The POTUS Biden just officially recognized that the Ottoman Empire committed a genocide against Armenian-Ottomans back in 1915. As someone who spent quite some time to research and understand what really happened in this specific period of time, I believe that killing from both sides happened but it was never a genocide. Let me share my thoughts with you as concise as possible.
Why is it not a genocide?
- The tragedy of 1915 does not fit the description of genocide established by United Nations.
- Ottoman Empire was similar to the USA of today where 70+ minority nations lived in harmony. Among these 70+ nations, the Armenian-Ottomans were the only ones regarded as “the loyal nation” by the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, the Ottomans committing a genocide against Armenians does not make sense.
- The relocation was for a region only. In 1915, there were about 1.7 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. About one third of them lived in the west of today’s Turkey and none of them were subjected to relocate.
So what really happened?
In late 1800s, the Russian Tsar regime started to instigate the Armenian-Ottoman radicals to rebel against the Ottoman Empire. Their motive was to open a corridor of land between Georgia and Syria using Armenians. They wanted to have naval ports in the warmer Mediterranean Sea because all their other ports in the North and Arctic Seas freeze in the winter and render useless for their fleet. Initially, there were only rallies and protests here and there. However, once Ottoman Empire got into World War I in 1914 and started fighting in 7 different fronts, the radical Armenian-Ottomans saw this as an opportunity and started terrorizing the east of Turkey. They upped their game by raiding Muslim populated villages, burning down mosques with live people in it, killing adversaries, raping women whose husbands were fighting in WW1 thousands of miles away.
The atrocities committed by radical Armenians created a huge backlash in the local muslim community and they retaliated. It turned into a civil unrest between the radical Armenians and the local muslim community who wanted to take revenge. So they started killing each other. During those difficult times, the local police and gendarmerie force was scarce to stop the unrest and killings due to the ongoing war. As it happened in every civil unrest, a lot of innocent people from both sides were killed, lost loved ones and left orphan.
As the conditions went out of hand, the Ottoman officials put their heads together and came up with a solution that was common in those times. The solution was to relocate the Armenian-Ottomans, who were a minority community in the region as recorded by the US officials, from the region of unrest to somewhere that they would be safer. Therefore, only that population living in the region were relocated to Lebanon, which was another Ottoman sovereignty land at that time.
Back in 1915, transportation means were not as abundant and convenient as today. Therefore, the Armenian-Ottomans had to march during most of the journey. Wherever railroads were available, they were transported via trains. The journey from Eastern Turkey to Lebanon took about 6 months. Many got sick during the march and died. There were also bandits who raided these convoys and killed innocent Armenian-Ottomans under the assumption that they were carrying their valuable items such as gold with them.
I want to emphasize that only small groups of the Armenian-Ottomans and the Muslim-Ottomans took part in the civil unrest and the associated atrocities. Great majority of both communities were innocent bystanders. As always, they were the ones that fell victim to the tragedy. According to official records, a total of about 150K Armenian-Ottomans and a total of about 300K Muslim-Ottomans were killed in this civil unrest. Needless to say, it was a huge tragedy that still has repercussions today.
This issue needs to be put in rest. The solution is to have historians expert in this matter assemble and research what really happened based on facts and documents, report everything and come up with a resolution that the entire world would have to accept. I know for a fact that the Turkish government is all for it but the Armenian diaspora is not. This indicates that they do also know that they do not have a convincing case.
Considering all of these points, recognizing an Armenian genocide committed by Ottomans would be utterly wrong. It would also be demeaning, degrading and smearing the entire nation of Turks and Muslims who had never committed a genocide in the history. As I always say, leave it to the experts and professionals on the matter. Never make decisions based on emotions, self interest, short term gains and profits, revenge, etc. Let’s all mourn for the people who lost their lives during this tragedy without discriminating their ethnic backgrounds.