The Armenian Genocide -- the systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire -- officially started in 1915 and carried out until 1923. New evidence uncovered by historians working in the US confirms that the events were carefully planned and executed in cold blood. This is particularly important as Turkey, as the continuing state of the Ottoman Empire, is denying this genocide.
Prof. Taner Akçam of Clark University, Massachusetts, has studied the Armenian Genocide for decades. He recently uncovered two letters dated March 3 and April 7, 1915, and the signatures on the letters match those of Bahaettin Şakir, one of the architects of the Armenian Genocide. Şakir was a founder and leader of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the de-facto ruling party of the Ottoman Empire at the time.
The study wanted to answer a set of thorny questions about this topic, most significantly: did the CUP take a conscious and specific decision to annihilate the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire?
The first letter leaves no room for interpretation. According to its contents, the CUP “decided to annihilate all Armenians living within Turkey, not to allow a single one to remain, and has given the government broad authority in this regard”. The second letter reiterates this message.
Previously, the authenticity of the letters was disputed.
"His letter has never been considered authentic and has been ignored by researchers in our field," study author Taner Akçam.
However, Akçam carried out a signature comparison analysis, indicating that they were indeed authored by Şakir who served as head of the paramilitary Special Organization, and helped to plan and carry out the genocide.
“These letters indicate there was an actual, conscious decision taken to annihilate the empire’s Armenian population and that it was taken before 3 March 1915,” says Prof. Akçam. “Moreover, there were other related decisions which preceded this final one, as a series of documents we discovered in the Ottoman Archives shows.”
If these letters are indeed authentic, it indicates that there a clear genocidal decision taken by the Unionist Central Committee to annihilate the empire's Armenian population. And this decision was taken before March 3, 1915, Akçam concludes.
The genocide was carried out during and after World War I. It had two phases. First, the able-bodied male population was massacred or subjected to forced labor. Then, the women, children, elderly, and disabled were deported -- sent on death marches leading to the Syrian Desert. The deportees were driven forward by military escorts, deprived of food and water, and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and further massacre.
Other ethnic groups were similarly targeted for extermination in the Assyrian genocide and the Greek genocide, with similar treatments.
The Armenian Genocide is widely corroborated by international genocide scholars, with some historians considering it part of the prehistory of the Holocaust.
The study was published in the Journal of Genocide Research.