Today, April 24, 2017, represents the observance of the one hundred and second anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which was comprised of a multitude of atrocities carried out by the Ottoman Empire. Conducted with the ultimate goal of exterminating the Armenian population, the horrific event is considered by many to be one of the first “modern genocides.” Beginning to reach its peak in 1915, the genocide continued throughout the extent of the First World War and into the following decade.
While all mass atrocities occur as the result of multiple protracted processes being allowed to persist and proliferate over time, the beginning of the Armenian Genocide is commonly regarded have taken place with the initiation of a program of mass imprisonment on April 24, 1915. On this day, leaders within the Armenian community residing in the Ottoman capital city of Constantinople (present day Istanbul) were detained and imprisoned, with many being subsequently murdered over the following weeks.
Displacement and deportation were common themes of the atrocities committed during the Armenian Genocide. Men from the Armenian community were frequently placed into forced work camps, so that the Ottoman Empire could benefit from the fruits of their labor before many were later executed. Armenian women, children, and elderly were made to walk in forced “death marches”, often into remote desert areas of the country. It is estimated that these measures, along with many others, resulted in the death of one million Armenians, or 70% of the region’s Armenian community, by the year 1918.
The cruelty and horror of the Armenian Genocide served as one of the primary motivations behind Raphael Lemkin’s creation of the word “genocide.” He credits reporting on the cruelty of the crimes committed by the Ottoman Empire as having helped to convince him of the necessity of protecting groups from atrocities such as these, an idea that would form the basis for the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
On this day, the Auschwitz Institute stands with the Armenian community and others around the world to remember the appalling atrocities that constituted the Armenian Genocide. AIPR adds its voice to the increasing call for universal recognition of the event as a genocide, something that is not only integral to the historical record, but also an essential component in the attainment of truth and justice. Dr. James Waller, the Auschwitz Institute’s Director of Academic Programs, explains:
The truth of the Armenian genocide is long overdue, as nations continue to deny its existence and undermine the tragedy that so many endured over one hundred years ago. To deny the genocide is to deny the past, and to deny the past is to condemn the future.