April 24, 2007

Armenian Martyrs' Day

April 24th is the day we remember the victims of a forgotten genocide.

On April 24, 1915, turkish soldiers arrested 250 Armenians in the first of hundreds of raids designed to wipe out the Armenian population of turkey.

Armenian villages were rousted one by one, and the men ordered to leave at once and serve the turkish army.  Boys as young as 9 or 10, and men as old as 70.  Many never made that far, as turkish soldiers often took these "new recruits" not to the army camps but out to the woods, where they were summarily executed.  The women and girls, thus undefended, were easy prey for the turkish soldiers.

Those who remained behind were forced from their lands, homes, and belongings, and force-marched to "settlement camps" in remote areas.  Many died along the way from exhaustion, starvation, and exposure to the elements.  According to French scholars Joel Kotek and Pierre Rigoulot, there were up to 25 such camps.

But the Armenian's plight was nowhere near as unknown, even in that day, as it is now.  Despite the lack of internet, video cameras, and TV screens, in 1915 the plight of the Armenians was a worldwide topic of discussion.  US Consular officials, as early as July of 1915, were concerned enough to beg the US government to step in. 

(click to enlarge)

No less than Winston Churchill, then Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty noted, "the clearance of race from Asia Minor was about as complete as such an act could be...There is no reason to doubt that that this crime was planned and executed for political reasons. The opportunity presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race opposed to all Turkish ambitions."  And he was then in the midst of the "war to end all wars" against Germany!

During 1915, the New York Times paper published 145 articles about the mass murder of the Armenian people, describing the massacre as "systematic, "authorized" and "organized by the government." In 1918, Theodore Roosevelt called it "the greatest crime of the war."

But today, no one even knows it happened

Denialists of all stripes, from US and EU officials who find turkey's past "annoying", to the turks themselves who believe such raids were justified to "pick up deserters" (yeah, little old men, deserters.  right.) have managed to decrease the general public's awareness of these atrocities.  But they happened.  There was no Photoshop in 1915.  All of the horrible pictures you see here are real.

Despite missions from the US and UK, Austria, France, and others, the plight of the Armenians faded off the radar screen as war in Europe intensified.

Looks a lot like Germany around 1942, huh? 

In fact,  Adolf Hitler said of the Armenian Genocide: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"as his justification for the atrocities carried out on the Jews and others during the Nazi's reign over Germany.

We did not forget.  We do not forget.  We will always remember.

My previous remembrances here.  This stays on top all day.

Posted by caltechgirl at April 24, 2007 09:50 AM | TrackBack

I remember - although I didn't know there was a special day of remembrance.

Posted by: Teresa at April 24, 2007 02:54 PM

Until recently, this awful event was only 'vaguely' in my realm of knowledge. Thank you for making it more than a footnote. Evil simply does not go away if we ignore it or pretend it didn't happen. We must never forget, or it will happen again (as history has shown).

Posted by: Mrs. Who at April 24, 2007 03:38 PM

Let me echo Mrs. Who's sentiments . . .thank you for the education.

Posted by: Anita at April 25, 2007 04:41 AM

I'd never heard of it until I was in college. In 1975 I spent the weekend with a good friend of mine, Armenian. His family showed me the photo albums of all his relatives, perished. Only his maternal grandparents escaped to America. They were quite passionate about the subject, naturally.

Posted by: Velociman at April 25, 2007 06:59 AM