Can you imagine yourself living during the time that WWI was going on? Im pretty sure youd be terrified to even walk out of your house. Like it wasnt bad enough that the whole world was at each others 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. Im 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 (Armenias 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 dont recall the Armenian Genocide. 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-Turkism2. 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 here 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 marches9.
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 laughtering10.
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 had already been stolen. Deportees were reduced to almost subhuman conditions. Most were stripped of their clothes, and their bodies were infested with lice12. They were also not allowed to drink any water, if a gendarme13 saw anyone drinking water they would shoot them, even if they were drinking from a dirty puddle. Starvation was another common death.
Many were forced to eat the grass that grew alongside the road. The conditions for women and children was terrible. Mothers would sometime have to abandon their children for it seemed as though it was their last resort. Girls were often raped by the gendarmes which often lead them to commit suicide. Arm in arm several girls would throw themselves over cliff tops or jump in the Euphrates River to be left to drown14. Nearly 75 percent of the Armenian community suffered the brutal beatings and losts. Only 25% of the Armenians survived what we call the Armenian Genocide.
The Turks that deny that the Armenian Genocide never occurred are liars. Fifty years after the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government would refer to the genocide of the Armenians as alleged15. There are so many facts that prove that the Genocide did take place. The killing and torturing methods, the high death tolls, and the subhuman conditions that were bestowed upon them, are all certainties that make the genocide factual. How can they deny that it never occurred if just coincidentally, millions of Armenians just perished off the face of the earth? There are logical reasons and proof, from the stories of the survivors, hat the Armenians were indeed, annihilated by the Turks. There were many onlookers who, in fact, witnessed the massacres committed and lived through the awful reality of the genocide itself. If the Turks deny to be held responsible for the killings of the Armenians, then why were they deported and took on what they call death marches? More than half of the Armenian population (men, women, and children) were forced to leave their homes to go where they would meet their fatality. This survivor describes the journey of the death marches Anyone who would fall behind would be shot on the spot16.
Since this was a spectator who actually witnessed the crime, its a proven fact that the Turks did, in fact, commit a genocide. Other witnesses, such as the wives and children who survived, recall the brutal killings of their husbands or father, a typical scenario17. When the caravans reached the city limits, the men were separated from the group; gendarmes tied their hands and escorted them away from their families. Wives and children heard gun shots ring out, and then the gendarmes returned alone…. 18 This is a chilling thought, but it did occur and its another fact that makes the Turks accountable for the iquidation of the Armenian people. Another fact that proves that the Turks are responsible for the annihilation of the Armenians, are the subhuman conditions that usually led to painful deaths. Many Armenians were filthy and were often burned from exposure19. Many had been stripped of their clothes, and their bodies were infested with lice20. Many were so weak and sore from walking hundreds of miles with little clothing, or water nor food. A survivor describes her physical condition, I had gotten so weak that I couldnt stand up. I was reduced to bones by this time, half dead21.
This quote shows the cruel and subhuman conditions that were bestowed upon the Armenians by the Turks. At night they had no tents or any type of shelter. Most of the deportees22 had nearly every possession they owned embezzled from them by gendarmes before they were deported. Most families, as big a six to eight members, had to share one blanket during the cold, bitter nights. Staying close together, which created body heat, was the only thing that really kept them warm since there were no mattresses or pillows to lie on. Sometimes it would rain all night and their clothing and blankets would be soaking wet from the rain, but at he same time, they were also rejoiced because they received some water. Its a pitiable situation to even discuss, but once again the Turks are at blame. There were also frequent reports of starvation and dehydration. Many survivors recall that there was a lack of food and water. It was so bad that there was a number of Armenian people who died from the lack of food and water supplies. One survivor remembers an incident while struggling to get a sip of water. We came up to a place where there was a large tree. Under it was a dirty puddle accumulated from rain and where animals had urinated.
People threw themselves on the water, but gendarmes began shooting and wouldnt allow anyone to drink23. This indicates that the Turks corrupt intentions were to literally kill them in all means, weather it was cruel, cheap, or painful. They are held responsible for the millions of Armenian lives lost and clearly, are the ones who are at fault. Armenians were basically puppet toys who were amusement for the Turks. The Turks inhumane acts were very discouraging. They would rape twelve year old girls until theyve been terribly abused and would die. The virgins were errified of being raped, or abducted so hundreds of them would drown themselves in a single day. According to a survivor who witnessed the suicides, Virgin girls holding each others hands, threw themselves into the River Euphrates24. The Turks acted as though Armenian were trophies of some sort. They would pose in pictures with the heads of Armenian men and women. Women were stripped of their clothes and were hung by their long hair and then killed by beheading. Witnesses recall seeing dead corpses on the side of the road that were so decapitated that the fat from the bodies would be melted around the body.
The odor was so bad that it cause health issues. In order to dispose the rotting bodies, the Turks gathered them all up and poured kerosene over them and burned them. In some cases theyve burned people alive. A survivor recalls her cousin being burned alive. They took part of our group to a cave and killed them… the way they killed them was to put them in the cave, place wood in front of it, and burn them25. In conclusion, the Turks are held responsible for the Armenian Genocide. What theyre denying is absolutely false, and I proved that with several facts that backed up my thesis.
My sixth grade teacher once told me that a genocide seeks no difference between men and women, between children and adults. That it understands no righteousness and tolerates no principle which invests life with meaning and individuals with rights. The Turks believed it was okay to kill a Armenian and to get away with it. They believed that it was okay to starve them and send them on death marches. They believed it was okay to rape the women, and it was okay to kill the men as well as the children. The Armenians were not humans in their eyes, they were considered animals, or even objects.
Mechanically operated robots of some sort, who were expected to walk practically-forever, in the middle of a deserted desert with nothing living within hundreds of miles away. No one to witness the killings. No one to hear their cries for help. No one to come and rescue them. And the Turks are blameworthy. Between 1915-1923, more than one million Armenian lives were taken. It is described as the first genocide in the twentieth century. The people of Armenia suffered prolong despair, devastation, torture, and brutality that will remain in history forever.