The Armenian Genocide refers to the deliberate and systematic destruction of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I. It was implemented through wholesale massacres and deportations, with the deportations consisting of forced marches under conditions designed to lead to the death of the deportees. The total number of resulting Armenian deaths is generally held to have been between one and one and a half million. Other ethnic groups were similarly attacked by the Ottoman Empire during this period, including Assyrians and Greeks. The word genocide was coined in order to describe these events.
The starting date of the genocide is conventionally held to be April 24, 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. Thereafter, the Ottoman military uprooted Armenians from their homes and forced them to march for hundreds of miles, depriving them of food and water, to the desert of what is now Syria. Massacres were indiscriminate of age or gender, with rape and other sexual abuse commonplace.
“Dle Yaman” was one the thousands of ancient Armenian folksongs collected and preserved by Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935), a composer, musicologist and the founder of modern Armenian classic music. Komitas’s life was spared through the intervention of a group of influential friends during the Armenian Genocide in 1915, but he lived to see everyone he loved to die in the Genocide. Komitas had never recovered from the emotional shock. He died in a psychiatric mental institute.
The Republic of Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, denies the word genocide is an accurate description of the events. In recent years, it has faced repeated calls to accept the events as genocide. To date, twenty countries have officially recognized the events of the period as genocide, and most genocide scholars and historians accept this view.
43 of 50 states of the USA have recognized the Armenian Genocide. The United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved HR 106, a bill that categorized and condemned the Ottoman Empire for the Genocide, on October 10, 2007, by a 27-21 vote.
On October 11, 2007, Gunduz Aktan, a member of the delegation of Turkish parliamentarians, who were in Washington to protest against the resolution, stated: “What was bothering me yesterday was that those (US representatives) who were supporting the Turkish case, 21 of them, they said loud and clear that the events of 1915 amounted to genocide. Despite this fact, because of the strategic importance of Turkey, because of the national interest of the US, they are voting no. This was unbearable.”
However, some of the support for the bill from both Democrats and Republicans eroded after the White House warned against the possibility of Turkey restricting airspace as well as ground-route access for US military and humanitarian efforts in Iraq in response to the bill. In response to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s decision on the bill, Turkey ordered their ambassador to the United States to return to Turkey for “consultations.” The Turkish lobby worked intensely to block the bill’s passage. On October 26, 2007, in a letter addressed to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, four key sponsors of the bill, requested a debate on the bill in full House to be postponed.