In 1913 , an extremely nationalistic element among the Young Turks came to power [in the Ottoman Empire, a.k.a. Turkey] , led by the three-individuals who, two years later, were responsible for the deaths of half the Armenian population in Turkey: [1] Enver, Minister of War, [2] Talaat, Minister of Internal Affairs, and [3] Jemal, Minister of the Navy. These three constituted a virtual dictatorship, a requisite of most genecides. (Survivors An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide Donald E. Miller and Lorna Touryan Miller, University of California Press Los Angeles, CA 1993 p.39)

How could one have imagined that the Young Turks, who came to power on the platform of liberty, equality, and fraternity, would attempt to obliterate a people that had resided within the borders of Turkey for over two thousand years? But by the end of the decade, a mere handful of Armenians remained. The rest had been massacred; had died of starvation, dehydration, or illness; or had fled Turkey, leaving behind the corpses, often unburied, of their family members. Ibid. 40.

Interior Minister Talaat's Plan

[Step 1] Lower the birthrate of Armenian Christians.

Separate Armenian men from their families. Turkey drafted Armenian men into the Ottoman army. Reduce the number of Armenian menEarly in 1915, The government disarmed and disbanded Armenian soldiers and used them as laborors or as pack animals. They were poorly fed and clothed and worked until they dropped from hunger and exhaustion. Exterminate those who survive. :With a few exceptions, those who did not die were taken in groups of fifty or one hundred and shot, often after having been forced to dig their own graves. Ibid. 40-41.

[Step 2] Eliminate weapons to protect their families.

Officials collected weapons owned by Armenians. In some areas officials gave quotas, and if they did not produce enough weapons, they had to buy them. Officials photographed confiscated guns and presented the photos as evidence of Armenian insurrection, legitimizing inhumane treatment, and eliminating any opportunity for self defence. A few had hidden arms. If they did not confess, a family member was tortured. Officials used the handful that had hidden weapons to incite local Muslims against the Armenian people. Ibid. 41.

[Step 3] Weaken the Armenians by removing their leaders.

On April 24, 1915, Turkish authorities arrested several hundred Armenian political, cultural, and religious leaders in Constantinople, the capital of Turkey. The government imprisoned and then executed this elite group of Armenians. Each year, Armenians around the world commemorate April 24 as the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. (see Consitutional Rights Foundation web site.)

[Step 4] Deportation, better described as 'death marches.'

On April 8, 1915 Turkish officials deported the Armenians of Zeytoun (map pp. 161 & 176). In a few days they deported 600 Armenians from Constantinople (Map p.176). Deportation often meant a death march in which most died along the way. Late in May 1915, the government enacted an emergency order called the Temporary Law of Deportation, which authorized "deportation of persons who might be guilty of treason or espionage or who could justifiably be removed for military purposes." Survivors An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide, 41-42. The order made no mention of Armenians. No proof was necessary. Suspicion alone was enough. The Turks used this Temporary law to deport the Armenian population, men, women, children, and the elderly. Turkey's interior minister, Mehmed Talaat, set out to rid Turkey of its Armenian problem. Local witnesses urged U. S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau to invoke the moral power of the United States, otherwise, 'the whole Armenian nation would disappear.' Samatha Power, Harper Collins Publishers, Inc. (New York, 2003), 6.

By July 1915 [Henry I. Morganthau, American Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire] had received too many visits from desperate Armenians and trusted missionary sources to remain skeptical. They sat in his office with tears streaming down their faces, regaling him with terrifying tales. On July 10, 1915, Morgenthau cabled Washington with a description of the Turkish campaign: "Persecution of Armenians is assuming unprecedented proportions. Reports from widely scattered districts indicate systematic attempts to uproot peaceful Armenian populations and through arbitrary arrests, terrible tortures, whole-sale expulsions and deportation from one end of the Empire to the other accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage, and murder, turning into massacre, to bring destruction and destitution on them. These measures are not in response to popular or fanatical demand but are purely arbitrary and directed from Constantinople in the name of military necessity, often in districts where no military operations are likely to take place." Ibid.

When Ambassador Morgenthau confronted [the Ottoman Empire's] Interior Minister Talaat with eye witness reports of slaughter, Talaat snapped back: "Why are you so interested in the Armenians anyway? You are a Jew, these people are Christians. . . What have you to complain of? Why can't you let us do with these Christians as we please?" Morgenthau replied, "You don't seem to realize that I am not here as a Jew but as the American Ambassador . . . I do not appeal to you in the name of any race or religion but merely as a human being." Talaat looked confused. "We treat the Americans all right, too. I don't see why you should complain." Talaat boasted, "I have done more toward solving the Armenian problem in three months than Hamid accomplished in thirty years." (The Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid killed some 200,000 Armenians in 1895 and 1896.) Ibid. 8

Talaat once asked Morgenthau whether the United States could get the New York Life Insurance Company and Equitable Life of New York, which for years had done business with the Armenians, to send a complete list of the Armenian policyholders to the Turkish authorities. "They are practically all dead now and have left no heirs. The Government is the beneficiary now." Ibid. Turkey's successful mass slaughter of the Armenians inspired Hitler to say, in August 1939, "It was knowingly and lightheartedly that Genghis Khan sent thousands of women and children to their deaths. History sees in him only the founder of a state . . . The aim of war is not to reach definite lines but to annihilate the enemy physically. It is by this means that we shall obtain the vital living space that we need. Who today still speaks of the massacre of the Armenians"? Ibid 23.

Governments of powerful nations did not take action to stop Turkey's genocide of the Armenians because their laws did not allow them to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, nor did they take action to stop Hitler 35 years later. Raphael Lemkin, a law student at the University of Lvov brought up the Armenian case in his law class. He argued to the professor, "Sovereignty implies conducting an independent foreign and internal policy, building schools, constructing roads. . . all types of activity directed toward the welfare of the people. Sovereignty cannot be conceived as the right to kill millions of innocent people." Ibid. p.19 Lemkin, a Polish Jew and international lawyer, warned about Hitler's designs in the 1930's but was scoffed at. Undaunted, Lemkin invented the word 'genocide' and secured the passage of the first-ever United Nations human rights treaty, which was devoted to banning the new crime. Ibid xix.

Today Christians are .1% of the population of Turkey, which is all that remains of the Ottoman Empire. CIA - The World Factbook - Turkey 12/19/06.

© Norma Archbold 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007