The Armenian genocide: a closer look
There were three opportunities that motivated the Armenian genocide to commence: the fact that christians were outcasted within society, the First World War and lastly the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The Christians being outcasted from society had allowed a nationalist group known as the Young Turks to have the idea of committing this genocide. Due to this ideology, the Young Turks even felt “connected to the heroic Mongols which contrasted them with inferior and untrustworthy Greeks, Armenians and Jews” (Smith, 152). The First World War had left a fog of war which allowed for the Armenian genocide to come about. A fog of war indicates that an event will begin during a time of tension leftover from a previous event, in this context the prior event would be World War I.
The decline of the Ottoman Empire had caused for social, economical and political turmoil within the society. This turmoil created an instability (a crisis) within the society, thus creating the opportunity for the perpetrators to initiate the murders of the genocide. The first stage of genocide is called Classification. Classification is when the perpetrators distinguish their target group, which within this genocide, were the Christians. This was fairly simple for the Young Turks due to the fact that the Christians were already considered outcasts within the society.
The reason for this was because during previous years, Russia had declared war against Turkey which had caused for the Armenians living in Turkey to revolution against the Ottoman Empire. The leaders of Turkey used “the pretext of an Armenian revolutionary uprising and the cover of war to eradicate the Armenian presence in turkey” (Power, 3). This is the sort of rhetoric that is usually heard throughout the beginning of genocides in order for the perpetrators to begin targeting their group and separating them from society. The second stage is symbolization. Although the Armenians were never put to wear some sort of physical symbol to identify themselves, they received an imposition of verbal symbols. This genocide was wrapped around the ideology of discriminating against the Christian minorities.
Christians would not convert to Islam despite that they were told to, so the Young Turks would refer to the Armenians like infidels or nonbelievers. These verbal symbols would cause hatred and tension to rise within the society which allows for the perpetrators ideology to spread easier and quicker. Dehumanization is the third stage of genocide and was seen in many instances during the Armenian genocide. “In thousands of cases, children and women were kidnapped and seized by villagers; the women were kept as servants and sex slaves, the children converted to Islam and raised as Turks” (Jones, 158). Slaves were seen as sex objects and servants were seen as subordinate.
Both of these terms create the mentality that this group of people were subhuman. The point of dehumanization within a genocide is that it is a method of justify the actions of the perpetrators as moral. If the victims are subordinate to the perpetrators, then it is morally just to kill them. Within dehumanization, euphemisms such as “ethnic cleansing” are used. In the Armenian genocide, “the Ottoman authorities rounded up Armenians notables and the CUP’s final solution to the Armenian problem was implemented” (Jones, 154).
These euphemisms are used in order to hide the atrocities of the mass murders being committed and are used to further justify their actions towards the victim group. Organization is the fourth stage within genocide in which the perpetrators meticulously and strategically plan the murders they are going to conduct. During this stage the militias were being formed sand trained to be ready to kill. The Armenian victims were also being prepared to be killed. At this point the Young Turks had taken control of the government and the Armenian citizens were under their control.
By taking over the government, this gave the Young Turks the power to overturn laws and to create new ones that fit to their agenda of mass murder. During organization, the genocide is almost in full commence and would be difficult to stop due to the fact that the civilians were helpless and with the extremists in control. Polarization is the fifth stage within genocide, this is the stage where extremists drive the groups apart and the political moderates are silenced, threatened and potentially killed. During this stage in the Armenian genocide, the perpetrators were allowed the opportunity to fully commence the genocide. The opportunity for a genocide usually occurs when there is an instability within the society and that is exactly what happened.
During this time period, the new Ottoman rules known as the Committee of Union and Progressive (CUP) were split into two separate groups: the liberal- democratic and the authoritarian factions. This split in the CUP cause “economic and structural collapse, in which the vision of a renewed empire was born- an empire that would unite all Turkic peoples and stretch fro, Constantinople to Central Asia. This vision, however, excluded non-Muslim minorities” (Jones, 153). Also the first targets during this genocide were in fact the political moderates. “Churches were desecrated.
Armenian schools were closed, and those teachers who refused to convert to Islam were killed” (Power, 2). Preparation is the sixth stage in genocide. This stage is where victims are separated and death lists are made. There was an official proclamation that was drawn up during the Armenian genocide that stated: “Our Armenian fellow countrymen because they [the Christians] have attempted to destroy the peace and security of the Ottoman state, have to be sent away to places..
.and a literal obedience to the following orders in a categorical manner is accordingly enjoined upon all Ottomans: 1) With the exception of the sick, all Armenians are obliged to leave within five days from the fate of this proclamation….
2) although they are free to carry with them on their journey the articles of their movable property which they desire they are forbidden to sell their land and extra effects…” (Power, 2). The purpose of the rhetoric in which the authority figures who wrote this was to propagandize their ideology; which was to spread hatred towards the Christians who supposedly destroyed the peace of the Ottoman state.
Preparation requires both physical as well as psychological training and this is one example in which there was psychological training instilled into the authority figures within this genocide. The physical training aspect to this genocide would be when this proclamation forced the civilians to leave their homes within a certain time limit. By forcing the citizens out of their homes, the victims are being prepared to be killed and the perpetrators are preparing to kill. Extermination is the most destructive of the eight stages of genocide. The Armenian genocide could also be “portrayed as a unified campaign against all the empire’s Christian minorities” (Jones, 150). By the end of this genocide, the Turks had murdered around one and a half million Armenians.
To the perpetrators of genocide, their victims are not fully human, and are attempting to cleanse the “Armenian impurities” who have destroyed peace within that society. Extermination is made possible due to the fact that it is financially sponsored by the state which is usually conspiring with militias as well as the police force. The final stage of genocide is known as denial. Denial occurs both during and after the genocide and comes from the perpetrators in order to lessen the severity of their actions.There were many different approaches to denial in which the perpetrators used. One example would be a form of denial known as ‘not in those numbers’.
In this example, “the genocide’s organizers believed that using such forces would enable the government to deflect responsibility. For as the death tolls rise, they could always say that things got out of control and it was the result of groups of brigands” (Jones, 157). The authority figures responsible for this genocide attempted to belittle their actions by stating that the numbers are incorrect and that the situation was simply “getting out of hand”. Another example would be when Russia declaring war on Turkey “had invited Armenians living within Turkey to rise up against Ottoman rule..
.but this did not stop the Turkish leadership from using the pretext of an Armenian revolutionary uprising and the cover of war to eradicate the Armenian presence in Turkey” (Power, 3). This exemplifies the ways in which the authorities essentially made it seem as though the Armenians for their own extermination and that they were to blame.