Friday, April 24, 2009

History break

A screen shot from the pages of the New York Times this day 100 years back.

Roughly 1.2 million Armenians would either be slaughtered by Turkish killing squads or would die of exposure or starve to death in camps in the deserts at the southeastern edges of the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian genocide was the culmination of a decades long process of persecution of the Armenians in the Ottoman empire. That persecution was punctuated in the last two decades of the 19th century during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamit, the so-called Red Sultan.
Frontpage magazine published an interview with Vahakn Dadrian, a scholar of the Armenian genocide about five years back. It is still worth reading for the historical perspectives offered. Note: The tone is fairly partisan.

From the interview: Islam played a major role both in the period of the Abdul Hamit massacres [1894-1896] and the 1909 Adana massacres and the World War I genocide. During the Abdul Hamit era, Islam was the main impetus, the direct impetus of the massacres, because 90 percent of the massacres took place on Fridays, which is the religious holiday. Immediately at the end of the religious ceremonies in the mosques, the mobs, harangued by Muslim clerics, were incited and as a result the motivation was reinforced to attack and massacre the Armenian population of the respective regions. In other words, Islam as an institution, and champions of Islam, the Muslim clerics, played a major role in the organization and execution of the series of massacres. In World War I, Islam also was exploited by way of formally declaring jihad, the main target of which became the Christian Armenians. Holy War can only be proclaimed by the sultan who is also the Khalif, the supreme religious authority, and the Sheikh ul Islam, the religious head of Islam. One of the greatest incentives of jihad for motivating people to kill is the promise of celestial bliss, and other kinds of rewards in heaven. This played a major role in mobilizing the masses, the naïve masses. In Archbishop Balakian's book, the Armenian Golgotha, there are scenes in which, after every massacre, the head of the gendarmes units, spread his prayer rug and thanked god for serving him through jihad-borne massacres massacres.

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