Week of May 01 – May 05, 2021
Last week marked the ninety-first anniversary of the Armenian genocide. This atrocious event is often referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century. During the period of 1915-1923, approximately one-and-a-half million Armenians were killed at the hands of the government. It is an important time to pause and reflect on such an atrocity and remember those who suffered, as well as to consider the international community’s role in intervening to defend and protect the rights of those who are marginalized and powerless.
The Armenian genocide was centrally planned and administered by the political party in power, during the Ottoman Empire. The party was known as the Young Turks and the atrocities were carried out by this party during World War I, between the years of 1915 and 1918. During this time, the Armenian people were subjected to deportation, expropriation, abduction, torture, massacre, and starvation. A large portion of the Armenian population was forcibly removed from Armenia and Anatolia to Syria, where the majority was sent to the desert only to later die, as a result of starvation. Women and children were abducted and subjected to horrific abuse and large numbers of Armenians were methodically executed throughout the Ottoman Empire.
Following the end of World War I, a year of relative peace ensued, but the atrocities resumed from 1920-1923 and the remaining Armenian population was subjected to more massacres and expulsions, resulting in a total of one-and-a-half million deaths (it has been estimated that the Armenian population before 1914 was two million). By 1923, Armenians had been eradicated from their historic homeland and those who had not been killed, had fled to other parts of the world seeking refuge.
The international community did condemn the genocide at the time, however, no significant actions, were ever taken against the Ottoman Empire to stop it. More importantly, the international community made little effort to require the post-war Turkish governments to make restitution to the Armenian people, as a result of their immense losses.
The Armenian genocide serves as an important lesson for Canada and the international community. This genocide highlights the terrible consequences of neglecting marginalized groups in countries where governments have failed to protect their rights, as well as the importance of the international community to respond to these groups in their time of need. Furthermore, acknowledging occasions, such as this one, allows us to pause and reflect on the freedoms and rights we enjoy daily as Canadians and the need for mutual respect for one another, whether it be here in Canada or abroad.