On April 24, 1915, the Armenian Genocide began. On that day and henceforth, several hundred Armenians were forcefully deported and later executed by the Turkish government. That was only the beginning to the genocide that would reduce the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922) from two million to 388,000 in the span of seven years, when it ended with the dissolution of the empire.
The Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, April 24, commemorates the countless lives lost during the massacre issued by the Ottoman government to remove all Armenians, illogically justified by rising general suspicion and betrayal in support of their enemy: Russia during World War Ⅰ. A national holiday recognized by Armenians throughout the world, the commemoration first began in 1919 in Istanbul, organized by a group of the genocide survivors.
During the 15th century, Armenia was fully integrated into the Ottoman empire, a dominant Muslim power. This resulted in the unequal treatment of the Christian Armenians: having made to pay higher taxes and have few political and legal rights under the nation’s acknowledgment. However, they actually thrived under Ottoman rule, which was the prime motivation of resentment by their Turkish neighbors. In fact, between 1894 and 1896, when Armenians were protesting for basic civil rights, Turkish officials and citizens attacked Armenian villages and killed hundreds of thousands of Armenians: marking the first Armenian massacre. Among the rising tension equally fostered by anti-Armenian ideologies, a new government of the “Young Turks” came to power in 1908. By promoting the “Turkification” of the Ottoman Empire, non-Turks became a threat to their absolute rule. On top of that, the bitter public animosity towards Armenians exasperated when the Armenians helped Russian forces during World War Ⅰ. As a result, the government began to advocate for the “removal” of Armenians, officially setting the start of the genocide in 1915. Groups known as the “killing squads” and “butcher battalions” drived in the massacre: drowning and burning the victims. After deadly years of the butcherment of human rights and liberty, the genocide came to an end in 1922, of which the death toll amounted to more than 1.5 million Armenians.
Despite the worldwide remorse and apologetic attitude towards the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government continues to deny the genocide, arguing that the Armenians were an enemy force to the nation, thereby endowing the government with the right to “combat” against them. It is even illegal in Turkey to discuss the former events that occurred associated with the Armenians. The unfortunate reality does not end here: the United States also does not officially acknowledge the killings as a genocide due to the close alliance with Turkey. However there is a light of hope in that southern California, home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia, has been formally pushing for recognition from Congress since 1983, and in 2015, Glendale Unified School District became the first in the country to publicly remember the Armenian Genocide.
Even in this very moment, Armenians are determined to fight for justice and to change all the minds in denial of the genocide. Until then, Armenians and Americans living in southern California continue to participate in the March For Justice every year on April 24, organized by the Armenian Genocide Committee (AGC). From Pan Pacific Park to the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles, tens of thousands march in unison to “voice our collective demands for justice for this immense crime against humanity,” according to Karo Khanjian, AGC Chairman.
“Being an Armenian, [the Armenian Genocide] is a tragedy that occurred, and it is not recognized enough,” states Meri Khnkoyan, a high school junior from Los Angeles. Fighting against the odds of nationalism and ignorance, the voice of Armenians continue to crescendo until the day where their painful past shall be shared to the global community as a moment of remorse and well respected silence. “If we don’t recognize genocide, genocide will continue.”
Noorim Oh, Grade 10
North Hollywood High School