“By 1923, a 3,000-year-old civilization virtually ceased to exist” (Cohan). This civilization is Armenia, which was once a nation under the rule of the formidable Ottoman Empire, a powerful Islamic dynasty that controlled large territories throughout Southeast Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa. As citizens of the Ottoman Empire, the Armenian people were challenged for their firm Christian identity by its Turkish rulers through discriminatory laws and taxes.
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With the empire facing territorial decline and a severe collapse of power amidst Armenian protests for civil rights, the ruling Turkish party materialized their resentment and suspicions of the minority group into a genocide of Armenians. The massacres that took place in the Ottoman Empire between 1914-1918 exhibited the dehumanization and persecution stages of genocide, and they also violated the human rights to freedom from torture and degrading treatment and freedom from interference with family, home or correspondence.
The Armenian Genocide displayed the dehumanization and persecution stages of genocide. For instance, the dehumanization stage was illustrated in author Adam Bagdasarian’s novel about the genocide, Forgotten Fire, in which an orphaned Armenian boy named Vahan describes a deserted street: “And when the bodies began to appear, the oddly posed refuse that had once been Armenian men and women, I glanced at them as cursorily as a Turkish youth might and stepped over and around them as though they were dung or rotten fruit or broken glass” (Bagdasarian 87). In other words, the Turkish prejudice towards the Armenians induces them to regard their lifeless bodies lying along a street as meaningless obstacles, or pieces of trash, to be ignored and stepped over. By equating the corpses of fallen Armenians with garbage and visibly disrespecting their deaths, the Turkish are denying their humanity and victimizing them to objectification. In addition to dehumanization, the genocidal stage of persecution was demonstrated during the Armenian Genocide by the nationalist leaders of the ruling Turkish triumvirate, established as the Committee of Union and Progress, who “…sent orders to province leaders to gather women and children and either load them onto trains headed for the Syrian Desert or lead them on forced marches into the desert…with little food and supplies” (Cohan). To elaborate, leaders of Turkish provinces conducted the forced relocation of Armenians to the Syrian Desert with insufficient resources. Because the Armenians were maliciously identified, isolated into a debilitating environment, and intentionally deprived of resources vital to sustaining their lives, they were afflicted by Turkish persecution. Clearly, the dehumanization and persecution stages of genocide were exhibited during the Armenian genocide.
Moreover, the human rights to freedom from torture and degrading treatment and freedom from interference with family, home or correspondence were violated by the Armenian Genocide. For example, the novel, Forgotten Fire, portrays the violation of the right to freedom from torment when Vahan recounts what had ensued Turkish soldiers physically abusing an Armenian girl named Seranoush: “And every night for seven nights, the soldiers took her outside and raped her” (Bagdasarian 136). To clarify, the Turkish soldiers’ lust, mercilessness, and prejudice towards the Armenian people influence them to sexually assault Seranoush for a demoralizing period of seven consecutive nights. Since she is raped ruthlessly on multiple accounts, Seranoush is subjected to severe, demeaning pain for the Turkish soldiers’ pleasure and suffers an unethical destruction of her dignity, which is a violation of her human right to freedom from torture and degrading treatment. Furthermore, the violation of the human right to freedom from interference with family, home or correspondence was displayed in the Armenian Genocide, in which “…children were abducted and sold, or children were raised as Turks by Turkish families” (Cohan). To expand, Armenian children were illegally seized and separated from their original families and homes for the fulfillment of the Turks’ personal desires. Due to the unethical Turkish intrusions, the Armenian children suffered from abrupt disconnection with their families and homes, which subsequently violated their human rights to freedom from interference with family, home or correspondence. Evidently, the Armenian genocide violated the human rights to freedom from torture and degrading treatment and freedom from interference with family, home or correspondence.
The Armenian Genocide from 1914-1918 demonstrated the dehumanization and persecution stages of genocide, as well as the violation of the human rights to freedom from torture and degrading treatment and freedom from interference with family, home or correspondence. The Turks dehumanized the Armenians by treating their corpses as if they were garbage and persecuted them by identifying and isolating them into the Syrian Desert. Additionally, the Turks violated an Armenian girl’s human right to freedom from torture and degrading treatment by sexually abusing her and violated Armenian children’s human rights to freedom from interference with family by forcibly separating them from their original families. Today, Turkey continues to firmly deny the acknowledgment of these inhuman massacres as genocidal, yet their evidenced involvement of the stages of genocide, in addition to their multiple violations of Armenians’ human rights, only serve to invalidate the nation’s opposition and designate the massacres as such.
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