Over 106 years ago Talaat Pasha, Minister of the Interior of the tottering Ottoman Empire, ordered the arrest of nearly 300 Armenian writers, politicians, clergymen, attorneys, and other prominent citizens in Constantinople. A second wave would bring the number to about 600. Ultimately about 2,500 would be arrested and detained throughout the empire. Few would survive, although some did eventually get to put pen to paper later and describe what happened. 3 weeks before there had been a mass disarmament of Armenians including the seizure of household knives. 2 months before Enver Pasha had ordered that all Armenian soldiers in the Ottoman army be demoted to workmen, while all Armenian young men not in the military would be conscripted as workmen, This meant to be loaded up with supplies and trudge miles on almost no food, then shot when you could do no more. It was a masterstroke first step in a planned genocide of the Armenian people (although the Turks equally mistreated ethnic Greeks, Lebanese, Chaldean Christians, and other minorities).
Almost overnight, and before there was time to organize to resist or call for help, the Armenian people found themselves mostly defenseless, leaderless, and unable to do much to stop what followed. The Turks moved them in caravans from their homes to "refugee camps" in Lebanon and Syria, but maybe 10% ever got there. Many starved, for they were given little food. Many more were killed with makeshift weapons by Turkish civilians who the guards did nothing to stop, sneering that this was saving them using bullets later. In a few places such as Van, there was some resistance, long enough for Russian troops to arrive and evacuate whoever they could.
Unfortunately, the aid was too little, too late, and the Armenians as a people were essentially erased from central Asia. What is more, when the allies finally mediated an end to what eventually became a war between the Greeks and Turks, they allowed a secret annex to the treaty that would grant amnesty to the perpetrators of this act of genocide. Exhausted from World War I and not interested in starting another war, they sold the ethnic minorities down the river in exchange for the Turks giving up all claims to lands outside the Turkish homeland of Anatolia.
No perpetrator of a planned genocidal act has ever been luckier than Turkey. They escaped accountability because the other powers didn't want to go to full-scale war to save non-European minorities. Then they got to sit back and do nothing during World War II, before they joined the Allied cause in February 1945, and only to stop the Soviet armies then rolling south from rolling right on over them. After that they joined NATO and played the role of "outpost" against the Soviets... on the condition that NATO give them $10 in aid for every $7 they gave Greece, not interfere in their internal politics, and say little about their past terrible human rights record, while they spread the myth that this was just a civil war or an internal matter. Unfortunately today it looks like their luck has run out.
Those who fight an enemy they think worthy of honor bury them, or at least let their own bury them. It's only those who think the dead are unworthy of any honor who engage in desecration of their bodies and take the time to make a photographic record of it. If this makes you uncomfortable, then it has achieved its purpose, you SHOULD feel uncomfortable about it. What happened here was what happens when hatred and tyranny are allowed to combine and become all-powerful. The hatred here was ethnically based and religiously based, but any other kind of hatred is just as bad, and must never be the basis for this kind of evil again. If someone says one race or another is evil, or one race or another is superior, which is the other side of that, see it for what it is: hatred. If someone tries to push disarmament of the general population, ask why. If someone wants to silence writers or leaders, don't let it be done. Budding tyranny needs to be nipped before it reaches this point.
Steven Olivo is a state attorney who resides in New Jersey. The article first appeared on Olivo's personal Facebook page. Reprinted and edited by Don McCullen with permission from the author.