Chapter IX: THE GENOCIDE (FROM 1914 TO 1922)
The Turkish Plan.
It is generally accepted that the Armenian Genocide started on April 24, 1915. The Armenians commemorate this date because on April 24, 1915 more than 200 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were arrested and then murdered in Constantinople. However, the Turkish plan of uprooting the Armenians from their ancestral homeland was masterminded far beforehand. The outbreak of the WWI in 1914 gave the Young Turks the perfect opportunity to solve the Armenian Question.
At first Dr. Nazim, the Young Turks ideologist, traveled throughout the vilayets (provinces) of the Ottoman Empire calling for the boycott of the Armenian businesses. Then Enver-Pasha, the idol of the Turkish revolution issued the order to form special battalions. Later, these units of violent criminals and Kurdish irregulars attacked, looted and burned thousands of Armenian shops in Dyarbekir. At the same time, Talaat-Pasha, one of the triumvirs and the most influential figure in the Turkish cabinet, ordered to carry out the disarmament of the Armenian villages. Since the Moslem Turkey was involved in war against the Christian countries, the Christian Armenians were considered "unreliable" and sympathizing to their coreligionists. The weapons collected from the Armenians were distributed in neighboring Turkish villages.
Disarmed, arrested and executed.
The Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army were disarmed, put in labor battalions, and then killed. Meanwhile, the legitimated bands of chete (Kurdish irregulars, criminal hirelings) began systematic raids on the defenseless Armenian villages to rape women and ransack houses. In all major cities, the Armenian businesses were looted under the convenient pretext of "war contributions". In October 1914, mass arrests and killings of Armenians were reported in Erzerum and Zeytun. In November, as Russia had declared war on Turkey, the jihad (holy war against non-believers) was proclaimed and publicly read in all the vilayets of the Ottoman Empire. Together with the mass execution of the Armenian soldiers in the army, a number of notable Armenian community leaders, including religious were slain in different cities. In the provinces, the Armenian bakers were publicly charged for poisoning the bread of the Turkish Army.
Hypocricy of Turkish leaders.
In March, 1915 a special decision to exterminate all Armenians throughout the Ottoman Empire was already issued by the Ittihad committee. Meanwhile, a severe censorship was established, and all foreign postal offices in Turkey were closed. Even the neutral US Ambassador was unable to read uncensored dispatches from his own government. In Constantinople, where a large number of Europeans, including foreign ambassadors were present, the Turkish leaders made hypocritical speeches. Enver-Pasha congratulated the brave Armenian soldiers for their admirable service on the Caucasus front, while Talaat-Pasha met with the Armenian leaders shortly before their mass arrests to declare they had nothing to fear.
In April, 1915 the regular Turkish troops began the non-stop attacks on the city of Van. The Armenians under the leadership of Aram Manukian organized a heroic defense. They decided to rise up arms after they were informed that more than 30 thousand of Armenians in surrounding villages had been killed in three days. The desperate defense of Van lasted 36 days with 55 thousand of Armenians being killed. The survivors were rescued by the units of the Armenian volunteers serving in the Russian army on the Caucasus front. Later, a handful of unarmed Armenians desperately defended themselves in Shabin-Karahisar, the native village of General Andranik. Another heroic example was the defense of Musa-Dagh in Cilicia, described by Austrian author Franz Werfel (one of my favourite books).
After the events that the Turks had termed as "revolution of Van", the Armenians were declared "internal enemies" of the Ottoman Empire. In Constantinople, many of the most eminent Armenians, including intellectuals, political and religious leaders were arrested and murdered. Among them were Grikor Zohrab and Vartkes Serengulian, members of the Ottoman Parliament and generally known as friends of Talaat-Pasha. At the same time, the mass killings took place in Bitlis, Mush and Dyarbekir. The special instructions for the detailed procedure of deportations were sent to all Governors of the vilayets throughout the Ottoman Empire. The Armenians would be told they must be deported or relocated, and then marched off to the Syrian deserts between Jerablus, Mosul and Deir el-Zor. Only a small part of them would reach the final point. Many died of starvation, but most of them were killed on the march in extremely barbaric fashion. An American missionary testified to see, while traveling from Malatia to Sivas, a countless number of disfigured corpses all along both sides of the road for 9 hours running. Tens of thousands of dead bodies were thrown to the Euphrates River. In Trebizond, thousands of Armenians were sunk out at the sea...
In July 1915, there were virtually no Armenians remaining in Van, Bitlis, Dyarbekir, Sivas, Erzerum and Trebizond. Only a part of the orphan boys were converted to Islam and adopted by the Turkish families. Soon thereafter, Talat-Pasha told the German Ambassador that the Armenian Question had been finally solved. The depopulation of the Western Armenia was successfully completed.
In 1916, the deportations and the massacres continued with unremitting cruelty. The numerous instructions went to exterminate the remnants of the Armenian orphans. The survivors were subject to Islamization. But the most of the deportees who later reached the Syrian deserts were murdered or died from hunger or sicknesses.In October 1916, the German Ambassador Wilhelm Radowitz reported to Berlin that out of the two and a half millions of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire alive were left only 300 000. The rest were killed or deported; some were lucky enough to escape eastward to the Caucasus or somewhere else. The ambassador mentioned "the two and a half millions" in accordance with the falsified results of the census taken in the Ottoman Empire in 1887, under the Sultan Abd al-Hamid. The actual number of Armenians was deliberately reduced, at least 3 times.
End of Young Turks.
The governments of all European countries, and the United States condemned the Genocide of Armenians. Henry Morgenthau, the US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, wrote: "...the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915."
The Ittihad Cabinet resigned in October 1918. The triumvirs and other leaders of the Young Turks fled the country. They later were convicted by different courts-martial. Enver, Talat, Gemal and Nazim were sentenced to death by default. Kemal Bey, responsible for Yozgat massacres, was publicly hanged. Rashid Bey, governor of Dyarbekir, committed suicide. Other culprits of massacres were sentenced to different terms of imprisonment. Some of them were later released; others fled to join the army of Mustafa Kemal. However, the Genocide of Armenians was never officially recognized and condemned by the Turkish government. Even now, the Turkish authorities continue to deny the fact of the Genocide.
Talat-Pasha, one of main designers of the Genocide, was assassinated in 1921 in Berlin by Soghomon Tehlirian.
Enver-Pasha also fell from an Armenian in 1922 in a battle in Tajikistan.
Gemal-Pasha was assassinated in 1922 in Tiflis by an Armenian Tzagikian.
Gemal Azmi, former governor of Trabzon and Beahaddin Shakir, one of the Genocide's propagandists were both assassinated in 1922 in Berlin.