By definition genocide is the organized killing of a people for the express purpose of putting an end to their collective existence (Websters dictionary). As a rule, the organizing agent is the nation, the victim population is a domestic minority, and the end result is the near total death of a society. The Armenian genocide generally conforms to this simple definition.
The Armenian genocide is a hidden, almost lost part of world history, pretty much eclipsed by the more publicized genocide of the twentieth century, the Holocaust.
The question is why. I could take a poll of this room and I am willing to bet that 95% of the students have ever even heard of the Armenian Genocide and those who have couldnt tell me more than a couple sentences about it. This is pretty scary, considering the statistics of the Armenian Genocide.
OTTOMAN EMPIREOrder now
The Ottoman Empire was ruled by the Turks who had conquered the land from across West Asia, North Africa to Southeast Europe.
The Ottoman government was based in Istanbul and was headed by a sultan who was given absolute power. The Turks were Islamic and were a harsh disciplinary civilization. The Armenians, a Christian minority, lived as second class citizens subject to legal restrictions (Graber 119). These restrictions denied them normal safeguards.
Neither their lives nor their properties were guaranteed security. As non-Muslims they were also obligated to pay discriminatory taxes and denied participation in government. In its prime of the sixteenth century the Ottoman Empire was a powerful state. Its minority populations really benefited with the growth of its economy, but by the nineteenth century, the empire was in serious decline(Graber 121). It had been reduced in size and by 1914 had lost virtually all its lands in Europe and Africa.
This decline created enormous internal political and economic pressures which contributed to the increasing tensions among the races (similar to Germanys way of blaming the Jews for their economic decline). Armenian aspirations for representation and participation in government worried the Muslim Turks who had never shared power in their country with any minority. Demands by Armenian political organizations for administrative reforms in the Armenian-inhabited provinces and better police protection only invited further repression. During the reign of the sultan Abdul Hamid, a series of massacres throughout the empire meant to dampen Armenian expectations by frightening them, cost up to three hundred thousand lives by some estimates and resulted in enormous material losses on a majority of Armenians.
In response to the crisis in the Ottoman Empire, a new political group called the Young Turks seized power by revolution in 1908. From the Young Turks, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) emerged at the head of the government in a coup staged in 1913. It was led by a triumvirate: Enver, Minister of War, Talaat, Minister of the Interior, and Jemal, Minister of the Marine (Hovanissian 15). The CUP spewed ultra-nationalistic culture which promoted the establishment of an exclusively Turkish state.
It also promoted thoughts of conquering other regions inhabited by Turkic peoples, almost like our Manifest Destiny. When World War I broke out in August 1914, the Ottoman Empire formed part of the Triple Alliance with the other Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary, and it declared war on Russia and its Western allies, Great Britain and France. The Ottoman armies initially suffered a string of defeats. Whether retreating or advancing, the Ottoman army used the occasion of war to wage a scam campaign of massacre against the civilian Armenian population in the regions in which warfare was rampant. These measures were part of the genocidal program secretly adopted by the CUP and implemented under the cover of war. They coincided with the CUP’s larger program to eradicate the Armenians from Turkey and neighboring countries.
Through the spring and summer of 1915, in all areas outside the war zones, the Armenian population was ordered deported from their homes. Convoys consisting of tens of thousands including men, women, and children were driven hundreds of miles toward the Syrian desert. In April of the young Turks convinced leaders of the Armenian population to meet to discuss the new orders for all .