May 25, 1915 – by orders from Talat Pasha (Minister of the Interior) for the forced evacuation of hundreds of thousands – possibly over a million – Armenians from across all of Anatolia (except parts of the western coast) to Mesopotamia and what is today Syria. Many went to the Syrian town of Dayr az Zawr and the surrounding desert. The fact that the Turkish government ordered the evacuation of ethnic Armenians at this time is not in dispute. It is claimed, based on a good deal of anecdotal evidence, that the Ottoman government did not provide any facilities to care for the Armenians during their evacuation, nor when they arrived. The Ottoman troops escorting the Armenians have been implicated in not only allowing others to rob, kill and rape the Armenians, but often participated in these activities themselves. In any event, the foreseeable consequence of the government’s decision to move the Armenians led to a significant number of deaths.
It is believed that twenty-five major concentration camps existed, under the command of Şükrü Kaya, one of the right hands of Talat Pasha.
The majority of the camps were situated near what are now the Iraqi and Syrian frontiers, and some were only temporary transit camps. Others are said to have been used only as temporary mass burial zones—such as Radjo, Katma, and Azaz—that were closed in Fall 1915. Some authors also maintain that the camps Lale, Tefridje, Dipsi, Del-El, and Ra’s al-’Ain were built specifically for those who had a life expectancy of a few days. Like in the cases of the Jewish KAPOs in the concentration camps, the majority of the guards inside the camps were Armenians.
Even though nearly all the camps, including all the major ones, were open air, the rest of the mass killings in other minor camps, was not limited to direct killings; but also to mass burning, poisoning and drowning.
More on the genocide at the Armenian National Institute.
PBS recently aired a documentary on the Armenian Genocide which some stations, such as Boston’s WGBH, refused to air.
Andrew Goldberg realized how powerful a word could be — particularly a powerful word like ”genocide” — when he got a call, several years ago, from a PBS station in Fresno, Calif. A studio full of Armenians, answering phones for a pledge drive, had been watching his 2001 film ”The Armenians: A Story of Survival.” When a Turkish scholar acknowledged that his country’s massacre of Armenians was genocide, the room burst into applause.
For decades, the Turkish government has resisted the ”genocide” label for the events of 1915-1918, insisting that the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians were part of a civil war. Turkey has lobbied vigorously to keep the US government from declaring the killings a genocide. The New York Times only officially added ”Armenian genocide” to its stylebook in 2004. The Globe, before 2003, would only use the term ”genocide” in direct quotations when referring to the Armenian genocide.
So it is significant that Goldberg’s latest documentary, which airs tonight at 10 on Channel 2, is called ”The Armenian Genocide” — no equivocation, no hint of doubt. And, in a sense, it’s surprising that PBS decided to air the film, title and all. ”I shopped it at multiple cable networks,” Goldberg said. ”Nobody would touch this thing.”
PBS, he said, ”never wavered. They were strong. I really appreciated that.”
Critics have accused PBS of squandering that good will by commissioning a companion piece: a half-hour panel discussion that includes Turkish scholars who deny that a genocide took place. Armenian-Americans and their allies say the forum gives voice to an untenable point of view; some have compared it to following a World War II film with a panel stocked with Holocaust deniers. Several major PBS stations, including Boston’s WGBH, have chosen not to air it.