Ah yes, a return to the World War I era, but something only tangentially related to the war itself.
There is a lot of “controversy” surrounding the Armenian Genocide, mostly in that it isn’t recognized as a genocide by most of the world, and the rest of the world has only been recognizing it in increments. Shamefully, the United States does not recognize the Armenian Genocide as a genocide, although 48 states do. Also, the UK and Israel (yeah, Israel, no joke) do not recognize it as a genocide.
From about 1915-1923, the Ottoman Empire, particularly Ottoman Turkey, systematically targeted the Armenian population for physical and cultural extermination. First, they deported the intellectual community leaders (most of whom were eventually murdered) from Constantinople, then removed the able bodied male population by straight massacre and forced labor, and then the deportation of women, children, infirm and elderly people by forced death marches to and through the Syrian desert. The general consensus is that about 1.5 million Armenians were killed during this time.
Turkey, to this day, either says the numbers were grossly exaggerated or that the these events didn’t take place at all. Yeah, right.
One, and (to me) possibly the biggest, indication of the fact that it was, in fact, a genocide was it was used as a model for later genocides (looking at you, Hitler).
And so, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), from 1920-1922, engaged in an assassination campaign which eliminated Ottoman political and military leaders responsible for the massacres, including the “Number One” (primary target), Talaat Pasha.
Eric Bogosian’s book, Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot That Avenged The Armenian Genocide, expands extensively on this history lesson. Bogosian starts by explaining that he didn’t feel much connection to his Armenian heritage, partially because it wasn’t talked about much. He went into the fact that his grandfather, usually so mild-mannered and gentle, said things like, “If you see a Turk, shoot him.”
Bogosian then explains the history of the Armenian population of Eastern Europe and within the Ottoman Empire with other communities of the Ottoman Empire, Russia, etc…and explains, basically, how the circumstances for this genocide came about.
Bogosian uses Soghomon Tehlirian as a lens through which to focus the story of the Armenians. Tehlirian lost his family to the genocide, suffered from what sounded like PTSD, and went on to assassinate Talaat Pasha. He was eventually acquitted, because his lawyers successfully put the Ottoman leadership on trial, rather Tehlirian, who described the trauma of seeing his family murdered (although he never actually saw this). He claimed to have dreams of his mother who demanded he avenge the her death, and the deaths of his brothers and sisters. Including extended family, Tehlirian lost about 85 members of his family in the genocide.
Operation Nemesis was a really interesting book that I recommend. I learned a lot about a topic that I knew almost nothing about and I got to be disgusted by the fact that my country fails to correctly label a genocide as a genocide. It did a really good job laying out everything for the reader (or, in my case, listener) so that everything was clear.
PS: since only 48 states recognize the Armenian Genocide as a genocide, I looked up which ones didn’t. Anyone who knows or understands the United States at all will not be surprised to know those states are those bastions of education and enlightenment, Alabama and Mississippi.