocide, the young German politician Adolf Hitler duly noted the half-hearted reaction of the world’s great powers to the plight of the Armenians. After achieving total power in Germany, Hitler decided to conquer Poland in 1939 and told his generals: "Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my 'Death's Head Units' with the orders to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the vital space that we need. Who still talks nowadays about the Armenians?"


Friday, April 18, 2008

Memoirs & Diaries: The Armenian Massacres

Memoirs & Diaries: The Armenian Massacres

by Dr. Martin Niepage

When I returned to Aleppo in September, 1915, from a three months' holiday at Beirut, I heard with horror that a new phase of Armenian massacres had begun which were far more terrible than the earlier massacres under Abdul-Hamid, and which aimed at exterminating, root and branch, the intelligent, industrious, and progressive Armenian nation, and at transferring its property to Turkish hands.
Such monstrous news left me at first incredulous. I Was told that, in various quarters of Aleppo, there were lying masses of half-starved people, the survivors of so-called "deportation convoys."
In order, I was told, to cover the extermination of the Armenian nation with a political cloak, military reasons were being put forward, which were said to make it necessary to drive the Armenians out of their native seats, which had been theirs for 2,500 years, and to deport them to the Arabian deserts. I was also told that individual Armenians had lent themselves to acts of espionage.
After I had informed myself about the facts and had made inquiries on all sides, I came to the conclusion that all these accusations against the Armenians were, in fact, based on trifling provocations, which were taken as an excuse for slaughtering 10,000 innocents for one guilty person, for the most savage outrages against women and children, and for a campaign of starvation against the exiles which was intended to exterminate the whole nation.
To test the conclusion derived from my information, I visited all the places in the city where there were Armenians left behind by the convoys. In dilapidated caravansaries (hans) I found quantities of dead, many corpses being half-decomposed, and others, still living, among them, who were soon to breathe their last.
In other yards I found quantities of sick and starving people whom no one was looking after. In the neighbourhood of the German Technical School, at which I am employed as a higher grade teacher, there were four such hans, with seven or eight hundred exiles dying of starvation.
We teachers and our pupils had to pass by them every day. Every time we went out we saw through the open windows their pitiful forms, emaciated and wrapped in rags. In the mornings our schoolchildren, on their way through the narrow streets, had to push past the two-wheeled ox-carts, on which every day from eight to ten rigid corpses, without coffin or shroud, were carried away, their arms and legs trailing out of the vehicle.
After I had shared this spectacle for several days I thought it my duty to compose the following report:
As teachers in the German Technical School at Aleppo, we permit ourselves with all respect to make the following report:
We feel it our duty to draw attention to the fact that our educational work will forfeit its moral basis and the esteem of the natives, if the German Government is not in a position to put a stop to the brutality with which the wives and children of slaughtered Armenians are being treated here.
Out of convoys which, when they left their homes on the Armenian plateau, numbered from two to three thousand men, women and children, only two or three hundred survivors arrive here in the south. The men are slaughtered on the way; the women and girls, with the exception of the old, the ugly and those who are still children, have been abused by Turkish soldiers and officers and then carried away to Turkish and Kurdish villages, where they have to accept Islam.
They try to destroy the remnant of the convoys by hunger and thirst. Even when they are fording rivers, they do not allow those dying of thirst to drink. All the nourishment they receive is a daily ration of a little meal sprinkled over their hands, which they lick off greedily, and its only effect is to protract their starvation.
Opposite the German Technical School at Aleppo, in which we are engaged in teaching, a mass of about four hundred emaciated forms, the remnant of such convoys, is lying in one of the hans. There are about a hundred children (boys and girls) among them, from five to seven years old. Most of them are suffering from typhoid and dysentery.
When one enters the yard, one has the impression of entering a mad-house. If one brings them food, one notices that they have forgotten how to eat. Their stomach, weakened by months of starvation, can no longer assimilate nourishment.
If one gives them bread, they put it aside indifferently. They just lie there quietly, waiting for death.
Amid such surroundings, how are we teachers to read German Fairy Stories with our children, or, indeed, the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible?
How are we to make them decline and conjugate irrelevant words, while round them in the yards adjoining the German Technical School their starving fellow-countrymen are slowly succumbing?
Under such circumstances our educational work flies in the face of all true morality and becomes a mockery of human sympathy.
And what becomes of these poor people who have been driven in thousands through Aleppo and the neighbourhood into the deserts, reduced almost entirely, by this time, to women and children?
They are driven on and on from one place to another. The thousands shrink to hundreds and the hundreds to tiny remnants, and even these remnants are driven on till the last is dead. Then at last they have reached the goal of their wandering, the 'New Homes assigned to the Armenians,' as the newspapers phrase it.
'Ta'alim el aleman' ('the teaching of the Germans') is the simple Turk's explanation to every one who asks him about the originators of these measures.
The educated Moslems are convinced that, even though the German nation discountenances such horrors, the German Government is taking no steps to put a stop to them, out of consideration for its Turkish Ally.
Mohammedans, too, of more sensitive feelings - Turks and Arabs alike - shake their heads in disapproval and do not conceal their tears when they see a convoy of exiles marching through the city, and Turkish soldiers using cudgels upon women in advanced pregnancy and upon dying people who can no longer drag themselves along.
They cannot believe that their Government has ordered these atrocities, and they hold the Germans responsible for all such outrages, Germany being considered during the war as Turkey's schoolmaster in everything.
Even the mollahs in the mosques say that it was not the Sublime Porte but the German officers who ordered the ill-treatment and destruction of the Armenians.
The things which have been passing here for months under everybody's eyes will certainly remain as a stain on Germany's shield in the memory of Orientals.
In order not to be obliged to give up their faith in the character of the Germans, which they have hitherto respected, many educated Mohammedans explain the situation to themselves as follows: 'The German nation,' they say, 'probably knows nothing about the frightful massacres which are on foot at the present time against the native Christians in all parts of Turkey. Knowing the German love of truth, how otherwise can we explain the articles we read in German newspapers, which appear to know of nothing except that individual Armenians have been deservedly shot by martial law as spies and traitors?'
Others again say: 'Perhaps the German Government has had its hands tied by some treaty defining its powers, or perhaps intervention is inopportune for the moment.'
I know for a fact that the Embassy at Constantinople has been informed by the German Consulates of all that has been happening. As, however, there has not been so far the least change in the system of deportation, I feel myself compelled by conscience to make my present report.
At the time when I composed this report, the German Consul at Aleppo was represented by his colleague from Alexandretta - Consul Hoffmann.
Consul Hoffmann informed me that the German Embassy had been advised in detail about the events in the interior in repeated reports from the Consulates at Alexandretta, Aleppo and Mosul. He told me that a report of what I had seen with my own eyes would, however, be welcome as a supplement to these official documents and as a description in detail. He said he would convey my report to the Embassy at Constantinople by a sure agency.
I now worked out a report on the desired lines, giving an exact description of the state of things in the han opposite our school.
Consul Hoffmann wished to add some photographs which he had taken in the han himself. The photographs displayed piles of corpses, among which children still alive were crawling about.
In its revised form the report was signed by my colleague, Dr. Graeter (higher grade teacher), and by Frau Marie Spiecker, as well as by myself. The head of our institution Director Huber, also placed his name to it and added a few words in the following sense: "My colleague Dr. Niepage's report is not at all exaggerated. For weeks we have been living here in an atmosphere poisoned with sickness and the stench of corpses. Only the hope of speedy relief makes it possible for us to carry on our work."
The relief did not come. I then thought of resigning my post as higher grade teacher in the Technical School, on the ground that it was senseless and morally unjustifiable to be a representative of European civilization with the task of bringing moral and intellectual education to a nation if, at the same time, one had to look on passively while the Government of the country was abandoning one's pupils' fellow-countrymen to an agonizing death by starvation.
Those around me, however, as well as the head of our institution, Director Huber, dissuaded me from my intention. It was pointed out to me that there was value in our continued presence in the country, as eye-witnesses of what went on. Perhaps, it was suggested, our presence might have some effect in making the Turks behave more humanely towards their unfortunate victims, out of consideration for us Germans. I see now that I have remained far too long a silent witness of all this wickedness.
Our presence had no ameliorating effect whatever, and what we could do personally came to little. Frau Spiecker, our brave, energetic colleague, bought soap, and all the women and children in our neighbourhood who were still alive - there were no men left - were washed and cleansed from lice.
Frau Spiecker set women to work to make soup for those who could still assimilate nourishment. I, myself, distributed two pails of tea and cheese and moistened bread among the dying children every evening for six weeks; but when the Hunger-Typhus or Spotted-Typhus spread through the city from these charnel houses, six of us succumbed to it and had to give up our relief work.
Indeed, for the exiles who came to Aleppo, help was really useless. We could only afford those doomed to death a few slight alleviations of their death agony.
What we saw with our own eyes here in Aleppo was really only the last scene in the great tragedy of the extermination of the Armenians. It was only a minute fraction of the horrible drama that was being played out simultaneously in all the other provinces of Turkey. Many more appalling things were reported by the engineers of the Baghdad Railway, when they came back from their work on the section under construction, or by German travellers who met the convoys of exiles on their journeys. Many of these gentlemen had seen such appalling sights that they could eat nothing for days.
One of them, Herr Greif, of Aleppo, reported corpses of violated women lying about naked in heaps on the railway embankment at Tell-Abiad and Ras-el-Ain. Another, Herr Spiecker, of Aleppo, had seen Turks tie Armenian men together, fire several volleys of small shot with fowling-pieces into the human mass, and go off laughing while their victims slowly perished in frightful convulsions.
Other men had their hands tied behind their back and were rolled down steep cliffs. Women were standing below, who slashed those who had rolled down with knives until they were dead. A Protestant pastor who, two years before, had given a very warm welcome to my colleague, Doctor Graeter; when he was passing through his village, had his finger nails torn out.
The German Consul from Mosul related, in my presence, at the German club at Aleppo that, in many places on the road from Mosul to Aleppo, he had seen children's hands lying hacked off in such numbers that one could have paved the road with them. In the German hospital at Ourfa there was a little girl who had had both her hands hacked off.
In an Arab village on the way to Aleppo Herr Holstein, the German Consul from Mosul, saw shallow graves with freshly-buried Armenian corpses. The Arabs of the village declared that they had killed these Armenians by the Government's orders. One asserted proudly that he personally had killed eight.
In many Christian houses in Aleppo I found Armenian girls hidden who by some chance had escaped death; either they had been left lying exhausted and had been taken for dead when their companions had been driven on, or, in other cases, Europeans had found an opportunity to buy the poor creatures for a few marks from the last Turkish soldier who had violated them.
All these girls showed symptoms of mental derangement: many of them had had to watch the Turks cut their parents' throats. I know poor things who have not had a single word coaxed out of them for months, and not a smile to this moment.
A girl about fourteen years old was given shelter by Herr Krause, Depot Manager for the Baghdad Railway at Aleppo. The girl had been so many times ravished by Turkish soldiers in one night that she had completely lost her reason.
I saw her tossing on her pillow in delirium with burning lips, and could hardly get water down her throat.
A German I know saw hundreds of Christian peasant women who were compelled, near Ourfa, to strip naked by the Turkish soldiers. For the amusement of the soldiers they had to drag themselves through the desert in this condition for days together in a temperature of 40 degrees Centigrade, until their skins were completely scorched.
Another witness saw a Turk tear a child out of its Armenian mother's womb and hurl it against the wall.
There are other occurrences, worse than these few examples which I give here, recorded in the numerous reports which have been sent in to the Embassy from the German Consulates at Alexandretta, Aleppo and Mosul. The Consuls are of opinion that, so far, probably about one million Armenians have perished in the massacres of the last few months. Of this number, one must reckon that at least half are women and children who have either been murdered or have succumbed to starvation.
It is a duty of conscience to bring these things into publicity, and, although the Turkish Government, in destroying the Armenian nation, may only be pursuing objects of internal policy, the way this policy is being carried out has many of the characteristics of a general persecution of Christians.
All the tens of thousands of girls and women who have been carried off into Turkish harems, and the masses of children who have been collected by the Government and distributed among the Turks and Kurds, are lost to Christendom, and have to accept Islam. The abusive epithet "giaour" is now heard once again by German ears.
At Adana I saw a crowd of Armenian orphans marching through the streets under a guard of Turkish soldiers; their parents have been slaughtered and the children have to become Mohammedans. Everywhere there have been cases in which adult Armenians were able to save their lives by readiness to accept Islam.
Sometimes, however, the Turkish officials first made the Christians present a petition to be received into the communion of Islam, and then answered very grandly, in order to throw dust in the eyes of Europeans, that religion is not a thing to play with.
These officials preferred to have the petitioners killed. Men like Talaat Bey and Enver Pasha, when prominent Armenians brought them presents, often tempered their thanks with the remark that they would have been still better pleased if the Armenian givers had made their presents as Mohammedans.
A newspaper reporter was told by one of these gentlemen: "Certainly we are now punishing many innocent people as well. But we have to guard ourselves even against those who may one day become guilty."
On such grounds Turkish statesmen justify the wholesale slaughter of defenceless women and children. A German Catholic ecclesiastic reported that Enver Pasha declared, in the presence of Monsignore Dolci, the Papal Envoy at Constantinople, that he would not rest so long as a single Armenian remained alive.
The object of the deportations is the extermination of the whole Armenian nation. This purpose is also proved by the fact that the Turkish Government declines all assistance from Missionaries, Sisters of Mercy and European residents in the country, and systematically tries to stop their work.
A Swiss engineer was to have been brought before a court-martial because he had distributed bread in Anatolia to the starving Armenian women and children in a convoy of exiles. The Government has not hesitated even to deport Armenian pupils and teachers from the German schools at Adana and Aleppo, and Armenian children from the German orphanages, without regard to all the efforts of the Consuls and the heads of the institutions involved.
The Government also rejected the American Government's offer to take the exiles to America on American ships and at America's expense.
The opinion of our German Consuls and of many foreigners resident in the country about the Armenian massacres will some day become known through their reports. I can say nothing about the verdict of the German officers in Turkey. I often noticed, when in their company, an ominous silence or a convulsive effort to change the subject when any German of warm sympathies and independent judgment began to speak about the Armenians' frightful sufferings.
When Field Marshal von der Goltz was travelling to Baghdad and had to cross the Euphrates at Djerablus, there was a large encampment of half-starved Armenian exiles there. Just before the Field Marshal's arrival, so I was told at Djerablus, these unhappy people, the sick and dying with the rest, were driven under the whip several kilometres away over the nearest hills.
When von der Goltz passed through, there were no traces left of the repulsive spectacle; but when I visited the place shortly afterwards with some of my colleagues, we found corpses of men, women and children still lying in out-of-the-way places, and fragments of clothes, skulls and bones which had been partly stripped of the flesh by jackals and birds of prey.
The author of the present report considers it out of the question that, if the German Government is seriously determined to stem the tide of destruction even at this eleventh hour, it would find it impossible to bring the Turkish Government to reason.
If the Turks are really so well inclined to us Germans as people say, cannot they have it pointed out to them how seriously they compromise us before the whole civilized world, if we, as their allies, have to look on passively while our fellow-Christians in Turkey are slaughtered in their hundreds of thousands, their women and daughters violated, their children brought up as Mohammedans?
Cannot the Turks be made to understand that their barbarities are reckoned to our account, and that we Germans will be accused either of criminal complicity or of contemptible weakness, if we shut our eyes to the frightful horrors which this war has produced, and seek to pass over in silence facts which are already notorious all over the world?
If the Turks are really as intelligent as is said, should it be impossible to convince them that, in exterminating the Christian nations in Turkey, they are destroying the productive factors and the intermediaries of European trade and general civilization?
If the Turks are as farsighted as is said, can they blind themselves to the danger that, when the civilized States of Europe have taken cognizance of what has been happening in Turkey during the war, they may be driven to the conclusion that Turkey has forfeited the right to govern herself and has destroyed once for all any belief in her tolerance and capacity for civilization?
Will not the German Government be standing for what is best in Turkey's own interest, if it hinders Turkey from ruining herself morally and economically?
In this report I hope to reach the Government's ear through the accredited representatives of the German nation.
When the Reichstag sits in Committee, these things must no longer be passed over, however painful they are. Nothing could put us more to shame than the erection at Constantinople of a Turco-German palace of friendship at huge expense, while we are not in a position to shield our fellow Christians from barbarities unparalleled even in the bloodstained history of Turkey...
Even apart from our common duty as Christians, we Germans are under a special obligation to stop the complete extermination of the half-million Armenian Christians who still survive. We are Turkey's allies and, after the elimination of the French, English and Russians, we are the only foreigners who have any say in Turkish affairs.
We may indignantly refute the lies of our enemies abroad, who say that the massacres have been organized by German Consuls. We shall not be able to dissipate the Turkish nation's conviction that the Armenian massacres were ordered by Germany, unless energetic steps are at last taken by German diplomatists and officers.
And even if we cleared ourselves of everything but the one reproach that our timidity and weakness in dealing with our ally had prevented us from saving half a million women and children from slaughter or death by starvation, the image of the German War would be disfigured for all time in the mirror of history by a hideous feature.
It is utterly erroneous to think that the Turkish Government will refrain of its own accord even from the destruction of the women and children, unless the strongest pressure is exercised by the German Government. Only just before I left Aleppo, in May, 1916, the crowds of exiles encamped at Ras-el-din on the Baghdad Railway, estimated at 20,000 women and children, were slaughtered to the last one.


Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. III, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923