Roughly one million Armenians were sent on death marches into the Syrian desert under orders of Talaat Pasha, then-leader of the Ottoman Empire, in 1915-16. By some estimates, 1.5 million Armenians perished between 1915 and 1923 at the hands of the Ottomans. Wikipedia provides this overview:
Most historians date the final decision to exterminate the Armenian population to the end of March or early April 1915. Historian Ronald Grigor Suny states, “Deportations ostensibly taken for military reasons rapidly radicalized monstrously into an opportunity to rid Anatolia once and for all of those peoples perceived to be an imminent existential threat to the future of the empire.”
The province of Van descended into lawlessness by the end of 1914, and massacres of Armenian men were occurring in the Başkale area from December. Dashnak leaders attempted to keep the situation calm, urging Armenians to tolerate localized massacres because even justifiable self-defense could lead to a generalized massacre. The governor, Cevdet Bey, ordered the Armenians of Van to hand over their arms on 18 April, creating a dilemma for the Armenians: If they obeyed, they expected to be killed, but if they refused, it would provide a pretext for massacres elsewhere. Other Dashnak leaders having been killed, Aram Manukian organized the fortification of the Armenian quarter of Van and defended it from the Ottoman attack that began on 20 April.
During the siege, Armenians in surrounding villages were massacred at Cevdet’s orders. Russian forces liberated Van on 18 May, finding 55,000 corpses in the province—about half its prewar Armenian population. Cevdet’s forces proceeded to Bitlis and attacked Armenian and Syriac villages; men were killed immediately, women and children kidnapped by local Kurds, and others marched away to be killed later. By the end of June, there were only a dozen Armenians in the vilayet. Around Muş, 141,000 Armenians in more than 200 villages were ethnically cleansed during the second week of July.
During the night of 23–24 April 1915, at the orders of Talat Pasha, hundreds of Armenian political activists, intellectuals, and community leaders—including many of Talat’s former political allies—were rounded up in Constantinople and across the empire. This order, intended to eliminate the Armenian leadership and anyone capable of organizing resistance, resulted in the torture and eventually murder of most of those arrested, who were forced to confess to a nonexistent Armenian conspiracy against the empire. The same day, Talat ordered the shuttering of all Armenian political organizations and diverted the Armenians who had previously been removed from Alexandretta, Dörtyol, Adana, Hadjin, Zeytun, and Sis to the Syrian Desert, instead of the previously planned destination of central Asia Minor, where they would likely have survived.
For years, there has been an ongoing political debate regarding a formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In 2019, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) formally recognizing the genocide on behalf of the U.S. Government. Per the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations:
WASHINGTON – Today the Senate passed legislation by Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which formally recognizes the Armenian Genocide on behalf of the U.S. government. After three previous attempts in recent weeks, Menendez obtained the Unanimous Consent of his Senate colleagues to pass his Senate Resolution affirming the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire, and honoring the memories of its 1,500,000 victims.
“By passing my Armenian Genocide resolution, the Senate finally stood up to confirm history: What happened from 1915 to 1923 was – most assuredly – genocide. There is no other word for it. There is no euphemism. There is no avoiding it,” said Menendez. “To overlook human suffering is not who we are as a people. It is not what we stand for as a nation. We are better than that, and our foreign policy should always reflect this. I am beyond honored and humbled to be part of this important moment of our history.”
This followed a resolution by the U.S. House, passed in October of 2019. As reported by the New York Times,
The passage of the legislation, by a 405-to-11 vote, is the first time a chamber of Congress has officially designated the 1915 mass killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as a genocide. Lawmakers had previously shirked from supporting such a resolution to preserve the United States’ relationship with Turkey, a NATO ally that has steadfastly denied that the atrocities amounted to genocide.
With a 405-11 vote, the House signaled an overwhelming show of support for that recognition. However, one congresswoman who opted not to support the resolution proffered a rather odd rationale for it. Bonchie wrote about it at the time:
Enter the resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide, an issue that has festered for decades within American politics as cowardly politicians refused to admit the obvious. Because Trump has recently worked with Turkey though, that finally gave Congress the courage to do something they should have done a long time ago. Anything to stick it to the orange man and all.
Omar was the only Democrat to not vote to affirm the resolution, feeding theories about her penchant for supporting Islamic dictators over allies like Israel. In fact, on the same day, Omar voted against sanctioning Turkey while at the same time supporting sanctions on the Jewish state.
Her excuse for not recognizing the Armenian genocide is just hilariously nonsensical. It’s a woke word salad.
Omar's office has sent this statement to CNN explaining her present vote: pic.twitter.com/Gpj198jx0p
— Haley Byrd Wilt (@byrdinator) October 29, 2019
Apparently Americans killed hundreds of millions of “indigenous people,” which is odd because nowhere near hundreds of millions of them existed. Regardless, what does deaths via war and disease within Native American population hundreds of years ago have to do with the Armenian genocide? The answer is absolutely nothing.
Well, what are you going to say? Omar’s gonna Omar. Bonchie (fairly) speculated at the time that because Omar’s purported rationale was so non-sensical, something else was afoot. Was her true agenda based on an affinity for Islamism? Hard to say.
Yesterday, on “Armenian Remembrance Day,” President Biden issued a formal statement of recognition regarding the genocide. The statement reads:
Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring. Beginning on April 24, 1915, with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by Ottoman authorities, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination. We honor the victims of the Meds Yeghern so that the horrors of what happened are never lost to history. And we remember so that we remain ever-vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms.
Of those who survived, most were forced to find new homes and new lives around the world, including in the United States. With strength and resilience, the Armenian people survived and rebuilt their community. Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history that brought so many of their ancestors to our shores. We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.
Today, as we mourn what was lost, let us also turn our eyes to the future—toward the world that we wish to build for our children. A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are able to pursue their lives in dignity and security. Let us renew our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world. And let us pursue healing and reconciliation for all the people of the world.
The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today.
Interestingly enough, this statement from the White House follows a letter from over 100 House members urging Biden to formally recognize the genocide. The letter is bipartisan — a rarity in itself these days — but guess who it includes? Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
So what changed between October 2019 and April 2021? Why was she a signatory to a letter urging President Biden to recognize the genocide this week when, less than two years ago, she couldn’t bring herself to support an overwhelmingly bi-partisan resolution put forth by her House peers? One gets the feeling it may have had something to do with the party in charge at the time.
Interestingly enough, that open letter, voiced on the House floor by Adam Schiff (D-CA), included the following commentary:
The word “genocide” is significant because genocide is not a problem of the past; it is a problem of today, including in Xinjiang, where Uyghurs face a relentless campaign by the Chinese Communist Party to wipe out their culture….What a comfort it would be to the perpetrators of crimes against humanity in the present day if the most powerful nation on earth could be cowed into silence about the events of a century ago….Mr. President, we must not resort to euphemisms or half-truths. The murder of 1.5 million Armenians was an atrocity — that is surely true. But it was more than that. The act of seeking to destroy a people and a culture is a different kind of evil and it was not until Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide” that we had a word to decribe [sic] it.
Video of Schiff’s brief speech is below. Setting aside for a moment my extraordinary distaste for most everything about Schiff, I will say that I agree with and appreciate this three-and-a-half-minutes from him.
No word yet from the Biden Administration as to whether/when they’ll stop referring to the treatment of the Uyghurs by the CCP as “different cultural norms.”