Remembering the Armenians

Tom Payne in The Telegraph:

Armenia2_3314581bFrom early 1915, under the “fog of war”, Armenians began to disappear from the Ottoman Empire. It could happen in a number of ways. Sometimes it was a matter of destroying villages and rounding up the inhabitants. Their murderers, Turks or Kurds, were as likely to use bayonets, swords or axes as guns, because they wanted to save bullets. Many left their homes on forced marches, to be attacked by killers, frequently thrown into the Euphrates, the women raped. Those who survived ended up in the Syrian Desert, around or in the town of Der Zor, where they were murdered or starved to death. A German witness noted: “Their stomachs, weakened by months of hunger, are no longer able to absorb any food … If you give them bread, they put it aside indifferently. They lie there quietly and wait for death.” It is impossible to say how many died. Figures begin at 600,000. Even the Ottoman government of 1919 acknowledged that 800,000 were killed. A million is probable, a million and a half possible. One problem in calculating the death toll is that some really did disappear. The slaughterers thought little of killing children, and one commander, Cevdet Bey, bragged before an attack, “I won’t leave one, not one so high,” while holding his hand below knee-height. But at other times children were taken and offered to local Muslims. Even now there are people discovering that their grandparents were survivors of the genocide.

Genocide. To study the numbers, and to hear commanders barking and repeating the orders “Burn, destroy, kill” is to think, what other word is there? And yet the rows continue to impede understanding between Turks and Armenians, and even among Armenians themselves. Those who left their homelands lobby for recognition that what happened was genocide. Those in the now-independent Republic of Armenia are more pragmatic – if they stop asking the Turks to use what negotiators have to call “the G-word”, then maybe the Turks will be calmer about Armenian claims on parts of Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Turks don’t want to use the G-word because if they do, they fear having to give parts of Turkey to the Armenians.

More here.