EDITORIAL: 97th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

2012 commemorates the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 during which an estimated 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children lost their lives at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. The massacres took place across three years, but April 24th marks the day of the event which eventually snowballed into the ethnic cleansing process. Josef Stalin, the most oppressive of the Soviet leaders, has been quoted to say: “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” This appears to be the philosophy under which Talaat Pasha ordered the arrests of around 250 Armenian intellectuals and influential figures on that day in Constantinople, modern day Istanbul. This event muffled the voices of the Armenian civilians living in the area and ensured that the subsequent acts of violence on a much larger scale remained behind closed doors.

Throughout the period of time in which Genocide occurred, torturous acts were inflicted upon those suffering under the Ottoman regime. With the First World War as their wool across the eyes of Europe, the Turks carried out their brutal deeds; rape, torture and murder are just a few of the barbaric ordeals the Armenians underwent. Methods of killing favoured by the Turkish soldiers included the dousing of virgins in petrol before setting them alight, using swords to tear open the stomachs of pregnant women and extract their infants, and capsizing boats full of women and children in the Black Sea. It is undeniable that the infliction of such atrocities was nothing less than intentional.

The main event of the Armenian Genocide is seen to be the deportations and the death marches through the Syrian Desert, Der Zor. Armenians were told to leave their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs in order to be relocated as a safety precaution. The so-called ‘relocation’ turned out, in actuality, to be the beginning of a death march through the desert, along which the Armenians were slowly killed either at the hands of the Turkish soldiers or due to their lack of basic necessities such as food and water. The torn leather of their shoes exposed wounds on their feet due to the lengths they had walked. Everybody, young and old alike, desperately clung to one another for support and reassurance; but none could be provided. The results of the marches were inevitable. Death was the only way out.

The Armenians became independent of the Ottoman Empire on May 28th 1918, a day which is marked as the nation’s first independence. The Armenian Genocide is easily comparable to the Jewish Holocaust, and it is often argued that Hitler used the work of Talaat as the foundation on which he constructed his plans to extinguish the Jews, and that the Holocaust was therefore simply a projection of the Armenian Genocide. Hitler himself said, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” thereby commending Talaat’s sinister ‘achievements’. Both of these despicable figures planned and condoned the terrible acts with the cruel intention to wipe out an entire race. Both failed.

In the 21st Century, the Armenian Genocide has been recognised as a historical event in twenty countries. While we as Diasporan Armenians are grateful for this amount of support, we must also be aware that this is not the limit of our capability. As a minority, we will inevitably have difficulties in having our voices heard in the world of politics and therefore must continue to work hard in order to achieve more. By working together as one race, the Armenians will continue to thrive. We aim for recognition not just from the superpowers, but indeed also from the perpetrating nation; however, small successes along the way will contribute to the greater good. William Saroyan, an American-Armenian author of the 20th Century, wrote in his 1936 book, Inhale and Exhale, “I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race”, which is definitive of our nation. Whilst modern day Turkey is almost a world power thanks to their global position and resourcefulness, Armenia remains small and insignificant in the eyes of the world; however, we continue our struggle. As Saroyan’s statement implied, they tried to destroy us, but owing to the strength of the faith of our ancestors, we are still here today.

We will remember for the 97th year the destruction and brutality inflicted upon our forefathers. We will not cease our campaign against violation of human rights; we will continue to fight for the recognition of historical facts, and, crucially, we will maintain our unity. We are, and always will be, the Armenians.

“For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia” – William Saroyan, 1936

— Arpi Stepanian, AYF London

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