Through a deliberate decades-long campaign of ethnic cleansing, Turkey eradicated its minority communities and denied their history. Now it’s time to speak up. Deep in the heart of the Syrian desert, some 280 miles east of Damascus, lie the ruins of the Armenian Genocide Martyrs’ Memorial.
By BRANDON JETTER
SOURCE: THE CALIFORNIA AGGIE
Constructed in 1990, the memorial long served as a sight of pilgrimage for thousands of Armenians, descendants of a systematic genocide that once drove their ancestors into these same desert sands over a century ago. With its beige marble walls and pointed domes, the building was a premier example of Armenian architecture in a country where so many members of the diaspora now live.
Tragically, the complex was destroyed at the hands of ISIS in 2014 — perhaps indicative of a cultural cleansing that never really ended. The deserts of Deir ez-Zor, where the Ottomans marched thousands of Armenians until they died of starvation or disease, is just one of many open-air killing grounds that were utilized by the empire against its Christian minorities.
In his memoir “Black Dog of Fate,” author Peter Balakian notes that so many Armenians died at Deir ez-Zor that, when visiting the region in 2009, he was able to easily dig up some of the bones of the victims, relics of just some of the roughly 1.5 million Armenians who were killed by their Ottoman oppressors from 1915 to 1923.
Yet, despite its significance, the Armenian Genocide continues to remain largely an afterthought in our understanding of world history. Despite this, the blowback from these same mass killings shaped the geopolitical world we know today and served as a preview to the great massacres of the 20th Century that would follow. Understanding the complexity and impact of the Armenian Genocide is thus not only important from a historic context but also as a means of understanding the human capacity for evil.
But before you can grasp the magnitude of the Armenian Genocide, you must first understand the backdrop on which it occurred.
“The attack on the Armenian people, which soon developed into a systematic attempt to exterminate the race, was a cold-blooded, unprovoked, deliberate act, planned and carried out without popular approval, by the military masters of Turkey.”
— Henry H. Riggs, American missionary in Kharpert during the Armenian Genocide
If memory of the Armenian Genocide has been forgotten in time, then the concurrent Greek and Assyrian genocides have similarly vanished from our recollection.
The history of the Armenian Genocide does not solely begin with the Armenians themselves. Rather, there is a greater context in which these killings began. Indeed it has been argued that the Armenian Genocide was not purely a distinct event, but part of a much broader, decades-long genocidal policy aimed at other Christian peoples as well, such as the Greeks and Assyrians.
This is the argument brought forward by Israeli historians Benny Morris and Dror Ze-evi in their extensive book “The Thirty Year Genocide,” released in April of 2019, and history shows that it is one with much credence. READ MORE HERE