Thursday, April 24, 2008

The burning Tigris, by Peter Balakian

In The Burning Tigris, Peter Balakian presents a narrative of the massacres during the 1890's and genocide in 1915 that resulted in the annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians. Using archival documents, he shows the history of how the Young Turks government committed the first modern genocide behind the cover of World War I. The book also explores the American response to the crime through the actions of the American relief community.

The Armenian massacres that started in the 1890's during Sultan Abdul Hamid II rule was a systematized continuation of barbarism committed to the innocent civilians . The Turks, whose empire was collapsing felt threatened by Christian minorities in Anatolia and in the Balkans. Large-scale mass killings was a result of government ordering and encouraging the killings, and of individuals participate and then become socialized by them. The massacres continued throughout the Ottoman empire and culminated in 1915-1922 during the Young Turks and then Kemalist governments.

The inhuman brutality, mass deportations of helpless civilians, looting of property, execution of Armenians in public squares, raping, torture, mutilation, forced conversion to islam, continued until villages and towns were wiped out of the Armenian race, the people who had lived in that part of the world for thousands of years.The Armenian destruction was well known in America through reports by U.S. consuls throughout Turkey and newspaper reporting, protestant missionaries in the Ottoman empire, and the eyewitness accounts. Even though the headlines were screaming about the race extermination and the activists and intellectuals calling for intervention in America, there was the lack of political will in the West to intervene to stop the slaughter. It was the humanitarian assistance to refugees and survivors that would rescue those people who could be saved and help them to repatriate .

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's vision is pertinent today as it was in 1903: "National crimes demand international law, to restrain, prohibit, punish, best of all, prevent."

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