The religious as opposed to nationalistic aspects of the Armenian Genocide.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Last Friday, April 24, marked the “Great Crime,” that is, the genocide of Christians—primarily Armenians Assyrians and Greeks—that took place under the Islamic Ottoman Empire, throughout World War I. Then, in an attempt to wipe out as many Christians as possible, the Turks massacred approximately 1.5 million Armenians, 300,000 Assyrians, and 750,000 Greeks.
Most objective American historians who have studied the question unequivocally agree that it was a deliberate, calculated genocide:
More than one million Armenians perished as the result of execution, starvation, disease, the harsh environment, and physical abuse. A people who lived in eastern Turkey for nearly 3,000 years [more than double the amount of time the invading Islamic Turks had occupied Anatolia, now known as “Turkey”] lost its homeland and was profoundly decimated in the first large-scale genocide of the twentieth century. At the beginning of 1915 there were some two million Armenians within Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000…. Despite the vast amount of evidence that points to the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, eyewitness accounts, official archives, photographic evidence, the reports of diplomats, and the testimony of survivors, denial of the Armenian Genocide by successive regimes in Turkey has gone on from 1915 to the present.
Similarly, in 1920, U.S. Senate Resolution 359 heard testimony that included evidence of “[m]utilation, violation, torture, and death [which] have left their haunting memories in a hundred beautiful Armenian valleys, and the traveler in that region is seldom free from the evidence of this most colossal crime of all the ages.”
In her memoir, Ravished Armenia, Aurora Mardiganian described being raped and thrown into a harem (consistent with Islam’s rules of war). Unlike thousands of other Armenian girls who were discarded after being defiled, she managed to escape. In the city of Malatia, she saw 16 Christian girls crucified: “Each girl had been nailed alive upon her cross,” she wrote, “spikes through her feet and hands, only their hair blown by the wind, covered their bodies.” Such scenes were portrayed in the 1919 documentary film Auction of Souls, some of which is based on Mardiganian’s memoirs.
Whereas the genocide is largely acknowledged in the West, one of its primary if not fundamental causes is habitually overlooked: religion. The genocide is usually articulated through a singularly secular paradigm, one that factors only things that are intelligible from a secular, Western point of view—such as identity and gender politics, nationalism, and territorial disputes. Such an approach does little more than project modern Western perspectives onto vastly different civilizations and eras.
War, of course, is another factor that clouds the true face of the genocide. Because these atrocities mostly occurred during World War I, so the argument goes, they are ultimately a reflection of just that—war, in all its chaos and destruction, and nothing more. But as Winston Churchill, who described the massacres as an “administrative holocaust,” correctly observed, “The opportunity [WWI] presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race.” Even Adolf Hitler, ominously presaging his own plans, had pointed out that “Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians, without being thereby disturbed by foreign intervention.”
It’s worth noting that little has changed; in the context of war in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, the first to be targeted for genocide have been Christians and other minorities.
But even the most cited factor of the Armenian Genocide, “ethnic identity conflict,” while legitimate, must be understood in light of the fact that, historically, religion accounted more for a person’s identity than language or heritage. This is daily demonstrated throughout the Islamic world today, where Muslim governments and Muslim mobs persecute Christian minorities who share the same race, ethnicity, language, and culture; minorities who are indistinguishable from the majority—except, of course, for being non-Muslims, or “infidels.”
As one Armenian studies professor asks, “If it [the Armenian Genocide] was a feud between Turks and Armenians, what explains the genocide carried out by Turkey against the Christian Assyrians at the same time?” The same can be said about the Greeks. From a Turkish perspective, the primary thing Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks had in common was that they were all Christian “infidels.” FRONTPAGE MAG read more