April 24th is the day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide- an often forgotten genocide that took place in modern day Turkey during World War I.
It was implemented through wholesale massacres and deportations, with the deportations consisting of forced marches under conditions designed to
lead to the death of the deportees. The total number of resulting Armenian deaths is generally held to have been between 1 million and 1.5
Arguably, this genocide was just as bad as the holocaust- the Ottoman Empire didn't have the time or the industrial strength and technology to
exterminate human beings as efficiently as the Nazis did in World War II.
I highly recommend reading through the entire wikipedia article about the genocide, and I'll get to why I think it's important and relevant in the
modern day after I give a brief overview for those short on time or attention.
The Ottoman Empire conquered and ruled Armenia for over 400 years; seeing as how the Empire was an Islamic-based monarchy, it isn't surprising that
the Christian Armenians were treated as second class citizens. Stories of habitual rape, murder, tyranny and theft abound, and massacres were a
regular occurrence- for the military leaders and the monarchy, the Armenians were a stain.
Other European countries took pity on the oppressed Armenians, and in the 19th century tried to convince the Ottoman Empire to make concessions to
give the Armenians basic human rights and privileges. Although the Ottomans agreed in word and on paper, they didn't do anything to improve the
conditions of life, and in fact became more oppressive as they viewed the Armenians as the source of their political troubles in Europe.
When the first World War broke out, the Empire (on the side of the Central Powers with Germany and Austria-Hungary) was afraid that the Armenians
would revolt and support Russia, so they implemented a policy of disarming Armenian villages and forcing all the men to go to labor camps. Of course,
the Armenians knew that being disarmed would leave them extremely vulnerable against their rulers who hated them, so a few towns revolted and fought
off the Ottomans who came to take the weapons and men.
Seeing this as proof that the Armenians were against them, the Ottomans began systematically exterminating the Armenian population- much like the
Jews in the Holocaust, they were told that they were being transported to labor camps, and upon arrival, were murdered. Seeing as how gas chambers
were still a few decades away, equally disgusting methods were used: locking up giant groups of people in barns and burning them alive, forcing them
to do marches that were designed to kill them, and even loading them up on boats and sending them to the middle of the sea where they were capsized.
Over a million Armenians were killed.
Why does this Matter?
So why is this relevant?
By studying the past, we can find patterns in history that can help us prevent the same events from happening again in the future.
In this case, we have a minority population, hated for their religious beliefs, and centuries of oppression that eventually ended up in Genocide.
The key here is that in the decades BEFORE the genocide took place, the European powers were well aware of the brutal oppression the Armenians were
facing, but could not take any decisive action due to internal conflicts and an inability to agree on what action should be taken
As soon as war broke out, the Ottomans had the reason and the means to take their oppression to the final, disgusting, and deadly level.
We know that the government of Syria is ruthless and has massacred it's own people before- the ruling Baath party is built from a small, Shiite-Muslim
religious minority that governs a largely Sunni-Muslim population.
Although we can't be totally sure what exactly is going on in Syria, what we do know is that people are dying, and that the government in power has a
long history of oppressing its people- much like the situation leading up to the Armenian Genocide.
Not only that, but the World is in disagreement on how to handle Syria- action has not arrived, and with media blackouts imposed by the government, it
is a scary thought to consider exactly what might be going on inside Syria. Again- same pattern of the world not being able to agree or take any
decisive action to stop a ruthless regime.
Again, we have a ruthless, ideologically-driven government that has the oppression of an entire ethnic population as their policy. From occupying
troops to fences, illegal settlements, and bulldozing of entire towns and villages, it is clear that the Isreali government has no contempt for the
Once again, we have an ethnic population being oppressed by their own rulers, with the world doing little except for verbal condemnation. Do people
really think that the Israeli government will have a nice change of heart and change leave their oppression behind?
What of War?
What will happen if a war breaks out in the Middle East?
War brings out the worst of man, and just as the Ottomans began exterminating the Armenians for their perceived allegiance to the other side- out of
both hate, and fear for survival- what would stop the above-mentioned states from doing the exact same thing when everything is on the line?
It's a peculiar moral dilemma- there is nothing much you can do on a personal level to take direct action against the oppressors- besides raising
awareness and promoting solidarity with the oppressed, it is completely up to our own governments to take the action needed to stop the oppression,
and if you trust the governments of the western world as much as I do, then there is a serious problem.
Cycles in History: A Bigger Perspective
So what is at the core of most genocides?
From my perspective, it seems to be that when minority population that is oppressed for generations, and when ideology is at the core of that
oppression, without any intervention or action on behalf of the oppressed, massacre and murder will abound.
Thinking about the Norwegian who murdered all those people on the island to bring attention to what he perceived as an inevitable racial war in the
future brings the discussion to an even more relevant level.
The Western World has become inundated with immigrants and minorities of all religions, ethnicity , and ideologies; who is to say that we, with the
help of tolerance and attention to the past, will be able to keep ourselves from falling into this same pattern? It won't be too long before
traditional European states will have minorities as the majority, and how will this change the way our society works and how we view and treat our
fellow brothers and sisters?
I have hope that the past won't be repeated, and I think that learning and understanding why genocides happen is vital and must be promoted in order
to continually remind ourselves of why tolerance, equality, and respect are ideals that we must live by in order to conquer and relinquish the bad
habits of our past.
edit on 24/4/1212 by Monts because: (no reason given)
edit on 24/4/1212 by Monts because: Shpelling/