U.S. President Joe Biden officially recognised the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915-16 as “an act of genocide” on the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
What happened in 1915?
- Before the First World War broke out in 1914, there were 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
- According to a study by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, in 1922, four years after the War, the Armenian population in the region was about 387,800.
- This has led historians to believe that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed during the course of the War.
- Armenians were largely living in the eastern fringes of the Empire.
- The Ottoman Turks unleashed Turkish and Kurdish militias upon them, killing and pillaging tens of thousands.
- Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were deported from eastern Anatolia (today’s Turkey) to concentration camps in the Syrian steppe.
- Most of the deaths occurred during this flight. “Rape and beating were commonplace. Those who were not killed at once were driven through mountains and deserts without food, drink or shelter.
What is genocide?
- According to Article II of the UN Convention on Genocide of December 1948, genocide has been described as carrying out acts intended “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.
- Turkey has acknowledged that atrocities were committed against Armenians.
- However, it denies it was a genocide (which comes with legal implications) and challenges the estimates that 1.5 million were killed.