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THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE OF 1915: AN OVERVIEW

Author: Vaibhav Goyal, IV year of BA.LLB(H) from University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University (SSGRC, Hsp.), Chandigarh


“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

-Lord Acton


President Joe Biden on Saturday became the first US president to recognize officially the genocide of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during World War I in 1915, officially recognizing the killings of an expected 1.5 million Armenians risking relations with Turkey however flagging a guarantee of the preservation of human rights and satisfying election campaign promise of officially recognizing the same.


Biden's assertion was promptly criticized by Ankara. "We dismiss and reprimand in the most grounded terms the assertion of the President of the US in regards to the occasions of 1915 made under the pressure of extremist Armenian circles and against Turkey bunches on April 24," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in an explanation Saturday and termed Biden’s act as a "grave error." Turkish Presidency correspondences chief Fahrettin Altun, said that "the Biden’s choice to misportray history out with an eye on homegrown political computations is a genuine setback for Turkey-U.S. relations." Prominent Armenians, including Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, invited the move on Saturday.


Biden is the first US pioneer to use the word "genocide" for the occasions of 1915-1923. Past presidents, including George W. Hedge and Barack Obama, made comparable election vows to recognize the Armenian genocide, yet never fulfilled while in office. In 1981, Ronald Reagan made a passing reference to "the genocide of the Armenians" during a program honouring survivors of the Holocaust. Trump also had once, inadvertently recognized the genocide but the same was amended later by the White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, that the same was a reference to an "Armenian Genocide Memorial" in Denver, Colorado. With the US on Saturday, 30 nations — including France, Germany, and Russia.


The one who coined the term "genocide"— Raphael Lemkin, Polish-Jewish advocate — was moved to research the endeavour to wipe out a whole group by records of the genocides of Armenians. He didn't coin the word until 1943, applying it to Nazi Germany and the Jews in a book released a year later, "Axis Rule in Occupied Europe."Just before World War I, there were 20,00,000 Armenians in the declining Ottoman Empire. By 1922, there were less than 4,00,000. The others — some 1.5 million — were executed in what history specialists term a genocide.


In the United States, a strong and influencing Armenian community-based in Los Angeles has been demanding and pressurizing for quite a long time to recognize the Armenian genocide. Turkey, which dissolved the military connections to France over a similar action, has responded with an angry reaction. The Bush government, noticing that Turkey is a critical partner — more than 70% of the military air supplies for Iraq go through the Incirlik air base there — dissolved the bill of recognition in 2007.


In January 1915, Enver Paşa endeavoured to push back the Russians at the clash of Sarıkamış, just to endure the more terrible Ottoman loss in the conflict. Albeit helpless general-ship and cruel conditions were the fundamental reasons behind the misfortune, the Young Turk government looked to move the fault to Armenian treachery. Armenian soldiers and other non-Muslims in the military were grounded and moved to labour battalions. The incapacitated Armenian officers were then methodically killed by Ottoman soldiers, the principal survivors of what might become genocide.


After the defeat at Sarıkamış, the Ottoman government started to expel Armenians from Eastern Anatolia because their presence was a danger to national security. In May the Ottoman Parliament passed enactment officially approving the extradition. The Armenian civilians were taken out of their homes and walked through the valleys of Eastern Anatolia toward desert concentration camps. The extradition, which was managed by civil and military authorities, was joined by an orderly plan of mass homicide executed by the irregular forces in addition to neighbouring Kurds and Circassians.


Conservatives account that approximately 600,000 over 1,000,000 Armenians were slaughtered or murdered in the genocide. Survivors who arrived in the deserts of Syria grieved by inhumane imprisonments, many starved to death, and genocides proceeded into 1916 also. By the end, more than 90% of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were killed, and records of their past existence had been eradicated. The abandoned homes and property of the Armenians in Eastern Anatolia were allotted to the Muslim outcasts, and surviving ladies and youngsters were compelled to surrender their Armenian identities and convert to Islam.


Following the surrender of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the Three Pashas escaped to Germany, where they were given asylum. However, the Armenian underground framed Operation Nemesis to chase them down. On March 15, 1921, one of the pashas was shot dead on a road in Berlin in broad daylight visible to all. The shooter upon trial pleaded for occasional insanity for the killings which was accepted by the jury and he was acquitted within an hour.


References

Cameron Peters, Why Biden’s statement recognizing the Armenian genocide is a big deal, Vox, April 24, 2021

Kevin Liptak, Biden officially recognizes the genocide of Armenians in World War I as genocide, CNN, April 24, 2021

John Kifner, Armenian Genocide of 1915: An Overview, The New York Times. Archived on April 25, 2021

Ronald Grigor Suny, Armenian Genocide: Turkish-Armenian history, Britannica, May 19, 2020

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, The Armenian Genocide (1915-16): Overview, Holocaust Encyclopedia. Archived on April 25, 2021

Julian Borger and Martin Chulov, Biden becomes first US president to recognise the Armenian genocide, The Guardian, April 24, 2021