The genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, Syriacs, Chaldeans and other Christians started in Constantinople – today's Istanbul – the 24th of April 1915. There and then 235 prominent Armenians were arrested and killed. In this period the Ottoman Empire was fighting in the First World War on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Their opponents were the Entente powers – the British and the French were trying to invade in the west, and in the east the Russians were putting pressure on the Turks. This was an exposed position for the Ottoman empire and when on top of this Armenian nationalism was growing, the Christian minority came to be thought of as enemy collaborators and potential traitors.
This was the atmosphere in which the genocide took place.
Cities and villages were drained of their Armenian population which was forced out on marches in deserts, officially because they were to be deported to another area. These deportations were often preceded by the killing of the men. So actually the death marches mainly consisted of women and children. Many were murdered, but many also died of diseases, thirst or famine. Sometimes robbers stole both children and belongings. Many of the women were raped.
All of this was originally aimed at Armenians, but a sentence uttered by a Kurdish chieftain, or possibly an Ottoman officer, is remembered by Syriacs: ”A yellow onion or a red onion, what is the difference? They’re both onions”. Meaning: Armenians or Syriacs, what is the difference? They were all Christians and therefore had to die.
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