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Sunday, February 1, 2015

On the anniversary of the Genocide, it's important to remember those who heeded the call to stand and fight for survival

Armenians everywhere are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, an earnest and energetic campaign by the rulers of the Ottoman Empire to end their existence.

Vartan Aslanian,
Armenian freedom fighter
I’ll be writing about the commemoration throughout the year, looking back on the Genocide and at its continuing effects. But I think it’s important to note that the centennial calculation is deliberate but not precise.

Although the final extermination plan was launched in 1915, Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire were repeatedly brutalized and slaughtered throughout the latter part of the 19th century.

Massacres perpetrated by Sultan Abdul Hamid II beginning in 1894 claimed hundreds of thousands, and are often cited as the precursor to the Armenian Genocide.

In fact, persecution and intimidation of Armenians predates even that catastrophe. Raffi’s great novel of Armenian awakening, The Fool, was published in 1881. Set against the background of the then-recent Russo-Turkish War, it portrayed a weak and timid Armenian population that could not survive unless Armenians learned to stand up and fight.

Many responded to the call. Allied with the Young Turks, Armenian freedom fighters were instrumental in restoring parliamentary government to Turkey in 1908. The celebration was short-lived, as the triumvirate that consolidated power turned on the Armenians with genocidal fury.

As the Genocide commemoration proceeds, you’ll see many images of mutilated victims and the emaciated survivors then known as the Starving Armenians. You should see at least one image of an Armenian who did what he could to stop the madness.

The Armenian freedom fighters didn’t succeed, but they deserve to be honored along with the martyrs.  

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