New Series Announcement: What We Forgot To Remember

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“Crucified Armenians in the area around Der-ez-Zor. Some women were rescued by the fact that – as in the picture – Arab Bedouins took them down from the crosses again.”

Warning: I’m about to talk about genocide. A lot.

Picture explanation: During the Armenian Genocide, the men were first separated from the women – husbands, fathers, sons and brothers were cut apart from wives, mothers, daughters and sisters. Then, the men were marched into the desert without food and water and were shot; the women were raped and tortured, then crucified in order to terrorize any Christians that remained.

Luckily, there were also nomadic Arab Bedouins who ranged throughout the region. These Arabs were strongly opposed to the Turks and their genocidally fanatical nationalist project, despite their shared Islamic faith. Even after being saved by the Arabs, many of these women likely would have died due to external and internal injuries coupled with prolonged starvation and exposure.

100 years ago today, in 1917, the Ottoman Turks, who had previously began to see their ethnic and religious minorities as an existential threat, were in the midst of a horrifically cynical and malevolent campaign of extermination. Targets of the campaign were the key ‘problem’ groups: the Assyrians, the Pontic/Anatolian Greeks, and of course, the Armenians.

100 years on, this campaign – which has often been referred to as the ‘world’s first genocide’ has received a disturbing lack of recognition. Turkey and Turkish politicians alternate between denial and glorification of the genocide, and many other countries simply do not officially recognize or teach it as historical fact.

Yet this problem of insufficient recognition does not end there. While most now know of the extermination campaign against the Armenians, the extermination of Assyrians and Greeks is barely acknowledged at all. What may surprise you yet further is the fact that the plight of those forgotten after being massacred 100 years ago in 1917 is not rare, but the norm.

The truth is that genocide is not some historical anomaly that only happened once or twice. It happens all the time. Throughout history, the systematic mass murder of human beings for color, creed, language or tribe has been terribly common, yet many of these barely receive any recognition at all. The restless dead lie in shallow mass graves all over the world, begging to be heard, pleading for their story to be told.

Every Sunday this month, I will be making a post about a historical genocide that is unrecognized or forgotten. The goal of this serialized project is to put forward a forgotten historical atrocity for thoughtful discussion and consideration, so that we can extract something meaningful from the horrors of the past, and perhaps also try to improve the future.

The first post will be later today. I hope you join in the discussion.

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