The Armenian Genocide is often called the first genocide of the twentieth century. It refers to the systematic annihilation of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. According to estimates, approximately 1.5 million Armenians died during the genocide, either in massacres and in the killings, or from ill treatment, abuse and starvation. The Armenian diaspora marks April 24 as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
This year marks 105 years since the beginning of the genocide, something Turkey has consistently denied. The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were Christians by faith and the Ottoman Caliphate feared that the Armenians would bear allegiance to neighboring countries, Russia, for instance, with similar religious affiliations than the Ottoman Empire, especially during a war.
On April 24, 1915, Ottoman Turkish government officials arrested and executed thousands of Armenian intellectuals. It was the start of the Armenian Genocide. Armenian families, including children, were forced to walk for days without food, water and shelter in the deserts of Syria and Arabia. The Armenians were subjected to other indignities, having to walk naked under the sun, many dropping dead on the journey. Women and girls were subjected to widespread sexual violence and abuse and were also trafficked into sexual slavery.
Many documents and evidence pertaining to the Armenian Genocide was destroyed a few years before and after the end of the war. Researchers put the number at approximately 1.5 million of Armenians who were killed. Thousands of Armenians were displaced and fled to countries around the world seeking refuge. Several diplomats who were posted in the region during the Armenian Genocide had documented the occurrences in personal diary entries as well as in official dispatches.
Following the war, displaced Armenians were not permitted to reacquire the property and belongings that they had been forced to leave behind during the genocide. Turkey has dismissed the use of the term “genocide” and has denied that Armenian were subjected to systematic killings. Following years of criticism for genocide denials, in 2007, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then Turkish Prime Minister, called for an alternative term to be used in the Armenian Genocide— 1915 Olayları, the ‘Events of 1915’. In Turkey, intellectuals and authors who have openly written about the Armenian Genocide have faced harassment, violence, arrest and have even been killed in retaliation.
As of 2020, the Armenian Genocide has been formally recognised by 32 countries and parliaments. While other countries may not have officially recognised the genocide, presently, only Turkey and Azerbaijan openly deny the occurrence of the genocide. In the past, whenever a country has officially extended recognition to the Armenian Genocide, Turkey has threatened those governments with economic and diplomatic consequences.