Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.
What is the Armenian Genocide?
In history, there are many moments that show the good in people, where we helped one another. Sadly there are also terrible events, like the Armenian genocide, when people treated each other badly.
The Armenians are a group of Christians who lived for hundreds of years in the eastern part of where Turkey is today. During World War I, over a million Armenians lost their lives.
Genocide is the term used when there is an organized plan to get rid of an entire group of people from a certain background, country, or religion. Many people feel strongly that what happened to the Armenians was a genocide. The Turkish government says that they didn't have a plan to get rid of the Armenian people and other non-Muslims also suffered, so it's not genocide. When reading this lesson, ask yourself whether you think the word should be used.
In the 1500s, the Armenians became part of the Ottoman Empire, ruled by the Turks. The Armenians were a minority group since most people in the Ottoman Empire were Muslim. The Ottomans gave the Armenians certain rights, and some Armenians became wealthy. There were Turks who felt these Armenians were snobby. Others did not like that the Armenians were different. More and more Muslims in Turkey began to wonder whether the Armenians really supported the Ottoman Empire. There were times when Turks committed violent attacks against Armenians.
By 1900, around 2.5 million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire. A group called the Young Turks took over the government. The Ottoman Empire had been very powerful but was getting weaker and lost a lot of land in 1912. Many blamed non-Muslims, like the Armenians.
When World War I began in 1914, the Young Turks fought with Germany and Austria-Hungary against Great Britain, Russia, and France. Armenians living near Russia found themselves in the middle. The Ottomans worried that the Armenians would help Russia. The Young Turks moved Armenian and non-Muslim soldiers to work assignments, where many died.
On April 24, 1915, the Ottomans began arresting and using violence against hundreds of Armenian leaders. That day is seen as the beginning of the genocide.
Next, the Young Turks began making Armenians living near Russia relocate. The argument was that the Armenians living there could be working against the Ottoman Empire. Their homes and property were taken away, and they were sent on long marches through the desert to concentration camps in Syria. Some died because there wasn't enough food, and many lost their lives violently. Others became refugees and moved to other countries.
During this time, there were newspaper articles in the United States and around the world about what was happening. Henry Morgenthau, Sr., who represented the United States government in the Ottoman Empire, spoke out about what he saw and helped raise money for refugees.
The genocide lasted until the early 1920s. By this time, the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire was nearly wiped out; between half a million and a million died.
Unfortunately, some newspaper headlines about refugees from back then look similar to what we see in the news today. What can we learn from this shocking period?
The Armenians were a Christian minority group living in the Ottoman Empire, who came to be seen as a threat when the Ottomans began fighting the Russians in World War I. On April 24, 1915, the Young Turks in charge of the Ottoman Empire arrested many leaders of the Armenian community and began what has come to be known as the Armenian genocide. At least 1 million Armenians died as they were forced out of their homes and sent on long marches to camps.
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