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An Unspeakable Tragedy That Needs to be Heard

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Picture of Tatev Monastery in Armenia
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Picture of starving Armenian children on a death march

Adolf Hitler once said, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” The extermination of millions of Armenians is a historical and global tragedy, however to this day, over one-hundred years later, some governments refuse to acknowledge it. Dozens of countries, from South America, to Europe and parts of Asia all recognize the atrocities committed by the Turkish government against the Armenians, however, Turkey and their close ally Azerbaijan abstain from recognizing this awful event. According to Rebecca Joyce Frey in her book Genocide and International Justice, “The governments of Turkey and its close ally Azerbaijan are the only ones that directly deny the historical factuality of the Armenian Genocide, and both are adamantly opposed to the recognition of the genocide by other nations, threatening economic and diplomatic consequences to recognizers.” Not only do they not recognize the Armenian genocide, but they are so forcefully against the idea that it occurred that they are willing to impose political and financial threats against those who dare to call the systematic extermination of Armenians by its name: genocide. Today, Armenians are making great strides to draw recognition to their genocide, and even have Pope Francis’s support, who referred to it as the “First genocide of the 20th century.”

To fully understand the horrendous murders of the Armenians, the Armenian Genocide Memorial, Tsitsernakaberd provides in depth description of the slaughter. “Torture techniques widely used included mutilation, horseshoeing human feet, bayoneting children, and the mass burning of live people. Thousands of women and children were driven away to the Arabian deserts, were drowned in the Euphrates, and thousands more were drowned in the Tsovk. The most dreadful and cruel way of killing was target practice on the wombs of pregnant women or burying children alive. They squashed children under the hooves of their horses.” Clearly the methods of extermination were inhumane and cruel, thus you can see why the Armenians have made it their mission to push for recognition of the mass murders. Not only does public recognition of the atrocity help a people with their grief, it is also key to stopping such a bloodbath from occurring again. As Hitler implied in his infamous quote, when an entire nation can be wiped out without the world’s intervening, what’s to stop a despot from doing it again?

The history between Armenia and Turkey goes way back. The bad blood between the two nations started back in the 15th century, when the Muslim Ottoman Empire of Turkey absorbed the Christian nation of Armenia. The Ottomans’ oppression of the Armenians started quickly after they took control. Although they permitted Armenians to maintain their religion, they subjected Armenians to unfair treatment. Hundreds of years later, the oppression of Armenians continued, when between 1894-96, hundreds of thousands of peaceful Armenian protesters were slaughtered, and Armenian villages were ransacked. Later in the early 1900s, when a new governmental group in Turkey called “The Young Turks” took over, Armenians were optimistic that under this new regime they would finally be treated with respect and equality. They were gravely mistaken. The Young Turks main mission was to “Turkify” their empire and they saw Armenia as a threat. A few years later, Turkey used World War 1 as a means to try and expel the Armenians, and in 1915, the Armenian Genocide occurred.

The Armenian Genocide is a recognized fact in not just Armenian history, but also in all of European History. Armenians were forced on death marches throughout the Mesopotamian Desert, and Turks even crucified Armenian children. In total, over 1.5 millions Armenian men, women, and children were slaughtered in the period between 1915-1918. However, after WW1, when Turkey surrendered, the leaders of the Young Turks fled to Germany where they had been promised protection from persecution for the genocide they had committed. Although Germany never outrightly supported Turkey on their mission to exterminate the Armenians, Ambassador Wolf-Metternich said, “”Their successes are due to our work, to our officers, to our cannons and to our money. Without our help, the inflated frog is bound to collapse.” Metternich, the German Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire was one of the only German officials who viewed the Genocide as a tragedy, and actively opposed his country’s support of Turkey’s atrocities. Today, the Turkish government has still refused to acknowledge the fact that the genocide even took place, and it is even illegal for people in Turkey to mention the Armenian Genocide.

Despite the fact that the Genocide happened over one-hundred years ago, the tensions between Turkey and Armenia are as high as ever. On January 29th, 2019,  two Armenian private schools in California were vandalized by Turkish radicals. They came in at night and draped Turkish flags all over the campuses of both schools. They hung the flags on the entrance gates, the stairways that lead to the offices and classrooms, and there were even flags that were on the steps of the church on-site. The LAPD is treating this as a “hate incident”, therefore security has been increased, and many precautions regarding the safety of the students and families attending the school are being taken.

To further put this incident into perspective, this would be the equivalent of someone putting numerous swastikas in front of a Jewish school. Both people groups overcame large amounts of persecution and hate, however, at least the Jews have been offered reparations and acknowledgment of their holocaust; the Armenians still lack this necessary admission on the part of the Turkish government. To add salt to the Armenians’ wounds, hanging Turkish flags on the Armenian schools only serves to further remind the Armenian people of their past suffering and pain, and to mock their desire to bring justice to one of the world’s crimes.

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Picture of Ferrahian Armenian school, that was vandalized by Turkish flags

Works Cited hyperlinks

https://armenianweekly.com/2019/01/29/armenian-schools-in-california-vandalized-with-turkish-flags/

“Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Nazi Germany (1933-45).” Frequently https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/armenian-genocide

Asked Questions about the Armenian Genocide, www.armenian-genocide.org/hitler.html.

“Armenian Genocide Recognition.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Feb. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide_recognition.

Frey, Rebecca Joyce. Genocide and International Justice. Facts On File, 2009.

“Armenia Travel Guide.” National Geographic, National Geographic, www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/asia/armenia/.

Abrahamyan, Lusine. “The 1915−1916 Armenian Genocide: An Ideology, Course and Consequences.” Hayern Aysor, 17 Aug. 2015, hayernaysor.am/en/archives/125826.

The Armenian Mirror-Spectator. “LAPD Investigates Turkish Flags Hung at Armenian Schools.” The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, 7 Feb. 2019, mirrorspectator.com/2019/02/07/lapd-investigates-turkish-flags-hung-at-armenian-schools/.

16 Comments

  1. Gabe, thank you for bringing this tragedy to our attention. I had not heard about the school in CA. This is a well written piece and hopefully more people will read it and learn history so we don’t repeat it. Mrs Hudson

  2. Great job, Gabe. The adamant denial of the genocide is just as if not more horrifying than the systematic and brutal murder of those Armenians. Hopefully more people will continue to hear about and condemn the genocide.

    • That was really good. Awesome job, Gabe Ratcliffe. If you think the topic of what you read was good, do you know who Lecrae is?

    • thanks Gabe! About 2 years ago, I actually visited Armenia and went to the Armenian Genocide Museum, which was built in honor of all those who were ruthlessly murdered during the genocide. Quite similar to the Holocaust, it was truly shocking and horrifying to read and see what happened to the Armenians, as the museum included footages, photographs, and accounts of the cruel methods the Turkish used to exterminate them.
      This article is very accurate and well-written–awesome job! Indeed, this unspeakable tragedy must reach the ears of those who have not heard of it!

  3. Thanks Gabe! I did not know about this, but I’m glad you brought it to light to us tps students.

  4. Corrie Anna Campbell

    Awesome job, Gabe. The tremendous effort you put into this article is obvious, and you are doing good and important work by raising awareness of the scale of this tragedy. Nice job. 🙂

  5. If anyone here is interested in historical fiction/biographies, try The Road from Home by David Kherdian. It’s about this genocide, told from the perspective of a young girl who lived through it. It doesn’t get graphic… just sad.

  6. This is so terrible. It’s hard for me to understand why people would do something like this. Thank you for writing about this and for raising awareness.

  7. I never knew about any of this! Thank you for bringing this topic to light. The bit about the horrific methods of killing people brought tears to my eyes especially the bit about the children and pregnant women. I will never forget this, your powerful writing has ensured that. I still dont understand WHY they did that to all those people though. 🙁

    • Wow, thank you so much Bella. I really tried to bring to light what happened, I am glad the article impacted you.

  8. Thank you for this article. I was born in Armenia and it is an important but very sad part of our history.