- Mar 20, 2005
Should Dail Eireann follow in the footsteps of 24 other states by recognising the Armenian Massacres of 1915 as genocide by the Ottoman Empire?
It is imperative - in the name of consistency with the EU's much-vaunted commitment to the "Copenhagen criteria" for joining the EU (including respect for human rights and democracy) - and the laws of many EU states against Holocaust-denial - that all EU member states recognise the Armenian Holocaust as genocide, and deny Turkish EU membership until such time as Turkey - like Germany - faces up to its genocidal past.It is widely acknowledged to have been one of the first modern genocides, as scholars point to the systematic, organized manner in which the killings were carried out to eliminate the Armenians. Indeed, the word genocide was coined in order to describe these events. It is the second most-studied case of genocide after the Holocaust.
The starting date of the genocide is conventionally held to be April 24, 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. Thereafter, the Ottoman military uprooted Armenians from their homes and forced them to march for hundreds of miles, depriving them of food and water, to the desert of what is now Syria. Massacres were indiscriminate of age or gender, with rape and other sexual abuse commonplace.
The Republic of Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, denies the word genocide is an accurate description of the events (see, Denial of the Armenian Genocide). In recent years, it has faced repeated calls to accept the events as genocide. To date, twenty countries have officially recognized the events of the period as genocide, and most genocide scholars and historians accept this view. The majority of Armenian diaspora communities were founded as a result of the Armenian genocide.....
An Armenian woman kneeling beside dead child in field "within sight of help and safety at Aleppo."
The Armenians were marched out to the Syrian town of Deir ez-Zor and the surrounding desert. A good deal of evidence suggests that the Ottoman government did not provide any facilities or supplies to sustain the Armenians during their deportation, nor when they arrived. By August 1915, The New York Times repeated an unattributed report that "the roads and the Euphrates are strewn with corpses of exiles, and those who survive are doomed to certain death. It is a plan to exterminate the whole Armenian people."
Ottoman troops escorting the Armenians not only allowed others to rob, kill, and rape the Armenians, but often participated in these activities themselves. Deprived of their belongings and marched into the desert, hundreds of thousands of Armenians perished....
Similarly, Major General Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein noted that "The Turkish policy of causing starvation is an all too obvious proof... for the Turkish resolve to destroy the Armenians."
German engineers and laborers involved in building the railway also witnessed Armenians being crammed into cattle cars and shipped along the railroad line. Franz Gunther, a representative for Deutsche Bank which was funding the construction of the Baghdad Railway, forwarded photographs to his directors and expressed his frustration at having to remain silent amid such "bestial cruelty". Major General Otto von Lossow, acting military attaché and head of the German Military Plenipotentiary in the Ottoman Empire, spoke to Ottoman intentions in a conference held in Batum in 1918:"The Turks have embarked upon the "total extermination of the Armenians in Transcaucasia... The aim of Turkish policy is, as I have reiterated, the taking of possession of Armenian districts and the extermination of the Armenians. Talaat's government wants to destroy all Armenians, not just in Turkey but also outside Turkey. On the basis of all the reports and news coming to me here in Tiflis there hardly can be any doubt that the Turks systematically are aiming at the extermination of the few hundred thousand Armenians whom they left alive until now."...
The Armenians were driven south toward the deserts of Syria, with only what they could carry.
It is believed that 25 major concentration camps existed, under the command of Şükrü Kaya, one of the right hand-men of Talat Pasha. The majority of the camps were situated near Turkey's modern Iraqi and Syrian borders, and some were only temporary transit camps. Others, such as Radjo, Katma, and Azaz, are said to have been used only temporarily, for mass graves; these sites were vacated by autumn 1915. Some authors also maintain that the camps Lale, Tefridje, Dipsi, Del-El, and Ra's al-'Ain were built specifically for those who had a life expectancy of a few days.
On the Middle Eastern front, the British military engaged Ottoman forces in southern Syria and Mesopotamia. British diplomat Gertrude Bell filed the following report after hearing the account of a captured Ottoman soldier:"The battalion left Aleppo on 3 February and reached Ras al-Ain in twelve hours... some 12,000 Armenians were concentrated under the guardianship of some hundred Kurds... These Kurds were called gendarmes, but in reality mere butchers; bands of them were publicly ordered to take parties of Armenians, of both sexes, to various destinations, but had secret instructions to destroy the males, children and old women... One of these gendarmes confessed to killing 100 Armenian men himself... the empty desert cisterns and caves were also filled with corpses..."
Main article: Teşkilat-i Mahsusa
The Committee of Union and Progress founded a "special organization" (Turkish: Teşkilat-i Mahsusa) that participated in the destruction of the Ottoman Armenian community. This organization adopted its name in 1913 and functioned like a special forces outfit, or the later Einsatzgruppen. Later in 1914, the Ottoman government influenced the direction the special organization was to take by releasing criminals from central prisons to be the central elements of this newly formed special organization. According to the Mazhar commissions attached to the tribunal as soon as November 1914, 124 criminals were released from Pimian prison. Little by little from the end of 1914 to the beginning of 1915, hundreds, then thousands of prisoners were freed to form the members of this organization. Later, they were charged to escort the convoys of Armenian deportees. Vehib Pasha, commander of the Ottoman Third Army, called those members of the special organization, the “butchers of the human species.”