Three years ago, Armenia commemorated the centenary of the genocide effectuated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian people. Symbols including the forget-me-not flower and the eternal flame were placed at the Armenian genocide memorial on the Tsitsernakaberd plateau as part of the solemn ceremonies in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.
Armenian genocide memorial on the Tsitsernakaberd plateau during the festivities of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide (24.04.2015) Image found on http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/news-img/president-24-012.jpg
Today, 29 countries- including France- have recognised the massacre as a genocide, however that figure is not enough for a systematic extermination that took the lives of at least 664,000 and possibly as many as 1.2 million.
In particular, Turkey adamantly denies that a genocide was committed against the Armenians during W.W.I, moreover, regularly obstructs efforts for its acknowledgement. The Armenian community has longed for Turkey’s recognition of the genocide. During an interview with Tevan Poghosyan- a member of Parliament for the nationalist Heritage party- he states “international recognition is fine but, if Turkey doesn’t do it, then we won’t have the security we need,” He goes on to explain “It is a security issue because the genocide happened to us. It is our nation that lost its homeland and was scattered around the world. It is not just a historical issue.” Despite this, « Turkey reacted angrily after Pope Francis called it « the first genocide of the 20th Century » in the run up to the centenary commemorations »
When the persecution started, the Armenian community were a religious minority in Turkey, largely concentrated in eastern Anatolia. A few years before the start of World War I the Young Turks movement come to power and were keen to “Turkify” the country. In 1914, siding with the Germans, the Turks hoped to take over the Azerbaijan capital Baku and therefore provoke the Russians in the Caucuses. Domiciled Armenians within those regions were subsequently blamed for collaborating with the Russians, making them a target for further hate campaign. Soon afterwards on April 24, 1915 several hundred Armenian intellectuals were assembled, arrested and killed. These atrocities did not stop until 1922. In the years to follow thousands upon thousands of Armenians were put on death marches or deported to concentration camps where they died from exhaustion and starvation. Figures by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies reveal that the number of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire decreased from about 2,133,190 in 1914 to 387,800 by 1922.
Despite the fact the term genocide did not exist until 1944, this event is often referred as the first modern genocide, as Raphael Lemkin later defines as “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.” Not only did the Armenian population drop significantly in the aftermath but it is estimated that around eight to ten million persecuted Armenians are dispersed diaspora, primarily in Russia, the US and France.
Today the relationship between Turkey and Armenia remains tense. The events of 1915-16 and subsequent denial have not only weakened Turk-Armenian relations but they have also dug significant emotional trenches within the Armenian community which are being passed down from generation to generation.
The existence of genocide into the twentieth century has made affirming the truth about the Armenian Genocide an issue of international significance. Today, STAND France the student-led movement against genocide and mass atrocities, condemns the horrific atrocities that took place and engages itself in favour of remembering so that we never forget and never recreate.
« The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war. »
~ William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well
This article was written by Ines Ulz, a member of the STAND France Communications Task Force Team. She is originally from Vienna and now currently pursuing her Bachelor studies in Sciences Po Nancy. She is passionate about raising awareness against human rights atrocities.