The event is also said to be the second-most studied case of genocide, and often draws comparison with the Holocaust.
The Armenian Genocide—also known as the Armenian Holocaust, Great Calamity or the Armenian Massacre—refers to the forced mass evacuation and related deaths of hundreds of thousands or over a million Armenians, during the government of the Young Turks from 1915 to 1917 in the Ottoman Empire. Some main aspects of the event are a matter of ongoing dispute among the academic community and between parts of the international community and Turkey. Although generally agreed that events said to comprise the Armenian Genocide did occur, the Turkish government and several international historians deny that it was genocide, claiming that the deaths among the Armenians were the result of inter-ethnic strife and turmoil during World War I and not of a state-sponsored plan of mass extermination. Turkish law has criminalized describing the event as genocide, while French law criminalizes not stating that it was a genocide.
Most Armenians, Russians, and West Europeans believe that the massacres were a case of genocide. Western commentators point to the sheer scale of the death toll. The event is also said to be the second-most studied case of genocide, and often draws comparison with the Holocaust. To date about 21 countries, as discussed below, have officially described it as genocide.
The Situation of the Armenians in Anatolia
In 1914, before World War I, there were an estimated two million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, the vast majority of whom belonged to the Armenian Apostolic Church, with a small number of the Armenian Catholic and Protestant faiths. While the Armenian population in Eastern Anatolia (also called Western Armenia) was large and clustered, there were large numbers of Armenians in the western part of the Ottoman Empire. Many lived in the capital city of Istanbul.
Until the late ninteenth century, the Armenians were referred to as millet-i sadika (loyal nation) by the Ottomans. This meant that they were living in harmony with other ethnic groups and without any major conflict with the central authority. However, the Christian Armenians were subject to laws which gave them fewer legal rights than fellow Muslim citizens. The Tanzimat government gave more rights to the minorities in the middle of the ninteenth century. However, the long-ruling Abdul Hamid II suspended the constitution early in his reign and ruled as he saw fit. Despite pressure on the Sultan by the major European countries to treat the Christian minorities more gently, abuses only increased.
The single event that started the chain is most likely the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire in the War of 1877-1878. At the end of this war the Russians took control over a large part of Armenian territory (including the city of Kars). The Russians claimed they were the supporters of Christians within the Ottoman Empire and now they were clearly militarily superior to the Ottomans. The weakening control of the Ottoman government over its empire in the following 15 years led many Armenians to believe that they could gain independence from them.
Before the War
A minor Armenian unrest in Bitlis Province was suppressed with brutality in 1894. Armenian communities were then attacked for the next three years with no apparent direction from the government but equally without much protection offered either. According to most estimates, 80,000 to 300,000 Armenians were killed between 1894 and 1897.
Just five years before World War I, the Ottoman Empire came under the control of the secular Young Turks. The old Sultan Hamid was deposed and his timid younger brother Mehmed V was installed as a figurehead ruler, with real power held by Ismail Enver (Enver Pasha). At first some Armenian political organizations supported the Young Turks, in hopes that there would be a significant change for the better. Some Armenians were elected to the newly restored Ottoman Parliament, and some remained in the parliament.
World War One
Execution of the Genocide
Enver Pasha’s response to being decisively defeated by Russia at the Battle of Sarikamis (1914-1915) was, in part, to blame the Armenians. He ordered that all Armenian recruits in the Ottoman forces be disarmed, demobilized and assigned to labor camps. Most of the Armenian recruits were either executed or turned into road laborers—few survived.
Process and Camps of Deportations
May 25, 1915—by orders from Talat Pasha (Minister of the Interior) for the forced evacuation of hundreds of thousands—possibly over a million—Armenians from across all of Anatolia (except parts of the western coast) to Mesopotamia and what is now Syria. Many went to the Syrian town of Dayr az-Zawr and the surrounding desert. The fact that the Turkish government ordered the evacuation of ethnic Armenians at this time is not in dispute. It is claimed, based on a good deal of anecdotal evidence, that the Ottoman government did not provide any facilities or supplies to care for the Armenians during their deportation, nor when they arrived. The Ottoman government also prevented the deportees from supplying themselves. The Ottoman troops escorting the Armenians not only allowed others to rob, kill and rape the Armenians, but often participated in these activities themselves. In any event, the foreseeable consequences of the government’s decision to move the Armenians led to a significant number of deaths.
It is believed that 25 major concentration camps existed, under the command of Şükrü Kaya, one of the right-hand men of Talat Pasha.
The majority of the camps were situated near what are now the Iraqi and Syrian frontiers, and some were only temporary transit camps. Others are said to have been used only as temporary mass burial zones—such as Radjo, Katma, and Azaz—that were closed in the autumn of 1915. Some authors also maintain that the camps Lale, Tefridje, Dipsi, Del-El, and Ra’s al-‘Ain were built specifically for those who had a life expectancy of a few days. As with Jewish kapos in the concentration camps, the majority of the guards inside the camps were Armenians.
Even though nearly all the camps, including all the major ones, were open air, the rest of the mass killings in other minor camps, was not limited to direct killings; but also to mass burning, Eitan Belkind was a Nili member, who infiltrated the Ottoman army as an official. He was assigned to the headquarters of Camal Pasha. He claims to have witnessed the burning of 5000 Armenians,  Lt. Hasan Maruf, of the Ottoman army, describes how a population of a village were taken all together, and then burned.  Also, the Commander of the Third Army, Vehib’s 12 pages affidavit, which was dated December 5, 1918, presented in the Trabzon trial series (March 29, 1919) included in the Key Indictment (published in Takvimi Vekayi No. 3540, May 5, 1919), report such a mass burning of the population of an entire village near Mus. S. S. McClure write in his work, Obstacles to Peace, [4 ]that in Bitlis, Mus and Sassoun, “The shortest method for disposing of the women and children concentrated in tile various camps was to burn them.” And also that, “Turkish prisoners who had apparently witnessed some of these scenes were horrified and maddened at the remembering the sight. They told the Russians that the stench of the burning human flesh permeated the air for many days after.” The Germans, Ottoman allies, also witnessed the way Armenians were burned according to the Israeli historian, Bat Ye’or, who writes: “The Germans, allies of the Turks in the First World War, … saw how civil populations were shut up in churches and burned, or gathered en masse in camps, tortured to death, and reduced to ashes,…”  poisoning During the Trabzon trial series, of the Martial court (from the sittings between March 26 and Mat 17, 1919), the Trabzons Health Services Inspector Dr. Ziya Fuad wrote in a report that Dr. Saib, “caused the death of children with the injection of morphine, the information was allegedly provided by two physicians (Drs. Ragib and Vehib), both Dr. Saib colleagues at Trabzons Red Crescent hospital, where those atrocities were said to have been committed.”  Dr. Ziya Fuad, and Dr. Adnan, public health services director of Trabzon, submitted affidavits, reporting a cases, in which, two school buildings were used to organize children and then sent them on the mezzanine, to kill them with a toxic gas equipment. This case was presented during the Session 3, p.m., 1 April 1919, also published in the Constantinople newspaper Renaissance April 27, 1919 (for more information, see:  The Turkish surgeon, Dr. Haydar Cemal wrote in Türkce Istanbul, No. 45, (December 23, 1918, also published in Renaissance December 26, 1918) that “on the order of the Chief Sanitation Office of the Third Army in January 1916, when the spread of typhus was an acute problem, innocent Armenians slated for deportation at Erzican were inoculated with the blood of typhoid fever patients without rendering that blood ‘inactive’.”  Jeremy Hugh Baron writes: “Individual doctors were directly involved in the massacres, having poisoned infants, killed children and issued false certificates of death from natural causes. Nazim’s brother-in-law Dr. Tevfik Rushdu, Inspector-General of Health Services, organized the disposal of Armenian corpses with thousands of kilos of lime over six months; he became foreign secretary from 1925 to 1938.”  The psychiatrist, Robert Jay Lifton, writes in a parenthesis when introducing the crimes of NAZI doctors in his book Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, Basic Books, (1986): xii: “Perhaps Turkish doctors, in their participation in the genocide against the Armenians, come closest, as I shall later suggest.” and drowning.Oscar S. Heizer, the American consul at Trabzon, reports: “This plan did not suit Nail Bey …. Many of the children were loaded into boats and taken out to sea and thrown overboard.”  The Italian consul of Trabzon in 1915, Giacomo Gorrini, writes: “I saw thousands of innocent women and children placed on boats which were capsized in the Black Sea.” (See: Toronto Globe August 26, 1915) Hoffman Philip, the American Charge at Constantinople chargé d’affairs, writes: “Boat loads sent from Zor down the river arrived at Ana, one thirty miles away, with three fifths of passengers missing.”  The Trabzon trials reported Armenians having been drown in the Black Sea. 
Results of Deportations
The Ottoman government ordered the evacuation or deportation of many Armenians living in Anatolia, Syria, and Mesopotamia. In the city of Edessa (modern Şanlıurfa) the local Armenian population, worried about their fate, revolted (early 1916) against the Ottoman government and took control of the old city. Ottoman forces attacked the city and bombarded it with artillery but the Armenians resisted. The German General in command of the closest Ottoman army to the city, Baron von der Goltz, arrived and negotiated a settlement with the Armenians. In exchange for an Armenian surrender and disarmament, the Ottoman government agreed not to deport them. However, the Ottoman government broke the terms of the agreement and deported the Armenians.
The Special Organization (Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa)
While there was an official ‘special organization’ founded in December 1911 by the Ottoman government, a second organization that participated in what led to the destruction of the Ottoman Armenian community was founded by the lttihad ve Terraki. This organization technically appeared in July 1914 and was supposed to differ from the one already existing in one important point; mostly according to the military court, it was meant to be a “government in a government” (needing no orders to act).
Later in 1914, the Ottoman government decided to influence the direction the special organization was to take by releasing criminals from central prisons to be the central elements of this newly formed special organization. According to the Mazhar commissions attached to the tribunal as soon as November 1914, 124 criminals were released from Pimian prison. Many other releases followed; in Ankara a few months later, 49 criminals were released from its central prison. Little by little from the end of 1914 to the beginning of 1915, hundreds, then thousands of prisoners were freed to form the members of this organization. Later, they were charged to escort the convoys of Armenian deportees. Vehib, commander of the Ottoman third army, called those members of the special organization, the “butchers of the human species.”
The organization was led by the Central Committee Members Doctor Nazim, Behaeddin Sakir, Atif Riza, and former Director of Public Security Aziz Bey. The headquarters of Behaeddin Sakir were in Erzurum, from where he directed the forces of the Eastern vilayets. Aziz, Atif and Nazim Beys operated in Istanbul, and their decisions were approved and implemented by Cevat Bey, the Military Governor of Istanbul.
According to the commissions and other records, the criminals were chosen by a process of selection. They had to be ruthless butchers to be selected as a member of the special organization. The Mazhar commission, during the military court, has provided some lists of those criminals. In one instance, of 65 criminals released, 50 were in prison for murder. Such a disproportionate ratio between those condemned for murder; and others imprisoned for minor crimes is reported to have been generalized. This selection process of criminals was, according to some researchers in the field of comparative genocide studies, who specialize in the Armenian cases, clearly indicative of the government’s intention to commit mass murder of its Armenian population.
Domestic court-martials began on November 23, 1918. These courts were designed by the Sultan Mehmed VI, who blamed the Committee of Union and Progress for the destruction of the empire through pushing it into World War I. The Armenian issue was used as a tool in these courts to punish the leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress. Most of the documents generated in these courts later moved to international trials. By January 1919, a report to Sultan Mehmed VI accused over 130 suspects; most of them were high officials. Mehmed Talat Pasha and Ismail Enver had left Istanbul, before 1919, on the fact that Sultan Mehmed VI would not accept any verdict that does not include their life. The term “Three Pashas” generally refers to this prominent triumvirate that pushed the Ottomans into World War I.
The court-martials officially disbanded the Committee of Union and Progress, which had actively ruled the Ottoman Empire for ten years. All the assets of the organization were transferred to the treasury, and the assets of the people who were found guilty moved to “teceddüt firkasi.” According to verdicts handed down by the court, all members except for the Three Pashas were transferred to jails in Bekiraga, then moved to Malta. The Three Pashas were found guilty in absentia. The court-martials blamed the members of Ittihat Terakki for pursuing a war that did not fit into the notion of a Millet.
On May 24, 1915 the Triple Entente warned the Ottoman Empire that “In the view of these…crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization…the Allied governments announce publicly… that they will hold personally responsible… all members of the Ottoman government and those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres.
Following the Armistice of Mudros in January 1919, the preliminary Peace Conference in Paris (Paris Peace Conference, 1919) established “The Commission on Responsibilities and Sanctions” which was chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Lansing. Following the commission’s work, several articles were added to the treaty, and the acting government of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Mehmed VI and Damat Adil Ferit Pasha, were summoned to trial. The Treaty of Sèvres gave recognition of the Democratic Republic of Armenia and developed a mechanism to bring to trial the criminals of “barbarous and illegitimate methods of warfare… [including] offenses against the laws and customs of war and the principles of humanity.”
Article 230 of the Treaty of Sèvres required the Ottoman Empire, “to hand over to the Allied Powers the persons whose surrender may be required by the latter as being responsible for the massacres committed during the continuance of the state of war on territory which formed part of the Ottoman Empire on August 1, 1914.”
At the Military Trials in Istanbul in 1919 many of those responsible for the genocide were sentenced to death in absentia, after having escaped trial in 1918. It is believed that the accused succeeded in destroying the majority of the documents that could be used as evidence against them before they escaped. Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe, the British High Commissioner, described the destruction of documents: “Just before the Armistice, officials had been going to the archives department at night and making a clean sweep of most of the documents.” Aydemir, S.S., on the other hand, writes in his “Makedonyadan Ortaasyaya Enver Pasa.”:
“Before the flight of the top Committee of Union and Progress leaders, Talat Pasa stopped by at the waterfront residence of one of his friends on the shore of Arnavudköy, depositing there a suitcase of documents. It is said that the documents were burned in the basement’s furnace. Indeed …the documents and other papers of the CUP’s Central Committee are nowhere to be found.”
The military court established the will of the CUP to eliminate the Armenians physically, via its special organization. The Court Martial, Istanbul, 1919 pronounced sentences as follows:
“The Court Martial taking into consideration the above-named crimes declares, unanimously, the culpability as principal factors of these crimes the fugitives Talat Pasha, former Grand Vizir, Enver Efendi, former War Minister, struck off the register of the Imperial Army, Cemal Efendi, former Navy Minister, struck off too from the Imperial Army, and Dr. Nazim Efendi, former Minister of Education, members of the General Committee of Union and Progress, representing the moral person of that party;… the Court Martial pronounces, in accordance with said stipulations of the Law the death penalty against Talat, Enver, Cemal, and Dr. Nazim.”
While there is no clear consensus as to how many Armenians lost their lives during what is called the Armenian genocide and what followed, there is general agreement among Western scholars, with the exception of few dissident and Turkish national historians, that over a million Armenians may have perished between 1914 to 1923. The recent tendency seems to be, either presenting 1.2 million as a figure or even 1.5 million, while more moderately, “over a million” is presented, as the Turkish historian Fikret Adanir estimates, but this estimate excludes what followed 1917 – 1918.
The Position of Turkey
The Republic of Turkey does not accept that the deaths of Armenians during the “evacuation” or “deportation” (Turkey uses the word “relocation”) are the results of an intention from Ottoman authorities (or those in charge during the war) to eliminate in whole or in part the Armenian people indiscriminately.
The Position of Turkish Authorities
Some sympathetic to the Turkish official position note that Turkish governments have been very slow in answering to the genocide charges, even though nearly a century has passed since the events. In 1975 Turkish historian and biographer Sevket Sureyya Aydemir summarized the reasons for this delay. He said, “The best course, I believe, is not to dwell on this subject and allow both sides to forget (calm) this part of history.” This view was shared by the foreign ministry of Turkey at the time. Zeki Kuneralp, a former Turkish ambassador, had a different explanation, according to him “The liabilities of not publishing the historical documents outweigh the advantages.”
With Kamuran Gurun for the first time a controversial period of the Ottoman Empire began to be questioned by the Republic of Turkey. Other Turkish institutions followed Kamuran Gurun. The thesis brought by Armenian and foreign historians were then answered by analyzing the casualties of deportations, and the alleged casualties of inter-ethnic fighting, etc. Initial studies were basically on aggregated data issues, through classifications and categorizations. These discussions have been moved to issues such as why the Armenian resistance force failed to support a sustainable Armenian state and Ottoman military problems under insurgency. Most of these activities aim to find out and analyze the relationships of the controversial issues surrounding [[State organisation of the Ottoman state of the time; intending to have a better understanding of “why the choices of the Ottoman system had been shaped as they were.” These questions aim to bring the complexity of Ottoman history and dynamics of a blacked-out period beyond the current available arguments to surface so that the correct lessons in prevention of these activities can be taken.
Turkey often counters accusations of genocide by mentioning the plight of Ottoman Muslims throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. According to the historian Mark Mazower, Turkey resents the fact that the West is ignorant of the fate of millions of Muslims expelled from the Balkans and Russia, and would consider any apology towards Armenians as a confirmation of the anti-Turkish sentiment held by Western powers for centuries. Mazower recognizes a genocide of the Armenians, but he notes: “Even today, no connection is made between the genocide of the Armenians and Muslim civilian losses: the millions of Muslims expelled from the Balkans and the Russian Empire through the long nineteenth century remain part of Europe’s own forgotten past. Indeed, the official Turkish response is invariably to remind critics of this fact – an unconvincing justification for genocide, to be sure, but an expression of underlying resentment.”
The Turkish authorities hold the position that the deaths were the result of the turmoil of World War I and that the Ottoman Empire was fighting against Russia, who backed the Armenian volunteer units. The authorities assert that claims of genocide are based on non-existent Armenian unrest, or non-existent ethnic-religious conflicts, which are not established historical facts. Furthermore, they contend that there was a political movement towards creating a “Republic of Armenia.” The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the Balkanization process were in the same period, and may obfuscate the actual events.
The Turkish authorities maintain the position that the Ottoman Empire did not exercise the degree of control which the opposing parties claim. Turkey accepts that there were Armenian deaths as a result of Ottoman decisions, but states that those responsible Ottoman bureaucrats and military personnel were tried for their crimes.
The Turkish authorities claim that the Forced Deportations by themselves cannot be classified as acts of genocide by the state. They note that in 1915 there was only one railway that connects west-east and that the path of what it considers relocation was not a conspiracy to exterminate Armenians. Turkish authorities strongly reject claims that the locations of the camps which are mentioned in some sources are a result of a conspiracy to bury Armenians in deserts. Dayr az-Zawr is a district along the Euphrates and one of the unique places far away from any military activity; thus, Dayr az-Zawr’s selection as a burying site in a deserted location is rejected. They attribute the graves in these areas to difficulties of traveling under very hard conditions. The conditions of these camps reflected the condition of the Ottoman Empire. The Empire was facing the Gallipoli landings in the west, and the Caucasus Campaign in the east. Turkish authorities note that the war brought the end of the Empire financially and economically.
Without opening the archives in Armenia, it is said, it is difficult to determine with precision exactly what occurred during the deportations.
The Turkish authorities seek both historical and political reconciliation with Armenia, but claim that insistence on the term genocide is counterproductive.
As a scholarly study area, the field is highly divided, as the camps on both sides of this issue approach it very strongly.
- Turkish authorities constantly brought arguments related with single-source (Ottoman or Western) issues. They point out that without doing a triangulation, even if the facts were reported correctly, the conclusions drawn can be false. It is also possible to look at secondary sources in the Ottoman Archives of the period such as budget, allocations, decisions/reasons of requests. There are also personal records such as Mehmed Talat Pasha’s personal notes. They constantly point out the general attitude towards the Ottoman Empire as the “Sick man of Europe” of the time, and how it distorts perceptions. They claim the conclusions reached toward genocide are highly biased.
- Some very “central” (most cited) sources are actively questioned on the basis that they do not include a single reference from the Ottoman Archives. Mainly occupying force’s sources of the period (British, French) on the basis of their Intelligence (information gathering) issues. There are concerns that these sources may promote propaganda.
- Enver Zia Karal (Ankara University), Salahi R. Sonyel (British historian and public activist), Ismail Binark (Director of Ottoman archives, Ankara), Sinasi Orel (director of a much-publicized project on declassifying documents on Ottoman Armenians), Kamuran Gurun (former diplomat), Mim Kemal Oke, Justin McCarthy, and others have attacked the “Blue Book” The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-1916 by James Bryce and Arnold Toynbee, claiming that it lacks credibility.
- Reverse-engineering of activities aimed to provide evidence without covering opposing reasoning, such as “Map of Genocide,” which they claim contains factual problems. In this map, for the methodology behind “Centers of Massacre and Deportation” which was developed by compiling data from three different sources, (the data in these sources are also aggregate data), is questioned. Its use as a source of validation among Western scholars has been questioned.
- They bring up points on arguments that there was a “secret arrangement,” which can be traced through mismatches on orders and distributions of the forced deportations. They say without considering (or checking) periphery central transmissions on how to deal with emerging issues are actively questioned. There are many periphery central transmissions on how to deal with emerging issues, such as allocating more than 10 percent of the destination population and its consequences to the local economy.
Based on studies of the Ottoman census by Justin McCarthy and on contemporary estimates, it is said that far fewer than 1.5 million Armenians lived in the relevant areas before the War. Estimates of deaths are thus lowered, ranging from 200,000 to 600,000 between 1914 and the Armistice of Mudros. In addition, it is said that these deaths are not all related to the deportations, nor should they all be attributed to the Ottoman authorities.
Yusuf Halacoglu, President the Turkish Historical Society (TTK), presented lower figures of Armenian casualties. He estimates that a total of 56,000 Armenians perished during the period due to war conditions, and less than 10,000 were actually killed. This study is still absent from the Turkish foreign affairs publications.
Although the Nazis and the Young Turks both used forced deportations to expose their minority populations to privations, hunger, disease, and ultimate death; Turkish authorities also deny similarities with the Holocaust.
- Unlike the Armenians, the Jewish population of Germany and Europe did not agitate for separation. Armenian scholars reply that Holocaust deniers make similar false claims, namely the Jews agitated to destroy Germany by allying with the Soviet Union to bring Bolshevism into Germany.
- Arguments disputing the similarities to the Holocaust are as follows:
(a) there is no record (neither from origination archives nor from destination archives in Syria) of an effort to develop a systematic process and efficient means of killing; (b) there are no lists or other methods for tracing the Armenian population to assemble and kill as many people as possible; (c) there was no resource allocation to exterminate Armenians (biological, chemical warefare allocations), and the use of morphine as a mass extermination agent is not accepted; in fact, there was a constant increase in food and support expenses and these efforts continued after the end of deportations; (d) there is no record of Armenians in forced deportations being treated as prisoners; (e) the claims regarding prisoners apply only to the leaders of the Armenian militia, but did not extend to ethnic profiling; the size of the security force needed to develop these claims was beyond the power of the Ottoman Empire during 1915; (f) there is no record of prisons designed or built to match the claims of a Holocaust; (g) there were no public speeches organized by the central government targeting Armenians.
Academic Views on the Issue
There is a general agreement among Western historians that the Armenian Genocide did happen. The International Association of Genocide Scholars (the major body of scholars who study genocide in North America and Europe), for instance, formally recognize the event and consider it to be undeniable. Some consider denial to be a form of hate speech or/and historical revisionism.
Some Turkish intellectuals also support the genocide thesis despite opposition from Turkish nationalists; these include Ragip Zarakolu, Ali Ertem, Taner Akçam, Halil Berktay, Fatma Muge Gocek or Fikret Adanir.
The reasons why some Turkish intellectuals accept theses of genocide are threefold.
First, they cite the fact that the organization members were criminals, and that those criminals were specifically sent to escort the Armenians. This is regarded as sufficient evidence of the government’s criminal intent. Second, the fact that Armenians living outside the war zone were also removed, contradicts the thesis of military necessity put forward by the Ottoman government. Thirdly, it is argued that the thesis of simple relocation is flawed due to the absence of the preparations which resettlement would require. This lack of provision by the authorities has been read as evidence of the government’s intent to eliminate the displaced Armenians. Dr. Taner Akçam, a Turkish specialist, writes on this point:
“The fact that neither at the start of the deportations, nor en route, and nor at the locations, which were declared to be their initial halting places, were there any single arrangement required for the organization of a people’s migration, is sufficient proof of the existence of this plan of annihilation.”
These Turkish intellectuals believe that at the very least 600,000 Armenians lost their lives during the events, and they mostly use the Ottoman statistics of 800,000 or more. Fikret Adanir suggested that over a million died.
During a February 2005 interview with Das Magazin Orhan Pamuk, a famous Turkish novelist, made statements implicating Turkey in massacres against Armenians and persecution of the Kurds, declaring: “Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it.” Subjected to a hate campaign, he left Turkey, before returning in 2005 in order to defend his right to freedom of speech: “What happened to the Ottoman Armenians in 1915 was a major thing that was hidden from the Turkish nation; it was a taboo. But we have to be able to talk about the past”. Lawyers of two Turkish professional associations then brought criminal charges against Pamuk. On January 23, 2006, however, the charges of “insulting Turkishness” were dropped, a move welcomed by the EU – that they had been brought at all was still a matter of contention for European politicians.
Almost all Turkish intellectuals, scientists and historians accept that many Armenians died during the conflict, but they do not necessarily consider these events to be genocide. A number of Western academics in the field of Ottoman history, including Bernard Lewis (Princeton University), Heath Lowry (Princeton University), Justin McCarthy (University of Louisville), Gilles Veinstein (College de France), and Stanford Shaw (UCLA, Bilkent University) have expressed doubts as to the genocidal character of the events. They offer the opinion that the weight of evidence instead points to serious intercommunal warfare, perpetrated by both Muslim and Christian irregular forces, aggravated by disease and famine, as the causes of suffering and massacres in Anatolia and adjoining areas during the First World War. They acknowledge that the resulting death toll among the Armenian communities of the region was immense, but claim that much more remains to be discovered before historians will be able to sort out precisely responsibility between warring and innocent, and to identify the causes for the events which resulted in the death or removal of large numbers in eastern Anatolia.
The Position of the International Community
Although there has been much academic recognition of the Armenian Genocide, this has not always been followed by governments and media. Many governments, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Ukraine, and Georgia, do not officially use the word genocide to describe these events.
Although there is no federal recognition of the Armenian Genocide, 39 of the 50 U.S. states recognize the events of 1915 to 1917 as genocide.
In recent years, parliaments of a number of countries where Armenian diaspora has a strong presence have officially recognized the event as genocide. Two recent examples are France and Switzerland. Turkish entry talks with the European Union were met with a number of calls to consider the event as genocide, though it never became a precondition.
As of November 2014, 22 states have officially recognized the historical events as genocide.
Many newspapers for a long time would not use the word genocide without disclaimers such as “alleged” and many continue to do so. A number of those policies have now been reversed so that even casting doubt on the term is against editorial policy, as is the case with the New York Times.
International bodies that recognize the Armenian genocide include the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, the International Center for Transitional Justice, based on a report prepared for Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the World Council of Churches, the self-declared unofficial Parliament of Kurdistan in Exile, and the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal.
Impact on Culture
The idea for the memorial came in 1965, at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the genocide. Two years later the memorial designed by architects Kalashian and Mkrtchyan was completed at the Tsitsernakaberd hill above the Hrazdan gorge in Yerevan. The 44 metre stele]] symbolizes the national rebirth of Armenians. Twelve slabs are positioned in a circle, representing 12 lost provinces in present day Turkey. In the centre of the circle, in depth of 1.5 metres, there is an eternal flame. Along the park at the memorial there is a 100-metre wall with names of towns and villages where massacres are known to have taken place. In 1995 a small underground circular museum was opened at the other end of the park where one can learn basic information about the events in 1915. Some photos taken by German photographers (Turkish allies during World War I) including photos taken by Armin T. Wegner and some publications about the genocide are also displayed. Near the museum is a spot where foreign statesmen plant trees in memory of the genocide.
Each year on April 24 (Armenian Genocide Commemoration Holiday) hundreds of thousands of people walk to the genocide monument and lay flowers (usually red carnations or tulips) around the eternal flame. Armenians around the world mark the genocide in different ways, and many memorials have been built in Armenian Diaspora communities.
The well-known metal band System of a Down, four musicians all of Armenian descent but living in California, frequently promote awareness of the Armenian Genocide. Every year, the band puts on a Souls concert tour in support of the cause. The band wrote the song “P.L.U.C.K. (Politically Lying, Unholy, Cowardly Killers)” about this genocide in their eponymous debut album. The booklet reads: “System Of A Down would like to dedicate this song to the memory of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide, perpetrated by the Turkish Government in 1915.” Other songs, including “X” (Toxicity) and “Holy Mountains” (Hypnotize) are also believed to be about the Armenian genocide.
American composer and singer Daniel Decker has achieved critical acclaim for his collaborations with Armenian composer Ara Gevorgian. The song “Adana,” named after the city where one of the first massacres of the Armenian people took place, tells the story of the Armenian Genocide. Decker wrote the song’s lyrics to complement the music of Ara Gevorgian. Cross Rhythms, Europe’s leading religious magazine and web portal, said of the song “Adana,” “seldom has a disaster of untold suffering produced such a magnificent piece of art.” He was officially invited by the Armenian government to sing “Adana” at a special concert in Yerevan, Armenia on April 24, 2005 to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. To date, “Adana” has been translated into 17 languages and recorded by singers around the world.
The topic of Armenian Genocide is also occurring in film and literature. It is a major theme of Atom Egoyan’s film Ararat (2002). There are also references in Elia Kazan’s America, America or Henri Verneuil’s Mayrig. Well-known Italian directors Vittorio and Paolo Taviani are planning to make another Genocide film based on a book called La Masseria Delle Allodole (The Farm of the Larks), written by Antonia Arslan. The first film about the Armenian Genocide was Ravished Armenia (1919), but only a 15-minute segment remains today.
In literature, the most famous piece concerning the Armenian Genocide is Franz Werfel’s book Forty days of Musa Dagh, published in 1933 and subsequently marked as “undesirable” by German (Nazi) authorities. The book became a bestseller and the Hollywood studio MGM wanted to make Forty days of Musa Dagh as a film, but this attempt was successfully foiled by the Turkish government twice. The film was finally made independently in 1982, but its artistic value is questionable. Kurt Vonnegut wrote the 1988 fictional book Bluebeard, in which the Armenian Genocide was a major theme. Louis de Berniéres uses the time and place of the Armenian Genocide as a background in his novel Birds without Wings, which is considered by some as rather pro-Turkish. Another book using the Armenian Genocide topic is Edgar Hilsenrath’s The Story of the Last Thought (Das Märchen vom letzten Gedanken), published in 1989.
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- Toynbee characterized the Armenian massacres as genocide in much later works including Acquaintances (1967) and Experiences (1969). See Hans-Lukas Kieser‘s review of Halacoglu’s work.
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Originally published by New World Encyclopedia, 11.23.2016, under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.