April is Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month, and April 24 is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. In 1915, the Ottoman Turkish government instituted a systematic extermination campaign targeting ethnic Armenians and other Christian minorities within the Ottoman empire. This included Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans and Maronites. By 1923, approximately 1.5 million Armenians were murdered and 300,000 deported. This genocide is recognized in 2019 U.S. House Resolution 296, 2019 U.S. Senate Resolution 150, and annually by President Biden.

This efficient killing machine involved significant participation of the Turkish populace. Economic incentives abounded.

At the onset of World War I, Armenian men were conscripted into the Ottoman military, placed in labor battalions, worked to death and executed. On April 24, 1915, 250 influential Armenian leaders from Constantinople were arrested and murdered. Father Grigoris Balakian escaped and survived. Being fluent in German, he assumed various aliases. His memoir, “Armenian Golgotha,” is a powerful witness to the genocide.

With their leaders and young men gone, the remaining Armenian populace was vulnerable. On May 27, 1915, the Ottoman Council of Ministers authorized the deportation of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population. Village by village, Armenians throughout the empire were deported on short notice. First the remaining men were taken to an execution site and either shot or beheaded. Subsequently women, children and elderly men were sent on a death march to Deir ez-Zor, the Syrian desert. Escorted by Turkish gendarmes who killed and tormented them, they were forced onward for days with whips, clubs and bayonets. The gendarmes then alerted local Turkish villagers, Kurdish villagers and released criminals on the arriving deportees.

The mobs descended on the defenseless Armenians with axes, hoes, meat cleavers, pitchforks, knives and gouges to kill, mutilate and steal. The tortures and murders included rape, fingernail removal, eye gouging, genital mutilation, beheading, disemboweling, dismemberment, burning alive, skull crushing and drowning. Infants were thrown against rocks and buried alive. The Turkish and Kurdish peasants stripped the dead of all their material possessions and butchered intestines to find swallowed jewelry and gold coins. This was their reward for killing the infidel Christians. Corpses were often left to be devoured by wild animals. Those rare individuals who survived the march to the Syrian desert were placed in large open air concentration camps in Dier ez-Zor, where most were starved and killed.

Armenians were also deported by rail to the Dier ez-Zor concentration camps. On the Black Sea, Armenians were loaded on ships and dumped overboard. Some brave Turks and Kurds risked their lives to help their Armenian friends, while some despicable Armenian traitors assisted the perpetrators.


“The Armenians of Aintab,” by Turkish historian Umit Kurt, outlines how the material wealth of killed and deported Armenians was stolen by the Turkish people and government. He posits that the modern Turkish republic was largely founded by this massive theft.

Ignoring and denying genocide has serious ramifications. Hitler reportedly once said: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

We know what followed. Turkey, Azerbaijan and most of their populace deny the Armenian genocide and actively pursue expropriation of the remaining Armenian homeland. In 2023, Azerbaijan, aided by Turkey, completed the seizure of Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh in Armenian) and ethnically cleansed 120,000 indigenous ethnic Armenians. Azerbaijan currently occupies 31 border villages within the Republic of Armenia.

Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s dictator, refers to Armenia as “Western Azerbaijan.” He threatens invasion unless Armenia cedes multiple villages in northeast Armenia and its entire southern border for a transit corridor to link Azerbaijan with Turkey. Armenia, a democracy, would then become virtually surrounded by two authoritarian and genocide-denying foes. Turkey (80 million people) has the second largest military in NATO. Azerbaijan (10 million people) is a wealthy and corrupt petro-dictatorship. Armenia has 3 million people. More killing and economic plunder await. The Lemkin Institute issued Red Flag Alerts for genocide by Azerbaijan in Armenia in Oct. 2023, Feb. 2024 and April 2024. Consider reading them. The existential threat for Armenia is imminent, real and too rarely covered.

Armenia’s survival as a democracy depends upon other democratic nations to provide needed military hardware and diplomatic support. The U.S. can do more diplomatically to support the fragile democracy in Armenia.

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