Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the day the Ottoman Turkey authorities arrested several hundred Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople, today's Istanbul, most of whom were later killed. Armenians regard this as the beginning of the Ottoman policy of mass extermination of Christian Armenians suspected of supporting Russia, the Ottoman Empire's World War One enemy. Many of the victims were civilians deported to barren desert regions where they died of starvation and thirst. Thousands also died in massacres.
Armenia says up to 1.5 million people were killed. Turkey says the number of deaths was much smaller. Most non-Turkish scholars of the events regard them as genocide - as do more than 20 states, including France, Germany, Canada and Russia, and various international bodies including the European Parliament.The Turkish government continues to deny that it was a genocide, although to its credit the lower house of the German Parliament has pushed Turkey to own up to what really happened:
The Bundestag president [Norbert Lammert] called on the present Turkish government to accept responsibility for what had resulted from the genocide, while stressing that it was not directly responsible. Lammert also referred to the role of Germany - a World War One ally of the Ottoman Empire - whose troops were said to have been involved in planning and even implementing deportations.As I noted earlier this year, the Armenian diaspora that came in the wake of the Turkish genocide against them means that about a half million people of Armenian descent live in the U.S., with the biggest concentration being in Los Angeles. In that city, a march along Wilshire Boulevard to the Turkish consulate was one of the local remembrance events. Like many people my age, the Armenian situation was a part of my youth. While it may sound trite that my mother chastised me to "think about the poor starving Armenians" if I wasn't finishing my dinner, it did in fact invoke in me a sense of the importance of thinking about the suffering of others. And, as a species, we have sadly seen too many millions of people die an early and painful death at the hands of others for no other reason than that they were somehow "different."