Blog di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA – Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa MISSIONARY ONGOING FORMATION – A missionary look on the life of the world and the church
By the late 1880’s there approximately 2.500.000 Armenian people living in the Ottoman Empire. Since World War I, the number of Armenians in Turkey has barely reached more than 120.000. The difference can be accounted for in the large number of Armenians who were slaughtered or forced to flee to other countries in the period from 1894 to 1921. Approximately 1,500,000 Armenians were killed in a twenty-eight year period.
For most people April 24th is just another day, not very different from any other, but for various Armenian communities around the world, it is a day of remembrance of their 1.5 million countrymen who were victims of brutal mass murders during World War I. Armenia is a nation that has had its hills painted with the blood of its people for thousands of years. Yet, though its song and dance have helped it overcome its horrific past, the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Turkish Ottoman Empire is a page of its past that just simply cannot be turned with ease.
First, the Ottoman government demanded the peaceful resignation of weapons from the Armenians, including all types of knives. Armenian notables were called to a meeting at which they were arrested. The mass arrest of Armenian political leaders is carried out. Armenian intellectuals and community leaders are arrested in Constantinople, sent to nearby cities and later slain. Deportations slowly began and soon there were multiple reports of starvation and spread of disease. Shortly after the Ottoman empire proclaimed jihad against England, France and Russia, unfounded accusations were made against Armenians that they were planning to join the Russian forces. From the Central Prison of city of Sivas where many Armenian intellectuals, political leaders, and the leading men of the villages surrounding Sivas were imprisoned, 15,000 Armenians were taken out and slain in the 36 extermination centers of the region.
Some of the inhabitants were sent to the Konia Desert in central Anatolia. The rest were sent to Der-el-Zor (Deir el-Zor) in the Syrian Desert. To further cut off the flow of information Azadamart, the leading Armenian newspaper in Constantinople, was closed by an order the government issued through the office of the police commissioner of Constantinople. Mass executions of Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army took place in various public squares for the purpose of terrorizing the Armenians, while with voluntary contributions, Armenians were building several hospitals for the use of the Turkish army through the Red Crescent Society.
The Armenians working in labor corps in Sivas were instructed to convert to Islam. At least 95% refused and were murdered. In order to further the Islamization and Turkification of the Armenian remnants in the Hawran District, all the Armenian clerics found there were murdered by the Turks.
On September 14, 1915 The New York Times reported that there were already at least 350,000 Armenians who were murdered. By August 19th of that same year British Ambassador to the United States, Lord Bryce, reported the number murdered to be 500,000. Shortly after, interim Chargé d’affaires for Germany, Wilhelm Radowitz, reported to the German Chancellor, Theobald von Bethman Hollweg that of the 2,000,000 Armenians in Turkey, 1.5 million had been deported. Of these 1,175,000 were dead; 325,000 were still living.
Toward the end of WWI the Ottoman leaders were held responsible for the atrocities, court martialed and sentenced to death, but not before leaving an indelible mark of blood and gory resulting in the death of up to an estimated 1.5 million people. The irony of it all is that today the Armenian genocide is still not recognized by Turkey and not formally recognized by most nations who have more interest vested in political gains than humanity and justice.
Many today would deny that the Armenian Genocide ever took place, attributing the massive loss of life to wartime casualties that inflicted all nations during the time. But various reports from foreigners in the area at the time paint a different picture that verify the intentional atrocities. Another such person, a Christian missionary named Rose Lambert, documented the horrible mass murders. In her autobiographical work titled Hadjin and the Armenian Massacres, Ms. Lambert details the conditions of an earlier siege of Adana.
Through her written narrative we meet an elderly man named Vartevar Agha who had witnessed the long days of dust and ashes. Despite his old age and frailty, when a Turkish captain’s son was injured by a stray bullet, he was seen carrying the boy of his enemy to safety, evading the bullets that were ironically by shot at him from the same enemy. He feverishly paced his way to get medical attention for the boy who had been wounded amidst the flying bullets. And though his own people were being hunted down for annihilation during this one episode, attacks on the city of Adana during the Armenian Genocide, the old man found that miraculous grace inside of himself to do good and save the boy, putting his own life at risk, being shot upon by the boy’s own countrymen, who were themselves too scared to get the young lad the medical attention that he needed.
In the end the siege of Adana in 1909 took the lives of between 20,000 and 30,000 men, women and children. The years that proceeded would usher in even greater levels of aggression carried out by the Ottoman Empire, a systematic concerted attempt to wipe away the entirety of the Armenian population. Under the guise of World War I and the supposed fear of Armenians, the Turks would launch a stealthy scheme that would result in the first genocide of the 20th century. Through forced deportations into unsurvivable conditions in the deserts, to outright rapes, beheadings, tortures and murders, the attempt of systematic annihilation of Armenians in and around Turkey would be carried out without any tension to the Ottoman conscience…
Armin T. Wagner