BY STANLEY R. SURABIAN
On April 24, 2019, the 104th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the world community will honor the more than 2.2 million Armenians tortured and massacred starting with the 1894-96 Hamidian Massacres of Ottoman Turkey’s Christian population, mostly Armenians, Greeks & Assyrians and ending over 25 years later; some say it has not yet ended.
The portion of the genocide beginning on April 24, 1915, is now commemorated annually by the world’s citizenry. Why April 24? That was the day that the Armenian intellectuals in the nation were murdered by the Ottomans. Without cause, most were hanged in public squares of major population centers such as Istanbul (Constantinople).
Next able-bodied Armenian men were conscripted into Turkey’s military service. Once rounded up where they could be “managed,” the men were killed. The Armenian male population became an ineffectual entity; the Ottoman Turks deported the remaining Armenian citizenry, consisting of mostly women, children and the aged.
Forced on “death” marches toward the Syrian desert, most perished by starvation, dehydration, torture and murder. Those Armenians who reached the Der Zor Desert of Ottoman-controlled Syria were put in concentration camps and systematically murdered while originally thinking they would survive.
Torture was always accompanied by murder. Criminals were released from jails if they would assist in the crimes. After all they were criminals and were eager for their freedom.
There were numerous forms of torture:
▪ Rape of women and children.
▪ Robbery and ransacking the helpless victims of the “death” march.
▪ Confiscation and theft of the property and possessions of the deportee population.
▪ Starvation, never being given food or water.
▪ Impaling infants, children and pregnant women, including crucifixion.
▪ Locking deportees in churches or other structures and burning them alive.
Turkey’s Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) was led by the ruling triumvirate of Talaat Pasha (perpetrator of the genocide), Enver Pasha (war minister) and Jamal Pasha (the “bloodthirsty”). Documentation by genocide scholars of Talaat Pasha’s written orders of extermination are published and available; yet, extermination of the Armenians occurred without any major threat to the CUP. After the end of World War I, the then-new Turkish government convicted the three Pashas to death in abstentia; yet, modern Turkey denies there was genocide.
The events of the Armenian killings were well documented, but the term “genocide” was not in our lexicon until Raphael Lemkin coined the term in 1944, at that time because of the Armenian Genocide and then the Holocaust.
Currently, Turkey says these events were part of World War I, where both Armenians and Turks were killed. Turkey says Armenians were an internal threat to the nation and aligned with Russia. The flaw was the men were slaughtered, and weapons were confiscated under Enver Pasha’s direct orders.
Women, infants, children and the aged did not pose any threat to the Ottomans. Turkey’s denial is implausible. Turkey is angered that France and Italy once again recently reaffirmed commemoration of the Armenian Genocide on April 24.
Turkey’s rueful denial in the modern age falls on deaf ears. The Turkish government threatens recriminations to any nation supporting recognition of the term “Armenian Genocide.” It will be a slow process for Turkey to admit that a genocide was committed against Turkey’s Christian population. Perhaps, it is appropriate that they remain immovable on this issue. Few people believe them. Does it matter? After all they are still Ottomans.
Dr. Stanley R. Surabian is Community Medical Centers’ emeritus chief of dentistry and program director, general practice residency.