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Why is the Genocide of Christians Relevant Today?

Armenians trace their history back more than 6,000 years, to a time when they civilized a land from the Caucasus to Anatolia. They are Christians - the first Christian nation, converting in 301. It was more than 13 centuries before Europeans discovered Australia, but that decision [to convert] meant they would become the most martyred Christians in modern history.

Historians and 30 nations (including Ottoman Turk allies Austria and Germany), recognize that the Armenian genocide took place during World War I. In fact, the genocide of Armenians took place over nearly 1,000 years. In 1064, Seljuk Turks invaded from Central Asia, killing more than 50,000 in the Armenian capital of Ani, the ‘City of 1,001 Churches’.

Turks colonised the lands that we now call Turkey, subjugating indigenous Christians. Over centuries, the proportion of Armenians and their fellow Christians was reduced to less than 25% before WWI1, during atrocities such as the 1894-96 Hamidian Massacres (~300,000 souls) and the 1909 Adana Massacre (~30,000 souls).

During WWI, the ‘Young Turk’ leaders enacted the ‘Final Solution’ for this minority, in accordance with the 14 November 1914 Turkish Proclamation of Jihad against Christians. It was an extermination blueprint, noted by Hitler before he invaded Poland 25 years later.

Only hours before the allies landed and under the cover of war so the Turks could effectively blame invading nations like France, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, the killings of millions of Armenians started in Constantinople, not far from Gallipoli. Hundreds of Armenian priests, members of parliament and other civilian leaders were arrested on 24 April 1915 and brutally beheaded.

Turkish children are [mis]educated that the Armenians were ‘traitors’ to the Ottoman Empire, therefore implying that millions of unarmed aged, men, women and children deserved to die. They are also falsely told that Armenians were victims of war, or that there were 'local' failures of food supplies and banditry. Statistics say otherwise.  

Of the 3 million Ottoman soldiers – thousands of whom were conscripted Armenians – some 750,000 military died. However far from the battle, about 2.2 – 2.5 million Ottoman Christian Armenian, Assyrian and Greek civilians were tortured and murdered by their fellow citizens in the most gruesome ways imaginable, like IS does today.

About 50% of Ottoman Christian civilians died, compared to the military (~25%) and Muslim civilian casualties (~2%), representing approximately 75% of all Ottoman WWI deaths. Those who survived fled, became sex slaves, or were forcibly converted to Islam.

It was the end of the most ‘successful’ genocide in modern history, but not the end of the extermination. After WWI, no less than 2,400 Armenian Christian religious sites were destroyed, and it goes on today. Even Armenian place names were obliterated in a deliberate campaign to eradicate this ancient people’s culture. This was not about World War I!

Ottoman Courts found the Turkish leaders guilty of crimes against humanity on 10 June 1919, and sentenced them to death. Yet today Turkey vehemently denies genocide, spending millions of dollars to spread disinformation (the 2016 Press Freedom Index ranked Turkey 151 out of 178 nations). They shamefully deny the genocides of Christian people, who today represent less than 0.2% of Turkey’s population. Why?

Perhaps Turkish leaders don’t have the courage to admit their dark past like many brave Turkish intellectuals have. Those who do tell the truth face severe penalties for discussing the genocides under Turkish Penal Code 301.

Turkish leaders may believe that they shouldn’t admit the truth because they might face reparations, not just for the killing but also for the theft of property which was never returned after the war. A 1915 law allowed the government to steal the ‘abandoned’ property of those that would never return – a damning indication of genocidal [planned] intent2.

The money was used to pay the Turks, Circassians and Kurds who did the actual killing and the Germans for war supplies. So the Armenians effectively paid for their own genocide.

Western people should cringe in shame, because some of this ‘blood money’ was discovered in Berlin after World War I and later exchanged by France and Great Britain for United States Treasury Certificates, instead of being returned to Armenian survivors and the church.

Perhaps Turkey believes that people will be swayed by disinformation and threats (including to Pope Francis when he recognised the Armenian genocide). Sadly, Turks are also suffering, as they live with oppression and a racist rhetoric. Ironically, Armenians are called ‘parasites’ by Turkish leaders – when it was the Turks who were the invaders, colonisers and organisers of the systematic murder of an entire Christian indigenous minority over centuries.

We must recognise the past. If we turn our heads and judge that the racist genocide of Christians perpetrated by Turks is not something that we should be honest about today, then we allow the lessons of Islamic xenophobia and the threat of radical Islam to be ignored. Today, Christians are becoming extinct in the very lands where the religion was born. What sort of world will we have left for our children if we do nothing?

Len Wicks, 05 February 2017

1Ottoman statistics indicate about 17% of the population were Christian, but did not count ecclesiastical (church-registered) births and deaths, so the true figure is likely to be 20% - 25%

2Turkish Professor Ugur Ungor discusses the Armenian genocide and the illegal expropriation of Armenian property