A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, April 24, 2015

April 24, 1915

Armenian deportees, April 1915 (Wikipedia)
"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation (Vernichtung) of the Armenians?"
—Adolf Hitler to the Wehrmacht on the eve of invading Poland, 1939

April 24, 1915, was a critical moment for the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Allied navies were gathered just outside the Dardanelles and on the next day, April 25, would land at Gallipoli. In the east, Russian advances into the Empire's Armenian region had already provoked an Ottoman crackdown in Van, which in turn led local Armenians to create self-defense forces to defend themselves. Fighting erupted in the city of Van, which the Ottomans  characterized as a revolt, on April 17. When the Russian Army sought to advance to relieve Van, this further convinced the Ottoman authorities that the Armenian population was what it a later war would be called a Fifth Column.

There is evidence that the decision to begin the arrest and deportation of Armenians had already been decided on before April 24, but that date, a century ago today, came to be identified by Armenians as the beginning of the agony. It was the date on which more than 200 Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople were arrested, removing much of the leadership of the Armenian community in thee capital; it became known as "Red Sunday."

The death of 1.5 million people as a direct result of state action seems to most people to meet the definition of genocide under international law, but the persistent refusal of the Turkish Republic to accept the use of the term, and to continue to protest its use by others, has kept a century-old wound still fresh in both Armenia and the diaspora. But Armenians have not forgotten.

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