International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

100 Years Since the Armenian Genocide

April 24, 1915, is the date that most historians believe marked the official start of the Armenian Genocide. As the Ottoman Empire continued to dissolve, the Turkish Government forcibly removed an estimated 1.5 ethnic Armenians from their homes and marched, under grueling conditions, to labor camps where they were systematically killed. The Turkish Government still unequivocally denies its role in the genocide, and over 90% of the Turkish population also contests the international community’s stance on the issue. Rather, Turkey argues that the deaths of the Armenians were simply a tragic byproduct of the pervasive violence during World War I, and the killings also included Turkish Muslims, rather than exclusively Armenian Christians. The government also estimates that the death toll was significantly lower than the commonly accepted 1.5 million and places it closer to 300,000. Many Armenians resent the Turkish Government’s continued refusal to acknowledge the genocide and feel that the denial inhibits any meaningful or genuine reconciliation between the two groups. People of Armenian descent in Turkey also feel as if they are being treated as second-class citizens, although they acknowledge that this is more prevalent in older generations, and that younger people are often more liberal. For their part, Turkish citizens continue to deny that there is anything their government needs to apologize for. They argue that the Turkish government had no responsibility for the civilian deaths that took place during World War I, and have accused Armenians of trying to spread divisive rhetoric within the state.


3 responses to “100 Years Since the Armenian Genocide

  1. jdelduca April 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    With the passing of the anniversary that marks the believed start date to the Armenian genocide, sentiments surrounding this time of the year are very high and sensitive amongst the Turkish civilians and the international community that is forced to recognize the tragic events of the past. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has recently responded angrily towards the countries that are recognizing the events of that time as a genocide including France,Germany, Russia and Austria. He believes that the deaths were not a result of genocide rather a side effect of WWI. The government also believes that because the killings also included Turkish Muslims the tragic events of the past cannot accurately be called a genocide. It is clear that if the Turkish government were to recognize the events as a genocide, it may have to pay hefty reparations to the victims’ families. It has been interesting to see the leaders of countries including the United States and the United Kingdom not use the term genocide when addressing the matter. An article by the Associated Press discussed that the United States government has not addressed the matter as a genocide because of the damage it would cause to US-Turkey relations at a critical time in which the US needs Turkey’s help in order to fight the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Despite this consequence there is a divide amongst US officials who believe the US government should use the term genocide in order to not be complicit in genocide denial. The Armenian genocide continues to be a controversial matter for Turkey and the international community and will most likely continue to be until it is recognized for what it was.

  2. tcheng2015 April 26, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    The Armenian Genocide of April 24, 1915 is the start of an on going battle victims of genocide face when dealing with their past. Armenian victims of genocide demonstrate the wide array of problems victims face when attempting to reconcile with perpetrators. The primary challenges in dealing with the Armenian Genocide include a failure on the Turkish government to confess to their wrongdoing and the failure of the Armenian government to properly address the needs of the people. As mentioned in the post above, the Turkish government’s refusal to acknowledge the genocide poses a significant challenge in reconciling with the Armenian population. An Armenian citizen responded to the 100-year centenary of the genocide by saying, “We demand fairness from the world community, that’s it. But for me personally it won’t make any difference. What we actually need in Armenia is for the government to take serious steps towards economic growth”. Here we see that Armenian citizens are not so much focused on reconciling with their past as they are with building an economy that can strengthen their lives today. The inability of governments to address the needs of the people and separate the past from the present is an on going struggle with no right or wrong solution. Should the Armenian government focus on reconciling with their past and continue to press the Turkish government towards admitting their faults? Or should the Armenian government focus on building their economy and improving the lives of its citizens today?

  3. dlxodus April 27, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Despite the one hundred years that has passed since the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, the official Turkish view on it remains unchanged. According to this view, ensuring national security and a loyal population during World War I required extreme measures such as ethnic cleansing, forced assimilation, and brutal reprisals against rebellious Armenians. President Erdogan’s policy on the issue, which is to deny it, aligns with the official view. However, President Erdogan altered the state’s account of the genocide from condemnation of rebels to sorrow for victims of war when he offered his condolences to the descendants of those massacred. But this subtle yet significant shift still lags far behind the progressive forces in Turkey who voice mass killings at the end of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey is not alone is its denial of past crimes. Japan’s Prime Minister, Shizo Abe, refuses to acknowledge and apologize for crimes committed under Imperial Japan during its colonial annexation of Korea and China during World War II. In particular, the Japanese government – contrary to the Japanese public – denies rape crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army, even going so far as to claim that women and girls volunteered to be comfort women. Such claims insult women forced into sexual slavery, many of whom are grandparents of South Korea’s younger generation. Such insults not only harm the reconciliation process between Korea and Japan but also worsen Korea’s existing animosity towards Japan, which has real economic consequences.

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