The Ottoman Armenians: The Fate of Christians in a Muslim Land

by Baron Bodissey

Today is the 103rd anniversary of the start of the genocide against the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey. The essay below by Jen L. Jones was originally published in a slightly different form at a website that has since closed down. It is reproduced here with the permission of the author.

The Ottoman Armenians: The Fate of Christians in a Muslim Land

Against the combined forces of Turkish nationalism and Islam, the Christian Armenian minority’s struggle for equal rights and reform met with disaster on a massive scale. We now identify that time of their persecution and suffering as the Armenian Genocide

by Jen L. Jones

Genocides in human history are thankfully rare — modern genocides even more so, since we now have the will and the means to end them. Or so we think.

No doubt in our distant past, before recorded history, genocides occurred but left little trace. In more recent times, say 1915, for example, news of genocide in the Ottoman Empire could be and was telegraphed around the world and its harrowing images published in such newspapers as The New York Times. One might think that knowing about atrocities would spur action — that the world would care. But for the most part the world just sighed and looked away. That particular genocide, brought to the front pages of the Western press, then proceeded apace.

April 24, 2018 is the 103rd commemoration of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, carried out mostly in the lands now known as Turkey. Millions of words will be written about this event; tears will be shed; denials will rage.

Yet, despite the worldwide ceremonies and events marking this, how many of us really understand the nature of this massive atrocity?

For most of us, placing these Armenians in space and time is a fog-shrouded exercise which reveals the weakness of our educations. Yes, most of us have heard about this, but how many of our university youth could quickly point out on a globe where these events happened? How many could name the powers that orchestrated this? How many would know of the historical precedents in the 19th century that foreshadowed the genocide of 1915?

And if this weren’t the 103rd anniversary, how many would know how long ago this happened?


(Click to enlarge)

Imperatives to Understanding

Placing the land known as Armenia, both then and now, within its geographical context is crucial to understanding this genocide. Knowing the religion of the Armenians, their long history of Christianity, the deep nature of their faith — all are vital to comprehension.

Knowing the extent of the Ottoman Empire, its history, and the primacy it placed on Islam are all further crucial steps to full understanding — as is knowing how and why the revolutionary Young Turks had seized power from Sultan Hamid in 1908.

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