- Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Lawyer, coined the term ‘Genocide’, and believes the first genocide was that of the Armenians by the Ottoman authorities
- The Ottomans’ ruling Committee of Union and Progress planned to forcibly relocate the Armenians to the Arab parts of the Empire
- This controversy dates all the way back to the First World War
German parliament passed an overwhelming resolution on Thursday June 2 to recognize the atrocities and mass killings meted out to Armenians in 1915 as Genocide. The resolution has further stirred up the already volatile atmosphere between Turkey and the European Union regarding how to handle the refugee crisis.
Turkey has had a history of violently rebutting any country deciding to recognize the Armenian crisis as a genocide. It withdrew its envoys from the Vatican and Austria after the Pope and Austrian lawmakers first used the word. Along similar lines, Turkey has now withdrawn its ambassador to Germany. United States of America and Israel have not yet made use of the term, only to protect the Turkish sentiment.
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This controversy dates all the way back to the First World War. Just a few years before the onset the war, the Young Turks seized power of the then powerful Ottoman Empire, which spanned North Africa, parts of Europe and the Middle East. The new rulers, who had pledged their allegiance to Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire believed they could conquer the Russian army and thus greatly weaken the Allied Forces, Britain, France and Russia.
Things didn’t play out to the best of their interests, and they lost to Russia. This loss created a distrust towards the Armenians. Historian Eugene Rogan tells NPR, “What happened was a small number of [Armenian] militants who did cross over to the Russian side, who did actively try and recruit Armenians to support the Russian cause, made life extremely dangerous for the majority of Armenian civilians who basically had no fight with anyone, did not wish to be drawn into any war and found themselves under tremendous pressure; soldiers who, suspected by their Turkish comrades, begin to get shot down.”
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The Ottomans’ ruling Committee of Union and Progress planned to forcibly relocate the Armenians to the Arab parts of the Empire, but things didn’t just end there. In the first of the killings, some 250 intellectuals and senior counselors of the Armenian community were rounded up and eventually murdered. This was the onset of a frenzy that ended in the death of 1.5 million Armenians.
Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Lawyer, coined the term ‘Genocide’, and believes the first genocide was that of the Armenians by the Ottoman authorities. It is natural for Turkey, which rose from the Ottoman Empire, to find it difficult admitting that the Armenian killings were indeed a genocide, but German Parliament speaker Norbert Lammert said, Turkey’s current government is not responsible for what happened 100 years ago, ‘but it shares responsibility for what happens with it in the future.’ It was important for Germany to acknowledge the massacre of Armenians since it shared responsibilities for the occurrence of the disaster as an ally to the then Ottoman Empire.
-by Saurabh Bodas, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @saurabhbodas96
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