"I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915." --Henry Morgenthau, Sr. US Ambassador in the Ottoman Empire
The Armenian Genocide was carried out by the "Young Turk" government of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1916 (with subsidiaries to 1923). One and a half million Armenians were killed, out of a total of two million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Armenians all over the world commemorate this great tragedy on April 24, because it was on that day in 1915 when 600 Armenian leaders, writers, thinkers and professionals in Constantinople were rounded up, deported and killed. Also on that day in Constantinople, 5,000 of the poorest Armenians were butchered in the streets and in their homes.
The Armenian Genocide was masterminded by the Central Committee of the Young Turk Party (Committee for Union and Progress [Ittihad ve Terakke, in Turkish]) which was dominated by Mehmed Talat [Pasha], Ismail Enver [Pasha], and Ahmed Djemal [Pasha]. They were a racist group whose ideology was articulated by Zia Gokalp, Dr. Mehmed Nazim, and Dr. Behaeddin Shakir.
The Armenian Genocide was directed by a Special Organization (Teskilati Mahsusa) set up by the Committee, which created special "butcher battalions," made up of violent criminals released from prison.
Some righteous Ottoman officials such as Ali Souad Bey and Yousouf Zia Bey were dismissed for not complying with the extermination campaign. Any common Turks who protected Armenians were killed. The Armenian Genocide occurred in a systematic fashion, which proves that it was directed by the Turkish government.
First the Armenians in the army were disarmed, placed into labor battalions, and then murdered. Then the Armenian political and intellectual leaders were rounded up on April 24 and killed. Finally, the remaining Armenians were put together, told they would be relocated, and then marched off to concentration camps in the desert between Jerablus and Deir ez-Zor where they would starve and thirst to death in the burning sun.
On the march, often they would be denied food and water, and many were brutalized and even killed by their "guards" or by "marauders." The authorities in Trebizond, on the Black Sea coast, did vary this routine: they loaded Armenians on barges and sank them far out at sea.
The Turkish government today denies that there was an Armenian genocide and claims that Armenians were only removed from the "war zone." The Armenian Genocide, however, occurred all over Anatolia [present-day Turkey], and not just in the so-called "war zone." Deportations and killings occurred in the west, in and around Nicomedia (Izmit) and Proussa (Bursa); in the center, in and around Angyra (Ankara); in the south-west, in and around Iconion (Konya) and Adana (which is near the Mediterranean Sea); in the central portion of Anatolia, in and around Diyarbekir (Diyarbakir), Harpout (Harput), Marash (Maras), Sivas (Sebastia), Shabin Kara-Hissar (Sebin Karahisar), and Ourfa; and on the Black Sea coast, in and around Trebizond, all of which were not part of a war zone. Only Erzeroum, Bitlis, and Van in the east were in the war zone.
The Armenian Genocide was condemned at the time by representatives of the British, French, Russian, German, and Austrian governments -- namely all the major Powers. The first three were foes of the Ottoman Empire, the latter two, allies of the Ottoman Empire. The United States, neutral towards the Ottoman Empire, also condemned the Armenian Genocide and was the chief spokesman in behalf of the Armenians.
The American people also did the most to save the wretched remnants of the death marches, the orphaned children. Despite Turkish denial, there is no doubt about the Armenian Genocide. For example, German ambassador Count von Wolff-Metternich, Turkey's ally in World War I, wrote his government in 1916 saying: "The Committee [of Union and Progress] demands the annihilation of the last remnants of the Armenians and the [Ottoman] government must bow to its demands.
Mehmed Talat proud declared to US ambassador: "We did in some months what Abdul Hamit (the last Sultan) haven't done in 30 years". In fact Abdul had massacred "only" 200000 Armenians, while the new government murdered more than 1 million Armenians during the period 1915-1916. Emver had declared that they wouldn't permit any other minorities to live in Turkey. This was an error that did Ottoman Empire and they paid it in the case of Balkan states which became independent in 1900's. If there were no minorities there would be no independent states.
Henry Morgenthau Sr., the United States ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, sent a cable to the U.S. State Department in 1915: "Deportation of and excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing and from harrowing reports of eye witnesses it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against rebellion."
Only one Turkish government, that of Damad Ferit Pasha, has ever recognized the Armenian genocide. In fact, that Turkish government held war crimes trials and condemned to death the major leaders responsible.
The Permanent People's Tribunal recognized the Armenian Genocide in 1984. The European Parliament voted to recognize the Armenian Genocide in 1987. President Bush issued a news release in 1990 calling on all Americans to join with Armenians in commemorating the Armenian Genocide on April 24. Also the french parliament has recognized the Genocide.