1915–1923 Armenian Genocide. Deaths 600,000 – 1,800,000.




Source: nytimes.com (JOHN KIFNER)

On the eve of World War I, there were two million Armenians in the declining Ottoman Empire. By 1922, there were fewer than 400,000. The others — some 1.5 million — were killed in what historians consider a genocide.

As David Fromkin put it in his widely praised history of World War I and its aftermath, “A Peace to End All Peace”: “Rape and beating were commonplace. Those who were not killed at once were driven through mountains and deserts without food, drink or shelter. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians eventually succumbed or were killed .”

The man who invented the word “genocide”— Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish origin — was moved to investigate the attempt to eliminate an entire people by accounts of the massacres of Armenians. He did not, however, coin the word until 1943, applying it to Nazi Germany and the Jews in a book published a year later, “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.”

But to Turks, what happened in 1915 was, at most, just one more messy piece of a very messy war that spelled the end of a once-powerful empire. They reject the conclusions of historians and the term genocide, saying there was no premeditation in the deaths, no systematic attempt to destroy a people. Indeed, in Turkey today it remains a crime — “insulting Turkishness” — to even raise the issue of what happened to the Armenians.

In the United States, a powerful Armenian community centered in Los Angeles has been pressing for years for Congress to condemn the Armenian genocide. Turkey, which cut military ties to France over a similar action, has reacted with angry threats. A bill to that effect nearly passed in the fall of 2007, gaining a majority of co-sponsors and passing a committee vote. But the Bush administration, noting that Turkey is a critical ally — more than 70 per cent of the military air supplies for Iraq go through the Incirlik airbase there — pressed for the bill to be withdrawn, and it was.


The roots of the genocide lie in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The empire’s ruler was also the caliph, or leader of the Islamic community. Minority religious communities, like the Christian Armenians, were allowed to maintain their religious, social and legal structures, but were often subject to extra taxes or other measures.

Concentrated largely in eastern Anatolia, many of them merchants and industrialists, Armenians, historians say, appeared markedly better off in many ways than their Turkish neighbors, largely small peasants or ill-paid government functionaries and soldiers.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the once far-flung Ottoman empire was crumbling at the edges, beset by revolts among Christian subjects to the north — vast swaths of territory were lost in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 — and the subject of coffee house grumbling among Arab nationalist intellectuals in Damascus and elsewhere.

The Young Turk movement of ambitious, discontented junior army officers seized power in 1908, determined to modernize, strengthen and “Turkify” the empire. They were led by what became an all-powerful triumvirate sometimes referred to as the Three Pashas.

In March of 1914, the Young Turks entered World War I on the side of Germany. They attacked to the east, hoping to capture the city of Baku in what would be a disastrous campaign against Russian forces in the Caucuses. They were soundly defeated at the battle of Sarikemish.

Armenians in the area were blamed for siding with the Russians and the Young Turks began a campaign to portray the Armenians as a kind of fifth column, a threat to the state. Indeed, there were Armenian nationalists who acted as guerrillas and cooperated with the Russians. They briefly seized the city of Van in the spring of 1915.

Armenians mark the date April 24, 1915, when several hundred Armenian intellectuals were rounded up, arrested and later executed as the start of the Armenian genocide and it is generally said to have extended to 1917. However, there were also massacres of Armenians in 1894, 1895, 1896, 1909, and a reprise between 1920 and 1923.

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies has compiled figures by province and district that show there were 2,133,190 Armenians in the empire in 1914 and only about 387,800 by 1922.

Writing at the time of the early series of massacres, The New York Times suggested there was already a “policy of extermination directed against the Christians of Asia Minor.”

The Young Turks, who called themselves the Committee of Unity and Progress, launched a set of measures against the Armenians, including a law authorizing the military and government to deport anyone they “sensed” was a security threat.

A later law allowed the confiscation of abandoned Armenian property. Armenians were ordered to turn in any weapons that they owned to the authorities. Those in the army were disarmed and transferred into labor battalions where they were either killed or worked to death.

There were executions into mass graves, and death marches of men, women and children across the Syrian desert to concentration camps with many dying along the way of exhaustion, exposure and starvation.

Much of this was quite well documented at the time by Western diplomats, missionaries and others, creating widespread wartime outrage against the Turks in the West. Although its ally, Germany, was silent at the time, in later years documents have surfaced from ranking German diplomats and military officers expressing horror at what was going on.

Some historians, however, while acknowledging the widespread deaths, say what happened does not technically fit the definition of genocide largely because they do not feel there is evidence that it was well-planned in advance.

The New York Times covered the issue extensively — 145 articles in 1915 alone by one count — with headlines like “Appeal to Turkey to Stop Massacres.” The Times described the actions against the Armenians as “systematic,” “authorized, and “organized by the government.”

The American ambassador, Henry Morganthau Sr., was also outspoken. In his memoirs, the ambassador would write: “When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.”

Following the surrender of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the Three Pashas fled to Germany, where they were given protection. But the Armenian underground formed a group called Operation Nemesis to hunt them down. On March 15, 1921, one of the pashas was shot dead on a street in Berlin in broad daylight in front of witnesses. The gunman pled temporary insanity brought on by the mass killings and a jury took only a little over an hour to acquit him. It was the defense evidence at this trial that drew the interest of Mr. Lemkin, the coiner of “genocide.”

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/timestopics/topics_armeniangenocide.html

Other Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide

Afghan Girl, 6, Rescued from Child Bride Fate; Countless Others not so Lucky


Source: shine.yahoo.com( Beth Greenfield, Shine Staff)

                    Taj Mohammad and his daughter, Naghma, at right. Photo: Bryan Denton/The New York Times/Redux

A 6-year-old Afghan girl sold by her father into an impending marriage to pay off a family medical debt got a reprieve Monday: She will now get to stay with her parents, thanks to an anonymous donor who is paying off the debt of $2,500 through an American lawyer, according to a still-developing New York Times report.

The girl, Naghma, wound up being bartered by father Taj Mohammad after he borrowed the $2,500 from a fellow refugee-camp resident over the course of a year. The money was to pay for a hospital treatment for his wife and medical care for some of his nine children, including a three-year-old who later froze to death. If he couldn’t pay it off in another year, Naghma would be forced to wed the lender’s 17-year-old son.

“They said, ‘Pay back our money,’ and I didn’t have any money, so I had to give my girl,” Mohammad told the New York Times. “I was thankful to them at the time, so it was my decision, but the elders also demanded that I do this.” Soon after the deal was struck, the boy to whom Naghma was engaged insisted that she stop attending school, which she loves, her father said.

On Monday afternoon, there was no word on who paid off the debt or how. But now that it has been paid, said a New York Times follow-up story, the girl, Naghma, will remain with her family. She will no doubt continue to live in extreme poverty in the Kabul refugee camp, and will perhaps even forced into marriage when she’s older. Still, she is one of the luckier girls of Afghanistan, where half of all girls are forced to marry under age 15, according to estimates by the United Nations agency UN Women. That’s despite the legal age for marriage in the country being 16 for girls.

Ending the practice remains a huge challenge in Afghanistan’s patriarchal society, where it’s somewhat traditional to give girls away to settle debts or pay for their relatives’ crimes. Tribal customs often condone marriage once puberty is reached, or even earlier, and the government has been unable or unwilling to challenge the law effectively.

Manizha Naderi, the executive director of Women for Afghan Women, a group that runs various shelters in the country, told the New York Times in a previous article that poverty is the motivation for many child marriages. That’s either because a wealthy husband pays a family well for his bride, or because the father of the bride will then have one less child to support. “Most of the time they are sold,” Ms. Naderi said. “And most of the time it’s a case where the husband is much, much older.”

Stories like Naghma’s come at a slow but steady clip out of Afghanistan and many other countries, including India. In 2010, two girls, ages 13 and 14, dressed as boys and fled their elderly husbands after refusing to consummate the marriages. They made it far from their remote village, but were eventually caught by police and returned home, where they were publicly, viciously flogged. Authorities did nothing, despite the flogging being caught on tape and human-rights groups’ efforts to intervene.

While the case may have been shocking, Fawzia Kofi, a prominent female member of Parliament, told the New York Times that, it was far from the only one. “I’m sure there are worse cases we don’t even know about,” she said. “Early marriage and forced marriage are the two most common forms of violent behavior against women and girls.”

In a more recent and widely reported case, a 15-year-old Afghanistan girl forced into marriage, Sahar Gul, was rescued from six months of torture at the hands of her in-laws. They kept her locked in a basement, ripped out her fingernails and burned her with hot irons—and, a rare instance of justice, were eventually brought to justice and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

According to a short Pulitzer Center film, “Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides,” by National Geographic photographer Stephanie Sinclair, “Child marriage occurs in more than 50 developing countries around the world, and almost always results in the girl’s removal from school. What families don’t realize,” Sinclair explains through her narration, “is by curtailing a girl’s education, they’re only perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

She added, “As one Afghan police officer told me, girls are routinely seen as family burdens, while their male counterparts are seen as kings.”

UN agency ‘broke’ as Syria refugee funds run out



Source: bbc.co.uk

A UN agency has said it will soon be unable to provide “life-saving” aid to Syrian refugees in Jordan and other countries due to funds running out.

“The needs are rising exponentially and we are broke,” said Marixie Mercado, a spokeswoman for children’s charity Unicef.

Some 1.2 million Syrians have fled since the uprising began in March 2011.

Around 385,500 have escaped to Jordan, with figures set to triple by the end of the year, Ms Mercado said.

This would bring the number of Syrian refugees there close to 1.2 million – the equivalent of one-fifth of Jordan’s total population.

“Since the beginning of year, more than 2000 refugees have streamed across the border [into Jordan] every day,” Ms Mercado told reporters at a UN news conference in the Swiss city of Geneva on Friday.

“We expect these numbers to more than double by July and triple by December.”

Many of the refugees are children, the spokeswoman added.


Unicef is currently providing water, sanitation, vaccines, education and other essential services in Jordan’s Zaatari camp, which houses nearly 150,000 refugees.

So far the agency has only received $12m (£7.8m), or 19%, of the $57m it appealed for to fund its Jordan operations this year.

As a result, it will soon need to “scale back life-saving support”, Ms Mercado said.

“In concrete terms, this means that by June, we will stop delivering 3.5m litres of water every day to Zaatari camp.”

She added that the money shortage also meant Unicef would be unable to provide supplies to two new camps slated to open in the coming weeks.

UN officials said the lack of funding did not only apply to Jordan, but also to other countries hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees, including Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

The head of the UN’s refugee agency, UNHRC, echoed Ms Mercado’s warning, saying Syria’s conflict was on the verge of overwhelming the UN.

“This is the type of crisis that humanitarian agencies at some point cannot handle,” Filippo Grandi told the New York Times on Thursday.

“It is unmanageable and dangerous.”

The UN estimates that at least 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began, just over two years ago.