Can you imagine yourself living during the time that WWI was going on? I’m
pretty sure you’d be terrified to even walk out of your house. Like it wasn’t bad
enough that the whole world was at each other’s throat, but to know that your
country may be at the hands of another leader. A leader who may have different
perspectives on every day life, with the benefit of doubt that it may be extremely
foreign to you, is pretty scary. I’m pretty sure that it would make you or anyone
else feel extremely unsafe and uncomfortable. But imagine being unaware of the
underlying plan to “cleanse” your ethnic group.
The Armenian people faced this
situation during the time of WWI. Life between the Turks (Armenia’s rival) and
the Armenians was very complex. Not all Armenians hated the Turks, and not all
Turks hated the Armenians. Consequently, the Armenian people were not aware
of any forms of annihilation that were being plotted at the time.
What exactly is the definition of a Genocide?? According to the World
Book Dictionary, genocide means: The systematic extermination or destruction of
a political, racial, or cultural group1. When the word genocide is brought up,
many people usually think of the Holocaust.
Although the Holocaust was a
massive tragedy, many don’t recall the Armenian Genocide Essay. The Armenian
Genocide was just as terrifying as the Holocaust, and we should commemorate
this tragedy. The people who are held responsible for this tragedy are a young
group of Turks. Their plan was to exterminate all of the Armenian population.
The Turks desired a Turkish State that extended to Central Asia, and thus to carry
through the unity of the Turkish speaking people. This creation of such a state
would create what they call “Pan-Turkism”2.
The Armenians had their first taste of aggression by the Turks on April 24,
19153. Three hundred Armenian leaders, writers, thinkers, and professionals in
Constantinople were imprisoned in many parts of Turkey without any advanced
warning. Shortly after they were imprisoned, they were brutally tortured and
beaten by the Turkish authorities. Other methods of brutality included pulling out
fingernails, teeth, and beards, branding on the chest with hot horseshoes and
raising the feet above the body and beating under the foot until it bled4. After the
severe torturing, they were killed. Turkish officials then seized all weapons that
were owned by the Armenians, and then brought it to the government offices
where their weapons were relinquished.
Others hesitated to abandon their only
means of self-defense and instead, buried guns in the ground, store them in dry
wells, or hid them in their houses or barns5. This led to house-to-house searches
in some communities, with Armenians being tortured until they revealed whether
they owned weapons.
On May 27, 1915, an official Edict of Deportation was issued6. For most
Armenians, the deportation orders were a complete surprise. The Armenians were
in despair as they left the villages and cities where their families had lived for
many generations. When preparing for the deportation journey, Armenians faced
anguishing decisions about what to take with them, who to go with, or even the
decision of whether to leave their children behind, especially if there was a
Turkish family willing to keep him or her for her.
Some Armenians faced other
moral dilemmas: that they were given the option of converting to Islam and
remaining in their homes7. Very few Armenians selected this option. In the
beginning of spring of 1915, Armenians were deported from their homes and
forced to march hundreds of miles to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia8. This
was called “death marches”9. Along the way some were killed outright, and tens
of thousands more died of dehydration, hunger, exhaustion, exposure, and disease.
Those who fell behind in the marches were either shot right on the spot, or left
behind to die in the scorching sun to await their fatality.
In many, but not all, of
the deportation caravans, the men were separated from women and children during
the first few days of the journey and were killed. Some were just young boys,
fifteen and sometimes as young as nine or ten. Often, the men and boys were
taken away from the main caravan so there would be no witnesses to see the
slaughtering10. Men were not always slaughtered by shooting. To preserve
ammunition, the Turks often axed, bayoneted, or slain them with farm
implements11. At night, deportees had little or no protection, because tents or
other forms of shelter .