Last Friday, April 24th, marked 100 years since the beginning of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Turks.
On that day in 1915, Ottoman security forces in Constantinople rounded up 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders for arrest and execution.
The propaganda against the Christian Armenian minority began in 1914, when the Ottoman authorities depicted Armenians as a threat to the Empire.
There was widespread suspicion that the Armenians would offer assistance to Russia during World War I.
Though two million Armenians lived in what is now Turkey, their population dropped to 400,000 by 1922.
Roughly 1.5 million Armenians were “deported” via death marches and exterminated in concentration camps.
The centennial of this horrific tragedy is made more bitter in the face of Turkey’s denial of the genocide altogether.
President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, insists that the killings were due to civil unrest amid the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, rather than a systematic effort by the Ottoman Turks and that the number of Armenians killed has been highly inflated.
Prime Minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoğlu, has offered his condolences to the descendants of the Armenians killed during this period, acknowledging that Turkey feels their pain as well.
This follows a century of Turkish denial that any genocide occurred in this period of their history.
Only ten percent of Turks agree that their government should officially recognize the Armenian Genocide as an uncontested historical event at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.
The Turkish textbooks that detail this period claim that the “dishonorable and treacherous” Armenians were forcibly removed to protect Turks from their attacks.
The New York Times alone published 145 articles documenting the “systematic massacres” of Armenians “authorized and organized by the Turkish government.”
The struggle today is for Turkey and other powerful nations to come to terms with the genocide so that amends can be made and Armenians in Turkey given some semblance of closure.
Hitler himself, in a 1939 speech, shrugged off suggestions that his Final Solution would fail by asking, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
The man responsible for one of the worst genocide in our history looked at the Armenian Genocide to support his idea that genocide can be committed and forgotten in relatively little time.
The remembrance of atrocities is crucial to preventing them from happening in the future. Yet at the moment, only 22 nations officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Although Obama skirted the term “genocide” in favor of “atrocity” in his April 24th speech, Pope Francis was not shy about reminding the world of the “first genocide of the 20th century.”
On April 19th, during Sunday Mass, Pope Francis stated, “concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”
President Erdoğan of Turkey responded sharply: “I condemn the Pope and would like to warn him not to make similar mistakes again.”
Today, Armenians from around the world demand recognition for the genocide 100 years ago.
Until Turkey takes responsibility for its crime, there can be no sense of relief or preventative measures taken to prevent similar events from occurring in the future.