The genocide that caused the death of 1.5 million Armenians

Almost 104 years ago around 1.5 million Armenians were murdered during the Armenian Genocide.

The Armenian Genocide took place from April 24, 1915 to 1917 where 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire. Back then, the Ottoman Empire was one of the biggest and most powerful states. It was partitioned by the Allied Forces after World War I.

Largely Christian, the Armenians were a religious minority in a majority-Muslim country. They did not enjoy equal rights and were subject to violent repression. After the outbreak of the first World War, the Ottoman Empire considered them a threat to national security.  

In early January 1915, Turkish soldiers arrested intellectuals, editors, authors and religious leaders of Armenian descent. Back then, there were around 2 million Armenians living in Armenia but after the Genocide up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed due to starvation and decapitation. They were taken on death marches to the Syrian desert and the majority died of starvation or were killed by soldiers.

First, they took all men for marches while leaders were assassinated and tortured. On April 24th, 1915 they arrested all the women and children and marched them out of town as well. Anyone who tried to escape or hide in buildings or churches was burned alive. Turkish soldiers poured gasoline on these buildings and sealed the doors, burning down the buildings and all the people inside. Some people were also loaded onto boats and thrown into the river to drown. Turkish soldiers told the marchers that if anybody struggles while marching they will be shot. Women and young girls were raped and abused daily. If someone felt tired or fell on the ground because of starvation they were also shot. The soldiers had wooden sticks with them to beat and kill women and children. They even raped women in front of others.

The marchers that tried helping the women and kids were all killed too. Some of the Armenians were marched to rivers and were told they could have water but while they were drinking they were all shot. Whoever didn’t die from one shot was killed some other way. Everyone in the death march was barefoot and naked, walking under the scorching desert sun, starving and unable to rest. The soldiers took all of their clothes and valuables to sell for money. All the Armenians that escaped the death march were moved to the Middle East, Syria. During this time, Armenians were put on slave markets and sold to Turkish families. Young girls were sold to the highest bidder to be servants and sex slaves. After a month or two of marching a lot of people couldn’t bare to go any further and decided to take their own lives instead of being sold or raped and abused by the Turkish soldiers.

The few marchers that made it to the desert were put in concentration camps and then released into the desert with no food or water. All of the people from that camp died. They were released because they were all weak and dying, and were no longer of use to the soldiers. During the death marches anyone that tried escaping the death march or anyone that tried to get some water from the rivers were shot by the Turkish soldiers.

After the genocide, the Turks took the Western part of Armenia which is now known as the Eastern side of Turkey. Many Armenians settled in different places in the world.

Turkey still denies everything about the Armenian Genocide and says that it never happened, even though 28 other countries have recognized the Genocide as legitimate including Canada and 48 out of 50 states in the United States.

Every year in Canada on April 24th, people gather on the east side of the parliament building in Ottawa, to remember the event. On the west side, a small group of Turkish people gather and protest against this and continue to deny the genocide.

Although Turkey does not recognize the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian people stay strong and have remembered the genocide every year for the past 103 years. Armenians don’t want Turkey to apologize for the genocide, but for the Armenian Genocide to be recognized by Turkey and history.

Image: Archive of the German Assistance Association

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