Armenian Holocaust Memorial
The Armenian Holocaust Memorial was dedicated by Arizona’s Armenian community. The memorial is built of tufa stone, which is native to both Arizona and Armenia. The names of survivors who immigrated to Arizona re inscribed on the rock’s surface.
The Turkish government began its plan to expel and kill Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. An estimated 2 million Armenians were living in the Empire at the time. When the genocide ended, it’s estimated that 1.5 million were killed by torture, massacre or starvation. The period during World War I and shortly thereafter was not only deadly, but a continuation of an older battle against the Armenians.
The war against the Armenian people in Turkey began as early as the 15th century when the independent Armenia was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. Armenia was one of the first nations to make Christianity its official religion. The Ottoman rulers, and most of those living within the Ottoman Empire were Muslim. This created a conflict between the Christian Armenians and those now in power. Initially, the Ottoman Empire allowed the Armenians to maintain some independence, but they were viewed by the rulers as “infedels” and subject to higher taxes, and limited political and legal rights.
Despite the obstacles against them, the Armenians thrived. They were better educated and wealthier than their Turkish counterparts. This led to a feeling of resentment and suspicion. The Ottoman Empire believed in loyalty above all else, and the idea that the Armenians would be more loyal to Christian governments than to the Ottoman caliphate caused even more problems. The suspicion and tension grew as the Ottoman Empire began to crumble in the 19th century. This led to the first Armenian massacre, which took place between 1894 and 1896. Large scale Armenian protests were shut down as Turkish military and citizens massacred entire Armenian villages and cities. Hundreds of thousands of Armenian men, women and children were killed. The villages and cities were taken over by the Turkish invaders.
In 1908, a new government came into power and the Armenians were hopeful that they would have an equal voice, but that didn’t happen.
In 1914, Ottoman religious authorities declared jihad against all Christians except their allies. With this move, the Armenians were labeled traitors. The Turks entered World War I on the side of the Germans. Suspicions continued to grow as the Armenians organized volunteer battalions to help the Russian army fighting against the Turks. This move by the Armenians led the Turkish government to plan for the removal of Armenians from the war zone.
By 1915, the Turks had created what is now referred to as killing squads or butcher battalions. These organizations were most frequently made up of convicted murders and other ex-convicts. Their brutal war against the Armenians included drownings, crucifixion and burning captured Armenians alive. Historic records show that Armenian children were kidnapped, given to Turkish families and forced to convert to Islam. Some women were forced to join Turkish harems or serve as slaves.
By the time the genocide was over in 1922, there were only 388,000 Armenians remaining in the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans surrendered in 1918, and the leaders of the Young Turks fled to Germany where they were promised they wouldn’t be prosecuted for the Armenian genocide.
In Turkey today, it is still illegal to talk about the Armenian holocaust. Despite the political reluctance of the United States to condemn the killings by their Turkish allies, a Congressional panel finally voted in March 2010, to recognize the genocide.