Armenian Genocide Throughout history, instances of religious groups turning to violence or being victimized for their religion have unfortunately occurred. The most prominent instance of this that immediately comes to mind for most is the Holocaust, where millions of Jews were killed by the Germans, led by Adolf Hitler (K©vorkian 8). Many have not been educated to the fact that there have been many other significant genocides within the last one hundred years based on religious violence, one being the Armenian Genocide (United 3). Although not so nearly well known as the
Holocaust, this genocide was every bit as horrible. Looking in depth at the Armenian Genocide of 191 5, one will see the gruesome and atrocious actions of the Ottoman Empire toward the Armenian people and may questions many of these movements. Although there may not be answers to why people would act so unethically, the Armenian Genocide is a superb example of religious groups using violence to gain power.
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The Armenian Genocide is not well known due to the fact that many nations deny its occurrence, despite the overwhelming physical evidence and stories told by survivors.
The United States, however, recognizes that the Armenian Genocide happened and states that “[a]t least 1,000,000, and possibly well over half of the Armenian population, are reliably estimated to have been killed or death marched by independent authorities” (United 3). The negative feelings that Muslims of the Ottoman Empire had toward the Christian Armenians that led to this enormous number of deaths developed over many centuries. Originally, the Armenians were an individual entity, claiming their nation in Eurasia as the first in the world to make Christianity its official religion in the fourth century AD.
During the fifteen century though, they were absorbed by the Ottoman Empire. At the beginning this did not pose a serious problem, with the Armenians being a minority and being underprivileged in the Muslim society (Winter 68). Christians had to pay higher taxes than Muslims, for example, and they had very few political and legal rights. Despite being viewed as “infidels” and being treated unequally, the Armenians managed to thrive in society (“Armenian” par 7). The successes in life gained by the Armenians made the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire uneasy.
The Armenians tended to be more educated and wealthier, which led others to begin to resent their success. As the Ottoman Empire began to crumble throughout the nineteenth century, suspicions that the Armenians would be more loyal to Christian governments than that of the Ottoman caliphate increased. Once the Turkish people entered World War I in 1914, military leaders argued over Armenian loyalty; once the Armenians organized volunteer battalions to help the Russian army fght against the Turks in the Caucasus region, the want for the “removal” of Armenians in the area increased (Winter 91-2).
In the case of the Armenian Genocide, as with many other acts of religious violence, feelings of hatred are developed over many years. Many may simply ask, why lash out with violence? The ‘slams may have decided to act on their suspicions out of fear and anxiety that The first day of the Armenian Genocide was April 24, 191 5 (United 3). This was the start of many gruesome, horrific events that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. The initial act that began the genocide was the arrest and soon after killing of several hundred Armenians.
From there, the genocide took off with many Armenian eaders being imprisoned and tortured to death, while the Armenian soldiers were either massacred after being disarmed or worked to the point of exhaustion and death. The most predominant form of death that occurred was the Armenians being marched to their death in the Mesopotamian and Syrian deserts (K©vorkian 17). They were removed from their homes and often times separated from their family, were stripped naked, given no food or water, and had to walk in the scorching sun through the desert with no destination.
They walked until they dropped dead and if they topped to catch their breath or rest, they were subsequently shot and killed by the Turkish government (“Armenian” par 3). There are survivors who have witnessed many of these horrendous actions and who have seen people in their weakest, most helpless moments. One male survivor who Just barely cheated death describes his experience: “l had a child on my back, had on women’s clothes, my face was covered with mucus, and I was limping. Lice would not leave us alone.
They would get in our eyes, nose, mouth. I had gotten so weak that I couldn’t stand up. I was reduced to bones by this time, half dead” (Miller 82). Surprising as it may seem, people did experience intense torture and were victims of religious violence simply for being a Christian. It is shocking that the ‘slams who acted so unethically and murdered so many people can think that their actions were acceptable and Just in the eyes of their God. How can people commit such ruthless acts based simply off of one’s religious beliefs?
This question is still being asked around the world today in other religious violence cases such as Darfur in Sudan. The differing stories among survivors about the rides in the caravan to the desert how how the religious abuse changed from case to case. Miller explains that “the experience of caravan members seems to have depended greatly on the attitude of gendarmes who were escorting them” (78). He explains that some people were slaughtered during those rides while others remained untouched (Miller 79).
This is a prime example of how the violence was not only a general movement of the Muslims, but how it may have varied between different scenarios. It may be possible that some involved in the killing of the Armenians were not completely evil, but felt pressured by those in command. Some people may have acted inappropriately due to fear that if they stood up for themselves and their beliefs, they may be heartlessly slaughtered Just like the Armenians.
Cases of religious violence are often largely due to opinionated and forceful people who may convince others to act unjustly by brainwashing them or scaring them. Although there is not one specified leader who caused the Armenian genocide, this is still seen in other instances such as Adolf Hitler and his influence on the Holocaust. Another significant factor of the Armenian Genocide was that of the “Special Organization” created by the Muslims whose goal was “the liquidation of the Christian elements” (K©vorkian 106).
The Turkish hillside became full of Armenian of cliffs, drowned them in rivers, crucified them, and even buried them alive. Women who were not killed in the desert or by this process of “turkification” were raped and forced into slavery. With children, the Special Organization believed that there was still potential for fixation. They kidnaped children, forced them to convert to Muslim religion, and gave them away to Turkish families, who raised them as Islam K©vorkian 110-2).