Sources and Additional Reading


At the time, the Armenian Genocide was described as “crimes of humanity” and “murder of a nation", for lack of an all-encompassing word[6].  There was no word until the Holocaust occurred, and a survivor, well-aware of the Ottoman Turks’ crimes, actualized a word to use for the Armenian Genocide as well as the Holocaust.  Raphael Lemkin, coined the word “genocide” in 1944 to be able to charge the perpetrators with the crime.  In his own words,

“[Genocide] is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group”[7].

mass grave Dead women and children

Arguements Against Genocide

Opponents claim the Genocide was not orchestrated to exterminate the Armenian race but a series of massacres and wars in which both sides lost men.  

The Genocide was premeditated, extremely organized, and planned.  The government forced Armenians to surrender their arms, created programs to encourage youth to “protect” their nation through propaganda and distribution of free weapons, and essentially convinced the public that Armenians were threatening the nation in a time of war.  The army employed convicts in killing squads called “Special Organization[s]” and gave orders to eliminate the Armenians[8].  Able-bodied men, especially those who had served in the military, were executed first to eliminate any form of resistance or protection of women and children. Intellectual and cultural leaders were rounded up and killed to eliminate the possibility of an organized uprising.  Those who were not shot or burned in buildings in villages were forced on a death march through the desert; drowned; raped; asphyxiated in make-shift gas chambers in caves; or died of starvation.  Armenians had neither the man power nor the ammunition to fight back; exactly the weak position the government wanted them in.  

executed Executed Armenians

Opponents claim that a death march through the Syrian desert without food or water is not genocide because it is not meant to kill, merely to exile.

The intention of the death marches was to transport Armenians from Turkey and kill them at the same time.  This was the most efficient form of exterminating a group, as bodies were not left all over the towns of Turkey, but in an abandoned desert.  As Genocide Watch puts it, “mass murder by starvation has been a method of genocide for centuries, perfected by the Turks in Armenia in 1915 and by Stalin in 1933 Ukraine.”[9]  The denial of a key aspect of life such as food, water, or shelter is murder.

Starved Kids Orphans who survived the death marches

There was not meant to be any survivors, and the army was ordered to slaughter the survivors.  As a leader of a secret organization tasked to slaughter Armenians confirmed with his subordinates: "Are the Armenians, who are being dispatched from there, being liquidated? Are those harmful persons whom you inform us you are exiling and banishing, being exterminated, or are they being merely dispatched and exiled?"[10]

death march A death march

Official Definition of Genocide

International law states that genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
-the killings in death marches, in villages, and on April 24th

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
-starvation in the desert

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. [11]
-giving Armenian children to Turkish families to be raised as Muslim Turks

Bones recovered years after the genocide

Remains of Armenians found in a mass grave


Quotes from prominent Turkish leaders at the time during the international trial of the members of the military, government, and the leaders of the Young Turk organization: [12]

“The salvation of the country requires the elimination of the Armenians” --Talaat Pasha

Nuri, a man in charge of annihilation of Armenians in his district, testified to have “personally received the order of annihilation”

Major Mehmat Salim testified to “deportations” being a “part of extermination”, and “defenseless Armenians” were marched off in groups of two or three and killed with “axes, spades, swords” among other weapons.

Colonel Rejayi testified to receiving orders to send Armenians to their destination. When he asked what was meant by “destination” his supervisor responded with “they were killed”.  

United States Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, told Washington: “When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race”[8].

starved to death child A starved-to-death child

Countries/International Organizations that recognize the Armenian Genocide:

Argentina 2004
Australia 1997
Belgium 1998
Canada 1980
Chile 2007
Council of Europe 1998
Cyprus 1982
European Parliament 1987
France 1998
Greece 1996
Italy 2000
Lithuania 2001
Lebanon 2000
Netherlands 2004
Poland 2005
Russia 1995
Slovakia 2011
Sweden 2000
Switzerland 2003
Uruguay 1965
Vatican City 2000
Venezuela 2005
43 states in the United States


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