Photo by Getty Images: LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 24: Members of the Armenian-American community and activists rally near the Turkish Consulate to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915 on April 24, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
For many centuries, the Armenian people have inhabited the Caucasus region of Eurasia. At the beginning of the 4th century A.D., the Armenians established their kingdom and became the first nation to make Christianity its formal religion. However, the Armenians often found themselves under the rule of other empires, and in the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire seized Armenia. Although the Ottoman rulers allowed religious minorities, such as the Armenians, to maintain some independence, they also viewed them as heathens and subjected them to unjust treatment. When the Ottoman Empire began to collapse, the caliphate grew wary that the Christian Armenians would betray them for Christian governments. To maintain power, the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II ordered officials and soldiers to ransack Armenian communities.
Rise of the Young Turks
In 1908, a new political movement, called the Young Turks, came into power and overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid. The Young Turks established a modern constitutional government that aimed to make everyone equal. For a short moment, it seemed that the new leadership would support the Armenians, but they soon learned that the reformers intended to create a nation that was homogeneously Turkish.
World War I & and the Armenian Genocide Beginning
In 1914, the Ottoman Empire formally entered World War I with the Germans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Military officials began to target the Armenians and call them traitors. With war on the horizon, the Armenians assembled volunteer units to assist the Russian army against the Turks along the Eastern Front. The Armenians’ efforts to help the enemy further prompted Turkish suspicion. On April 24, 1915, the government declared the removal of the Armenians; and on that same day, hundreds of Armenian patriarchs were captured and executed by the Turkish government. Soon after, every Armenian was ordered out of their home and community and sent on death marches. They traveled along the Mesopotamian desert with no food or water for hours and days on end. The military leaders also forced the marchers to walk naked in the heat until they dropped dead, and they shot those who could not keep up with the rest of the group. The Young Turks formed “killing squads” to murder Armenians: they threw them in rivers and off cliffs, beheaded them, crucified them, and burned them alive. At the time of the Ottoman Empire, there were 2 million Armenians, but in 1922, after the genocide was complete, there were only 388,000 Armenians left.
History.com Editors. “Armenian Genocide.” HISTORY, A&E Television
Networks, 20 Sept. 2018, www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/armenian-