Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Time and Politics 14: Who Now Remembers the Annihilation of the Armenians?

Image Source: BBC.

Wer redet heute noch von der Vernichtung der Armenier? Who now still speaks of the annhilation of the Armenians? These were Hitler's words to the German military forces on 22 August 1939. In this speech, he ordered them to invade Poland and exterminate the Polish people. He insisted that the Poles were expendable, not just at that moment in an act of war, but that they could be completely wiped from the pages of history. The monstrous idea behind Hitler's imperial vision - he who writes history controls politics, society and the future - applied deadly lessons from World War I; it was recognized by other world leaders and thinkers at the time. In one sentence, the German leader summarized his clear, conscious awareness that history could be altered, and it was on that basis that one could do anything to anyone to achieve near-infinite aims.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide. Source: imgkid.

"Picture showing Armenians killed during the Armenian Genocide. Image taken from Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, written by Henry Morgenthau, Sr. and published in 1918. Original description: 'THOSE WHO FELL BY THE WAYSIDE. Scenes like this were common all over the Armenian provinces, in the spring and summer months of 1915. Death in its several forms---massacre, starvation, exhaustion---destroyed the larger part of the refugees. The Turkish policy was that of extermination under the guise of deportation.'" Image Source: Wiki.

How had Hitler come to conclude this? Why did he say this? What did he mean by it? It seems obvious, but it isn't. He wasn't denying the historical fact of the genocide, he was observing what you could do if you denied the historical fact. A related problem also came out of World War I. Anyone who witnessed what happened during that terrible war learned that the international community could not prevent anti-civilian outrages during wartime, nor could a consensus be reached, post-conflict, on what to do about those outrages. As a result, the great powers and League of Nations became nearly powerless to protect vulnerable groups in war zones. All the good will in the world would not stop determined acts of force to seize those groups' territories. For Hitler's contemporary, Winston Churchill, the Armenian question proved this point by 1923 at the Treaty of Lausanne. In 1929, Churchill looked back on events from the past decade and a half, and saw that the diplomats at the post-war peace talks understood that the Armenian genocide had occurred; the great powers had even attempted to safeguard a free Armenia; but in the end, they waffled, disagreed and capitulated to the more important strategic interests of a new Turkey emerging out of the ruined Ottoman empire:
It seemed inconceivable that the five great Allies would not be able to make their will effective. The reader of these pages will however be under no illusions. By the time the conquerors in Paris reached the Armenian question their unity was dissolved, their armies had disappeared and their resolves commanded naught but empty words. No power would take a mandate for Armenia. Britain, Italy, America, France looked at it and shook their heads. On March 12, 1920, the Supreme Council offered the mandate to the League of Nations. But the League, unsupported by men or money, promptly and with prudence declined. There remained the Treaty of Sèvres. On August 10 the Powers compelled the Constantinople Government to recognize an as yet undetermined Armenia as a free and independent State. Article 89 prescribed that Turkey must submit to 'the arbitration of the President of the United States of America the question of the frontier to be fixed between Turkey and Armenia in the vilayets of Erzeroum, Trebizond, Van and Bitlis, and to accept his decision thereupon, as well as any stipulation he may prescribe as to access of Armenia to the sea.' It was not until December 1920 that President Wilson completed the discharge of this high function. The frontier he defined gave Armenia virtually all the Turkish territory which had been occupied by Russian troops until they disbanded themselves under the influence of the Revolution; and era which, added to the Republic of Erivan, made an Armenian national homeland of nearly sixty thousand square miles.

So generous was the recognition in theory of Armenian claims that the Armenian and Greek population of the new State was actually outnumbered by Moslem inhabitants. Here was justice and much more. It existed however upon paper only. Already nearly a year before, in January 1920, the Turks had attacked the French in Cilicia, driven them out of the Marash district and massacred nearly fifty thousand Armenian inhabitants. In May Bolshevik troops invaded and subjugated the Republic of Erivan. In September, by collusion between the Bolsheviks and Turks, Erivan was delivered to the Turkish Nationalists; and as in Cilicia, another extensive massacre of Armenians accompanied the military operations. Even the hope that a small autonomous Armenian province might eventually be established in Cilicia under French protection was destroyed. In October France, by the Agreement of Angora, undertook to evacuate Cilicia completely. In the Treaty of Lausanne, which registered the final peace between Turkey and the Great Powers, history will search in vain for the word 'Armenia'.
"Skulls lie in the ruined Armenian village of Sheyxalan in 1915." Image Source: Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute via BBC.

Therefore, the Armenian genocide taught a fatal, combined lesson. Hitler, along with his propaganda minister Goebbels, anticipated the power of global media, mass entertainment and propaganda. Theirs was the most dangerous idea of the 20th century, more dangerous than the enduring Enlightenment notion that science and rationality could solve all the problems that the age of faith could not. Their idea was that history can reshape reality. Or to put it another way: he who controls history, controls reality. From that time to this, powers and individuals great and small have experimented with this radical idea. History can be manufactured, manipulated and denied. It can be ignored and erased. This is why contentious areas of historical debate, especially genocides, industrial controversy, and touchy areas of historic guilt must be rigorously examined.

Armenians at the Marash army barracks awaiting execution. Above them on the top balcony stand the Ottoman governor, Haydar Pasha, and soldiers, April 1915. Image Source: Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute via The Guardian.

Despite later, post-WWII attempts to deal with this problem with measures such as the Geneva Conventions, the terrible Armenian lesson from WWI still haunts us. One might even say that war crimes and crimes against humanity are modern phenomena which have risen hand-in-hand with a completely malleable historical memory. The very first use of the term 'crime against humanity' appeared in a condemnation of the Armenian genocide by the governments of Britain, France and Russia, in a telegram sent to Washington on 29 May 1915:
Telegram Sent

Department of State, Washington

May 29, 1915

Amembassy [American Embassy],


French Foreign Office requests following notice be given Turkish Government. Quote. May 24th

For about a month the Kurd and Turkish populations of Armenia has been massacring Armenians with the connivance and often assistance of Ottoman authorities. Such massacres took place in middle April (new style) at Erzerum, Dertchun, Eguine, Akn, Bitlis, Mush, Sassun, Zeitun, and throughout Cilicia. Inhabitants of about one hundred villages near Van were all murdered. In that city Armenian quarter is besieged by Kurds. At the same time in Constantinople Ottoman Government ill-treats inoffensive Armenian population. In view of those new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization, the Allied governments announce publicly to the Sublime-Porte that they will hold personally responsible [for] these crimes all members of the Ottoman government and those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres.

All their condemnation would not matter, however, in light of this awful lesson: if you can rewrite all the facts later, it gives you a carte blanche in the present to do whatever you like now. And strangely today, even when everyone has a camera in their hands, historical facts are more in doubt than ever, because there are competing cultures of truth and different voices enforce their versions of the truth on social networks, the MSM and online media. If every document can be wiped or doctored, if every paper trail altered or created, if all the witnesses can disappear or be conjured up out of nowhere as hired actors, whom and what can you believe? Professional historians and everyday people alike can stare at real, verified evidence and not be able to distinguish it from a conspiracy theory or a fabrication.

New York Times headline (18 August 1915). See the full page here. Image Source: NYT.

There is desperate need for new standards for writing authoritative history. The Chronicle of Higher Education is dimly aware of the crisis academic historians face; it reported on 30 March 2015 that the American Historical Association admitted at its annual January meeting that professional historians have lost the ear of the public. This is a disastrous failure!

"Turkish official teasing starved Armenian children by showing bread during the Armenian Genocide, 1915." Image Source: Prepper Journal.

The decentralization of information, anti-social commercial exploitation of information and power games around information control mean that no journalist or whistleblower will report everything he or she knows, and no professional historian can or will be believed as an authority. At best, there are anti-NSA hacker renegades out there, countering the algorithms which groom today's infinite data-cloud. But they are computer programmers. They don't know, or don't have time to consider, anything about the shaping of historical records and realities and what that could mean. The Web's conspiracy theorists worry constantly about how all this pertains to the now closely-related fields of politics, mass entertainment, consumer marketing and government, but by what standards do they evaluate information? They are out scanning the skies for chemtrails and expect the Illuminati to expose their lizard scales at any moment. The Millennial Internet madly rewrites history as folklore, expecting the establishment to reveal itself as a rehash of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, combined with an even more sinister anti-Semitism that imagines Jewish bankers and Zionist overlords to be space alien reptiles. This post-Holocaust narrative not only denies the Holocaust, but ramps up the Nazi dehumanization of Jews to a new, crazier level.

Image Source: University of Texas.

Meanwhile, Millennial German authorities scramble to prosecute remaining live Nazis (Thanks to -B.This week, a 93-year-old former SS sergeant, Oskar Gröningwho worked at Auschwitz taking account of Jews' confiscated baggage and money, faced trial in Germany; after years of silence, in 2005 statements in a BBC documentary and in his trial, he acknowledged his moral guilt (while he edged away from admitting individual legal guilt as a genocidal killer). Yet he has insisted that the Holocaust must not be denied as a historical, factual, genocide. The Guardian quotes his remarks from the BBC documentary:
Gröning said: “I see it as my task, now at my age, to face up to these things that I experienced and to oppose the Holocaust deniers who claim that Auschwitz never happened ... I want to tell those deniers I have seen the gas chambers, I have seen the crematoria, I have seen the burning pits – and I want you to believe me that these atrocities happened. I was there.”
But even when a historic witness confirms this fact, Websites reinterpret his confession into a denial of the Holocaust, because they say he never mentioned gas chambers in that BBC interview. Beneath the Youtube clip of Gröning's admission to the BBC, a Youtuber insults other viewers:
  • "You people are idiots. This is jewish propaganda. This man was paid or threatened (most likely). The zionist overlords that the germans were fighting against, and who now control the world, have all the money in the world to frame the nazis as the bad guys. Today we can look at what Israel is doing to the poor Palestinians and know who the true fascists are."
  • Response: "You are the real idiot. This is not propaganda. This man was recently charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. And clearly you did not look that up before you commented, so I'm not surprised that you are arguing against Israel who is defending her own people. Look up facts before you open the asshole you call a mouth."
  • Original poster's answer: "actually I knew about that. I'm not sure how this fits in but it doesn't change the facts. You are a moron for believing war propaganda and shills."
In other words, the lesson Hitler took away from the Armenian genocide was chillingly potentially correct. It doesn't matter what really happened, as long as you can control and change how people remember what happened. And now, even a Youtuber's hunch about mass killing can carry as much historical authority online as a living historical witness of a genocide. There are raging debates under many Youtube videos about the Armenian genocide, for good examples, see this one. You can see the Armenian-Turkish debate on Twitter here.

"A picture released by the Armenian Genocide museum dated 1920 shows a panoramic view of Shushi, in Karabakh, after it was purportedly destroyed by Ottoman troops." Image Source: AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian.

As the Internet carries these problems forward, the manipulation of information is an even more pressing issue than surveillance and the loss of privacy. The collection of information is one thing. The transformation of information into new realities is another. And that is why we must understand the history around events such as the Armenian genocide and ask how and why they are portrayed now with such ambiguity. If we can't get these basic historical interpretations straight, we stand zero chance of saving ourselves from bloodshed and tyranny as the Information Age progresses.

The ceremony at Etchmiadzin Cathedral at which 1.5 million genocide victims were canonized (23 April 2015) used a number of medieval relics in the ceremony. Image Source: Getty via Asbarez.

Etchmiadzin Cathedral.
According to a statement from the current pope, Francis, on 12 April 2015, the Armenian killings constituted the first genocide of the 20th century. And on 23 April 2015, in the biggest canonization ceremony in history, the Armenian Apostolic Church conferred sainthood upon the 1.5 million victims of the genocide. This is a weird way of giving history ritualistic weight, without necessarily making it sound more seriously considered or rationally legitimate. The symbolic ceremony took place at the main Armenian cathedral of Etchmiadzin, near the Armenian capital of Yerevan.

This week, German officials insisted that the Turks recognize the Armenian genocide as a historical fact. Other international organizations and countries recognize the massacres as a genocide. They are: the European parliament; the Council of Europe; the World Council of Churches; the Vatican; the European Alliance of YMCAs; several Jewish organizations; Mercosur; the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal; Great Britain; France; Russia; Argentina; Armenia; Austria; Belgium; Bolivia; Canada; Chile; Cyprus; the Czech Republic; Greece; Italy; Lithuania; Lebanon; the Netherlands; Poland; Slovakia; Sweden; Switzerland; Syria; Uruguay; and Venezuela. The UN reviewed a report on the matter, and only accepted a watered-down acknowledgement of the massacre in 1985. The US presidential statements on the matter are here, although American leaders are guarded in how they describe this event. But consider the curious fact that in Istanbul's Armenian cemetery, not a single grave dates from 1915.

Armenian orphans. Image Source: Cyprus Mail.

The conventional starting date for the Armenian genocide, still a difficult thing for the Turks to acknowledge, was 24 April 1915. The massacres grew out of the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the birth of modern Turkey. This momentous transformation developed during WWI conflicts between Turkey and imperial (and later revolutionary) Russia, and during British and French conflicts with the Turks in the Persian campaign. These volatile regions overlap with today's hotspots, indicating that the territorial peace established after World War I is collapsing in the 21st century.

Armenians being marched out of Harput. Image Source: Red Cross/Burning Tigris via Armeniapedia.

You can read Arnold Toynbee's summary of the Armenian genocide here. In 1916, Toynbee reported to Viscount Bryce regarding massacres of Armenians during the spring of 1915. Toynbee, a British historian, indicated that this was an anti-Christian religious purge, perpetrated with the participation of the dying Ottoman government; the mass killings and outrages became tangled up with the secular political nationalistic birth of the new Turkish republic:
In reality, the situation had been growing tenser before the spring began. In outlying villages, the inquisition for arms had been accompanied by open violence. Men had been massacred, women violated and houses burnt down by the gendarmerie patrols, and such outrages had been particularly frequent in the Vilayet of Van, where the soldiers seem to have been exasperated by their recent reverses and were certainly stimulated by the truculence of the Governor Djevdet Bey, who had returned beyond the frontier. The crowning outrage was the murder of four Armenian leaders from the City, when they were on their was to an outlying district to keep the peace, at Djevdat's own request, between the local Armenians and their Moslem neighbors. The Armenian inhabitants of the City of Van took warning from the fate of the villagers and from this and most sinister crime, and prepared themselves, in case of need, for self-defense. Their action was justified by Djevdet Bey himself, for he had been drawing a cordon round the garden suburbs of Van, where the majority of the Armenian population lived, and on the 20th April he unleashed his troops upon them without provocation. The Armenians of Van found themselves fighting for their lives against a murderous attack by what was supposed to be the lawful Government of their country. There had been the same sequence of events at Zeitoun. The search for arms had been accompanied by a formidable concentration of troops in the town, and the final phase had been opened, not indeed by a butchery, but by the deportation of the first batch of the inhabitants. This had outbreak at Van, and both events were previous to the new turn in the military situation. In fact, it was the distress of the Armenian civil population at Van that decided the Russian initiative. A Russian column, with a strong contingent of Russian-Armenian volunteers, forced its way towards the city from the direction of Bayazid, and relieved the defenders on the 19th May, after they had been besieged for a month. The strategy of encirclement was now retorted upon the Turks themselves, for on the 24th May another Russian column occupied Urmia, and drove the last of the Turco-Kurdish invaders out of Azerbaijan. A British expeditionary force was simultaneously pressing up the Tigris, and while events were taking this serious turn in the east, the heart of the Empire was threatened by the attack on the Dardanelles. By the end of May, 1915, the outlook was as desperate as in the bad days of 1912, but it must be emphasized again that the final phase in the procedure against the Armenians had already begun before these acute military dangers emerged above the horizon. The military straits in which the Young Turks found themselves in the spring of 1915 may have precipitated the execution if their Armenian scheme, but have no bearing whatever upon its origination.

On the 8th April, then, the final phase began, and the process carried out at Zeitoun was applied to one Armenian center after another throughout the Ottoman Empire. On a certain date, in whatever town or village it might be (and the dates show a significant sequence), the public crier went through the streets announcing that every male Armenian must present himself forthwith at the Government Building. In some cases the warning was given by the soldiery or gendarmerie slaughtering every male Armenian they encountered in the streets, a reminiscence of the procedure in 1895-6; but usually a summons to the Government Building was the preliminary stage. The men presented themselves in their working clothes, leaving their shops and work-rooms open, their ploughs in the field, their cattle on the mountain side. When they arrived, they were thrown without explanation into prison, kept there a day or two, and then marched out of the town in batches, roped man to man, along some southerly or south-easterly road. They were starting, they were told, on a long journey — to Mosul or perhaps to Baghdad. It was a dreadful prospect to men unequipped for travel, who had neither scrip nor staff, food nor clothes nor bedding. They had hidden no farewell to their families, they had not wound up their affairs. But they had not long to ponder over their plight, for they were halted and massacred at the first lonely place on the road. The same process was applied to those other Armenian men (and they numbered hundreds or even thousands in the larger centers) who had been imprisoned during the winter months on the charge of conspiracy or concealment of arms, though in some instances these prisoners are said to have been overlooked — an involuntary form of reprieve of which there were also examples during the French Reign of Terror in 1793. This was the civil authorities' part, but there was complete coordination between Talaat Bey's Ministry of the Interior and Enver Pasha's Ministry of War, for simultaneously the Armenian Labor Battalions, working behind the front, were surrounded by detachments of their combatant Moslem fellow soldiers and butchered in cold blood.

The military authorities also made themselves responsible for the civil population of Bitlis, Moush and Sassoun, who were marked out for complete and immediate extermination on account of their proximity to Van and the advancing Russian forces. This task was carried out by military methods with the help of the local Kurds — another reversion to the tactics of Abdul Hamid — but its application appears to have been limited to the aforementioned districts. In the rest of the Empire, where the work was left in the hands of the civil administration, the women and children were not disposed of by straightforward massacre like the men. Their destiny under the Government scheme was not massacre but slavery or deportation.

After the Armenian men had been summoned away to their death, there was usually a few days interval in whatever town it might be, and then the crier was heard again in the streets, bidding all Armenians who remained to prepare themselves for deportation, while placards to the same effect were posted on the walls. This applied, in actual fact, to the women and children, and to a poor remnant of the men who, through sickness, infirmity or age, had escaped the fate marked out for their sex. A period of grace was in most cases accorded for the settlement of their affairs and the preparation of their journey; but here, again, there were cases in which the victims were taken without warning from the loom, the fountain or even from their beds, and the respite, where granted, was in great measure illusory. The ordinary term given was a bare week, and it was never more than a fortnight — a time utterly insufficient for all that had to be done. There were instances, moreover, in which the Government broke its promise, and carried away its victims before the stated day arrived.

For the women there was an alternative to deportation. They might escape it by conversion to Islam; but conversion for an Armenian woman in 1915 meant something more physical than a change of theology. It could only be ratified by immediate marriage with a Moslem man, and if the woman were already a wife (or, rather, a widow, for by this time few Armenian husbands remained alive), she must part with any children she had, and surrender them to be brought up as true Moslems in a "Government Orphanage" — a fate of uncertain meaning, for no such institutions were known to be in existence. If the convert could find no Turk to take her, or shrank from the embraces of the bridegroom who offered himself, then she and her children must be deported with the rest, however fervently she had professed the creed of Islam. Deportation was the alternative adopted by, or imposed upon, the great majority.

The sentence of deportation was a paralyzing blow, yet those condemned to it had to spend their week of grace in feverish activity, procuring themselves clothing, provisions and ready money for the road. The local authorities placed every possible obstacle in their way. There was an official fiction that their banishment was only temporary, and they were therefore prohibited from selling their real property or their stock. The Government set its seal upon the vacated houses, lands and merchandise, "to keep them safe against their owners' return;" yet before these rightful owners started on their march they often saw these very possessions, which they had not been allowed to realize, made over by the authorities as a free gift to Moslem immigrants, who had been concentrated in the neighborhood, in readiness to step into the Armenians' place. And even such household or personal chattels as they were permitted to dispose of were of little avail, for their Moslem neighbors took shameless advantage of their necessity, and beat them down to an almost nominal price, so that when the day of departure arrived they were often poorly equipped to meet it.

The Government charged itself with their transport, and indeed they were not in a position to arrange for it themselves, for their ultimate destination was seldom divulged. The exiles from each center were broken up into several convoys, which varied in size from two or three hundred to three or four thousand members. A detachment of gendarmerie was assigned to every convoy, to guard them on the way, and the civil authorities hired or requisitioned a certain number of ox-carts (arabas), usually one to a family, which they placed at their disposal; and so the convoy started out. The mental misery of exile was sufficiently acute, but it was soon ousted by more material cares. A few days, or even a few hours, after the start, the carters would refuse to drive them further, and the gendarmes, as fellow-Moslems, would connive at their mutinousness. So the carts turned back, and the exiles had to go forward on foot. This was the beginning of their physical torments, for they were not traveling over soft country or graded roads, but by mule-tracks across some of the roughest country in the world. It was the hot season, the wells and springs were sometimes many hours' journey apart, and the gendarmes often amused themselves by forbidding their fainting victims to drink. It would have been an arduous march for soldiers on active service, but the members of these convoys were none of them fitted or trained for physical hardship. They were the women and children, the old and the sick. Some of the women had been delicately brought up and lived in comfort all their lives; some had to carry children in their arms too young to walk; others had been sent off with the convoy when they were far gone with child, and gave birth on the road. None of these latter survived, for they were forced to march on again after a few hours' respite; they died on the road, and the new-born babies perished with them. Many others died of hunger and thirst, sunstroke, apoplexy or sheer exhaustion. The hardships endured by the women who accompanied their husbands on Sir John Moore's retreat to Corunna bear no comparison with the hardships these Armenian women endured. The Government which condemned them to exile knew what the journey would mean, and the servants of the Government who conducted them did everything to aggravate their inevitable physical sufferings. Yet this was the least part of their torture; far worse were the atrocities of violence wantonly inflicted upon them by fellow human beings.

From the moment they left the outskirts of the towns they were never safe from outrage. The Moslem peasants mobbed and plundered them as they passed through the cultivated lands, and the gendarmes connived at the peasants' brutality, as they had connived at the desertion of the drivers with their carts. When they arrived at a village they were exhibited like slaves in a public place, often before the windows of the Government Building itself, and every Moslem inhabitant was allowed to view them and take his choice of them for his harem; the gendarmes themselves began to make free with the rest, and compelled them to sleep with them at night. There were still more horrible outrages when they came to the mountains, for here they were met by bands of "chettis" and Kurds. The "chettis" were brigands, recruited from the public prisons; they had been deliberately released by the authorities on a consideration which may have been tacit but which both parties clearly understood. As for the Kurds, they had not changed since 1896, for they had always retained their arms, which Abdul Hamid had served out and the Young Turks could not or would not take away; and they had now been restored to official favor upon the proclamation of the Holy War, so that their position was as secure again as it had been before 1908. They knew well what they were allowed and what they were intended to do. When these Kurds and chettis waylaid the convoys, the gendarmes always fraternized with them the most active part in the ensuing massacres — for this was the work which the brigands came to do. The first to be butchered were the old men and boys — all the males that were to be found in the convoy except the infants in arms — but the women were massacred also. It depended on the whim of the moment whether a Kurd cut a woman down or carried her away into the hills. When they were carried away their babies were left on the ground or dashed against the stones. But while the convoy dwindled, the remnant had always to march on. The cruelty of the gendarmes towards the victims grew greater as their physical sufferings grew more intense; the gendarmes seemed impatient to make a hasty end of their task. Women who lagged behind were bayoneted on the road or pushed over precipices, or over bridges. The passage of rivers, and especially of the Euphrates, was always an occasion of wholesale murder. Women and children were driven into the water, and were shot as they struggled, if they seemed likely to reach the further bank. The lust and covetousness of their tormentors had no limit. The last survivors often staggered into Aleppo naked; every shred of their clothing had been torn from them on the way. Witnesses who saw their arrival remark that there was not one young or pretty face to be seen among them, and these was assuredly none surviving that was truly old — except in so far as it had been aged by suffering. The only chance to survive was to be plain enough to escape their tormentors' lust, and vigorous enough to bear the fatigues of the road.

Those were the exiles that arrived on foot, but there were others, from the metropolitan districts and the north-west, who were transported to Aleppo by rail. These escaped the violence of the Kurds, but the sum of their suffering can hardly have been less. They were packed in cattle-trucks, often filthy and always overcrowded, and their journey was infinitely slow, for the line was congested by their multitude and by the passage of troops. At every stopping-place they were simply turned out into the open, without food or shelter, to wait for days, or even weeks, till the line was clear and rolling-stock available to carry them a further stage. The gendarmes in charge of them seem to have been as brutal as those with the convoys on foot, and when they came to the two breaks in the Baghdad Railway, where the route crosses the ranges of the Taurus and Amanus Mountains, they too had to traverse these, the most arduous stages of all, on foot. At Bozanti, the rail-head west of Taurus, and again at Osmania, Mamouret, Islahia, and Katma, stations on either slope of the Amanus chain, vast and incredibly foul concentration camps grew up, where the exiles were delayed for months, and died literally by thousands of hunger, exposure, and epidemics. The portion of them that finally reached Aleppo were in as deplorable a condition as those that had made the journey on foot from beginning to end.

Aleppo was the focus upon which all the convoys converged.
The displacement of Armenians to Syria sparked a refugee disasterWiki recounts a survivor's testimony which was later made into a 1919 film in consultation with the survivor:
Aurora Mardiganian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide of 1915–1923, recalled sixteen young Armenian girls being "crucified" by their Ottoman tormentors. The film Auction of Souls (1919), which was based on her book Ravished Armenia, showed the victims nailed to crosses. However, almost 70 years later Mardiganian revealed to film historian Anthony Slide that the scene was inaccurate. She described what was actually an impalement. She stated that "The Turks didn't make their crosses like that. The Turks made little pointed crosses. They took the clothes off the girls. They made them bend down, and after raping them, they made them sit on the pointed wood, through the vagina. That's the way they killed – the Turks. Americans have made it a more civilized way. They can't show such terrible things."
You can see the last surviving clip of Ravished Armenia aka Auction of Souls here. You can read statements from Armenians about the genocide here, here and here; and from the Turks here, here, here and here. Turkey insists that this debate reflects a rise of anti-Islamic feeling and racism in Europe.

Image Source: pinterest.

German historian Michael Hesemann has studied Catholic archival records to argue that the Armenian genocide was part of a Turkish anti-Christian purge, artificially creating a homogeneous, 'national' Islamic Turkey within the collapsing Ottoman empire:
I soon realized that no historian had ever worked with most of these documents, and that all this information was obviously unknown even to the leading experts on the Armenocide.

Given the importance of their content, I decided to write a book, putting the documents in the context of what we already know about the events of 1915-18.

[ALETEIA INTERVIEWER:] What was the most surprising and unexpected insight you discovered in the Vatican Archives about the Armenian genocide?

The most surprising insight was that the Armenian genocide was in fact just part of a bigger plan — the extermination of all non-muslim minorities in the Ottoman Empire.

The ruling “Young Turk” movement came in contact with European ideas of nationalism and the concept that only a homogenous state can be a strong state. That is why they believed that the weakness of the Ottoman Empire was caused by its multi-religious and multi-ethnic character.

They wanted to “heal” this “weakness” by eliminating all foreign elements, which first meant the Christians who numbered 19% of the population in early 1914. Besides the Armenians, also Aramaic and Assyrian Christians, Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christians were persecuted and murdered.

The Turkish claim of a conspiracy between Russia and some Armenian leaders was nothing but a lie to justify those measures. If that were really the case, why did they kill innocent women and children, too? And why didn’t they spare the other Christian groups, which were never under suspicion? Indeed, the Turkish Secretary of the Interior, Talaat Bey, quite frankly told Johann Mordtmann of the German Embassy, according to a report to Berlin: “The (Turkish) government uses the war to get rid of our internal enemies — the indigenous Christians of all denominations — without diplomatic interventions by foreign nations.” This is also what we read in some of the Vatican documents, e.g. a report written by Fr. Michael Liebl, an Austrian Capuchin missionary, who learned in Samsun: “Not the Armenians, the Christians were sentenced (to death) at a secret meeting of the Young Turks 5 or 6 years ago in Thessaloniki.”
Al Jazeera concurs with Hesemann's interpretation:
[T]he genocide, like the Muslim-Orthodox exchange of population between Greece and Turkey, is at the very foundation of the Turkish Republic. In fact, the religious-ethnic cleansing continued unabated during the republican years. Non-Muslim religious monuments were mostly destroyed in the present era. So any formal - or even informal - recognition of past violence would challenge the very foundation of the state. This state has not yet been militarily beaten into recognising its crimes, as Nazi Germany was. Yet, the Turkish establishment cannot deliver more than the ruling party's recent meagre openings towards non-Muslim minorities. Quite to the contrary, it needs, in the final analysis, not only to deny but to indirectly justify the genocide in order to reaffirm its very existence.
To compete with Armenian ceremonies, the Turks hold WWI Battle of Gallipoli memorials on 25 April. In December 2012, the Turks convinced Danish Royal Library staff to allow them to participate in the presentation of an Armenian genocide exhibition; this drew a lot of criticism:
“This is giving in to Turkish pressure and it won’t do. Without comparing the two events, it’s like asking neo-Nazis to arrange a Holocaust exhibition,” Søren Espersen, a spokesperson for Dansk Folkeparti (DF), told Berlingske newspaper.

Turkey refuses to to use the ‘genocide’ to describe the deaths of over an estimated one million Armenians who died during the mass extermination carried out by the Ottoman Empire between the years of 1915-1923. Turkey counters that the deaths were a by-product of the First World War and that the issue should be left to historians.

But Matthias Bjørnlund, a historian and leading Danish expert on the Armenian Genocide, is perplexed over the Royal Library’s decision in the case.

“If you believe that all versions of history are equal, then you’ve undermined your role as a research institution,” Bjørnlund told Berlingske. “It was genocide and not all interpretations of this history are correct.”
This story of religious extermination and national baptism by genocide chimes with today's news stories. Yesterday, the left-wing Guardian pointed out that President Obama should acknowledge the genocide. Contrast that with Putin's unambiguous Russian statement and the Austrian parliament's formal recognition of the anniversary. American right-wing CNS News reported with muted sarcasm on American Muslim groups' petitioning President Obama to deal with this anniversary delicately in light of current affairs:
A coalition of U.S. Islamic organizations does not want President Obama to describe the mass killings of Armenian Christians a century ago as a genocide, arguing that “a one-sided interpretation of the 1915 events” could harm the U.S.-Turkish strategic relationship. “Any acknowledgment by religious or political leaders of the tragedy that befell Armenians should be balanced, constructive and must also recognize Turkish and Muslim suffering,” the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) said in a statement, issued ahead of Friday’s 100th anniversary of the beginning of the atrocities.
On this 100th anniversary of an event in which up to 1.5 million Armenian people were murdered by the Kurds and Turks, this blog posts historic photographs. More photographs are here, here and here; related Youtube videos are herehere, here, here and here.

Image Source: Front Page Mag.

Severed heads of murdered Armenians. Source: The First Genocide of the 20th Century, by James Nazer. Image Source: Photograph by a German officer, stationed in Turkey, via University of Texas / Armeniapedia.

Image Source: University of Texas.

"1915-1916, corpse of young Armenian boy starved to death, collapsed at doorstep. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria." Image Source © Armenian National Institute, Inc., courtesy of Sybil Stevens (daughter of Armin T. Wegner). Wegner Collection, Deutches Literaturarchiv, Marbach & United States Holocaust Memorial Museum via 24April1915.

See all my posts on Time and Politics.

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