90 Miles From Tyranny : 8 things to know about the Armenian Genocide 100 years ago (yesterday)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

8 things to know about the Armenian Genocide 100 years ago (yesterday)

CNN Translations:
Armenian = Christian
Ottoman = Muslim

(CNN)The mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, which began 100 years ago Friday, is said by some scholars and others to have been the first genocide of the 20th century, even though the word "genocide" did not exist at the time.

The issue of whether to call the killings a genocide is emotional, both for Armenians, who are descended from those killed, and for Turks, the heirs to the Ottomans. For both groups, the question touches as much on national identity as on historical facts.

Some Armenians feel their nationhood cannot be fully recognized unless the truth of what happened to their forebears is acknowledged. Some Turks still view the Armenians as having been a threat to the Ottoman Empire in a time of war, and say many people of various ethnicities -- including Turks -- were killed in the chaos of war.

In addition, some Turkish leaders fear that acknowledgment of a genocide could lead to demands for huge reparations.
Turkish official teases starving Armenian children by showing them a piece of bread during the Armenian Genocide in 1915.
So, what do we know about happened in those fateful days? Here are some answers:

What preceded the mass killings of Armenians that began 100 years ago?
The Ottoman Turks, having recently entered World War I on the side of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were worried that Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire would offer wartime assistance to Russia. Russia had long coveted control of Constantinople (now Istanbul), which controlled access to the Black Sea -- and therefore access to Russia's only year-round seaports.

How many Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire at the start of the mass killings?
Many historians agree that the number was about 2 million. However, victims of the mass killings also included some of the 1.8 million Armenians living in the Caucasus under Russian rule, some of whom were massacred by Ottoman forces in 1918 as they marched through East Armenia and Azerbaijan.

How did the mass killings start?
By 1914, Ottoman authorities were already portraying Armenians as a threat to the empire's security. Then, on the night of April 23-24, 1915, the authorities in Constantinople, the empire's capital, rounded up about 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders. Many of them ended up deported or assassinated.

April 24, known as Red Sunday, is commemorated as Genocide Remembrance Day by Armenians around the world. Friday is the 100th anniversary of that day.

How many Armenians were killed?
This is a major point of contention. Estimates range from 300,000 to 2 million deaths between 1914 and 1923, with not all of the victims in the Ottoman Empire. But most estimates -- including one of 800,000 between 1915 and 1918, made by Ottoman authorities themselves -- fall between 600,000 and 1.5 million.

Whether due to killings or forced deportation, the number of Armenians living in Turkey fell from 2 million in 1914 to under 400,000 by 1922.

How did they die?
Almost any way one can imagine.

While the death toll is in dispute, photographs from the era document some mass killings. Some show Ottoman soldiers posing with severed heads, others with them standing amid skulls in the dirt.

The victims are reported to have died in mass burnings and by drowning, torture, gas, poison, disease and starvation. Children were reported to have been...
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