In 1913, the ultra-nationalist Young-Turks took political control of the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey. The group sought to develop a unified empire with one language and one religion that would be able to expand its power to the East. When WWI broke out, the regime, which sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary, took action to disarm the entire Armenian population—a group distinct as a minority ethnic group but also ostracized as Christians. The roughly 40,000 Armenian men serving the Turkish army were forced to work under brutal conditions.
On April 24, 1915, the Young Turks arrested, deported, and then executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals, political leaders, writers, and dignitaries. The incident launched a systematic and organized plan to rid the Ottoman Empire entirely of the Armenians. Armenians were deported from the towns and moved to the desert, where were forced to walk under horrible conditions—often until they died of hunger, thirst, beatings, or complete exhaustion. Others who were forcibly removed from their homes were arrested and then shot or stabbed to death. Turkish leaders also developed “killing squads” or “butcher battalions” made up of criminals tasked with attacking and killing Armenians.
The intent to destroy the Armenian population also manifested in forced conversions to Islam. In addition, many Armenian women were subjected to sexual violence and forced to serve as sex slaves. By the early 1920s, about 1.5 million Armenians were killed while many more were forcibly displaced. To this day, the Turkish government does not acknowledge the events as genocide. The United States government has also failed to officially acknowledge the Armenian Genocide despite acceptance by numerous academics and genocide museums.
We encourage our followers in Los Angeles to visit the brand new exhibit, “Armenia: An Open Wound, sponsored in-part by the Armenian American Museum” You can also visit the Shoah Foundation Institute website to hear testimonies of survivors from the Armenian genocide. Jirair Suchiasian, pictured in the header photo, is one of the survivors featured in the series.
Watch this ABC News’ World News Tonight with Peter Jennings discussing the events of the Armenian Genocide to learn more: