On April 24, 1915, one of the greatest atrocities ever committed against humanity began: the Armenian Genocide. How many of you have heard of this event? Probably not a lot. Some of you may not even care that this ever happened, but the Armenian Genocide carries great importance to me as it was my ancestors who were systemically and deliberately massacred by the Ottoman Turks during World War I.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Armenian Christian minority living in eastern Turkey had no civil rights since Turkey’s population was mainly Muslim. Armenians were not allowed to bear arms, serve in the military, or testify in court against a Muslim. They were heavily taxed because they were considered infidels, and they were treated as second-class citizens. When Turkey suffered a severe defeat at the hands of the Russians during World War I, it quickly blamed the Armenians for aiding the Russians. The Turks were worried about the Armenians rebelling inside Turkey, and they justified the deportation and killing of Armenians by preparing propaganda material stating that the Armenians were planning to launch an uprising in Istanbul and kill the Turkish leadership. In 1915, the Turks enacted the Temporary Law of Expropriation, Confiscation, and Deportation. The law stated that all property owned by Armenians, such as land, livestock, and homes, was to be confiscated by the authorities. The Turkish government created special organizations like the SS and Einsatzgruppen, which were given the task of rounding up Armenians in their villages and deporting them to concentration camps. Most of these camps were located near the Iraqi-Syrian border. Killing squads executed Armenians through shootings, mass burnings, and poisonings. Also, many Armenians were marched into the Syrian Desert and were left to starve to death.