Opinion

Armenians pledge not to betray the memory of their martyrs

Armenians pledge not to betray the memory of their martyrs

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For over a century, on April 24 each year, Armenians worldwide, and advocates of truth and justice, honor the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century. Some 1.5 million Armenians were massacred and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, were deported from their lands by the merciless Ottoman occupation.

Armenians, and all those who want justice to prevail worldwide, continue to encourage all nations and states to recognize this genocide. They are determined to prevent similar appalling crimes that are still threatening humanity, especially in the Arab world, by the same ruthless perpetrators: Turkey’s rulers.

Armenian martyrs sacrificed their lives to preserve their people’s identity, culture and faith. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the opportunity has presented itself for Armenians to enjoy true independence, embrace democracy, enhance human rights, and build and consolidate bridges between the motherland and the diaspora.

But amid a world order that promotes globalization and diversity, the crucial issue arises of how Armenians can cope with this world order while remaining loyal to the memory of their martyrs, and not only preserving their identity but consolidating it. While remaining global citizens abiding by international human values and rights, Armenians must pledge not to betray the sacrifice of their martyrs, and to remain loyal to their memory.

Teaching and learning history, language and faith, while also practicing the latter two, contribute to realizing this pledge. So does building strong bridges with the Armenian diaspora, which must be given opportunities to invest in, and settle in, the motherland.

We Armenians remember not only our martyrs, but also all those nations that provided safe havens for the survivors of the genocide, starting with my homeland, Jordan, whose people and leadership exhibited immense generosity and a great sense of coexistence.

But Jordan, like many Arab states and global powers such as the US, the UK and China, have yet to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, despite the Armenian nation continuing to peacefully contribute to building civilizations worldwide.

We pledge to remain loyal to the memory of our martyrs by building a strong, democratic, peace-loving, united Armenian nation and state. We pledge to keep the memory of the genocide alive, and to remind the world that the descendants of its Ottoman perpetrators continue to occupy land, vandalize cultural heritage, massacre people, and patronize and export extremism and terrorism, thus threatening global peace, security and stability.

• Madeleine Mezagopian is an academic researcher, adviser and analyst specializing in conflict resolution. She is an active member of the General Assembly of Al-Hussein Society/Jordan Center for Training and Inclusion. 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

What led to the genocide of Armenians by the Ottomans

People take part in a torchlight procession as they mark the anniversary of the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman forces, Yerevan, April 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2019
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What led to the genocide of Armenians by the Ottomans

  • Regional affairs expert explains the reasons behind the carnage
  • The Ottoman Empire was known during the 19th and early 20th centuries as the sick man of Europe

RIYADH: Eyad Abu Shakra, a Middle East specialist, said there were three things that needed to be considered when researching how the Ottoman Empire handled Armenia during the First World War. Approaching the subject in this way made it possible to understand the violent repression of non-Muslim minorities in the Ottoman Empire, especially the Armenians.

Speaking to Arab News on Tuesday, Abu Shakra said the first point was related to Armenian history and heritage. They were among the first people to convert to Christianity, which was the dominant religion in Anatolia prior to Islam. The majority of Armenians belong to the Armenian Orthodox Church, which is one of the oldest churches in the world. It was founded in the first century A.D. by St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew, two of Jesus Christ’s disciples.

Abu Shakra said the second point was related to the “Eastern question,” a reference to the final decades of the Ottoman Empire and the mounting pressure it faced from European powers that were competing to carve out their own territories.

He said the historical roots of the Eastern question dated back to the 16th century, when Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and Emperor Francis I reached an understanding by which France was granted special status as protector of the non-Muslim minorities in the Ottoman Empire, which was at the time at the height of its power.

But what started as a generous grant bestowed by a powerful state in the 16th century, became in the 19th century a tool of European pressure, and impositions from Christian powers on a weakened Ottoman state. This imbalance was reflected in the military losses of the Ottomans at the hands of the Europeans.

The Ottoman Empire was known during the 19th and early 20th centuries as the sick man of Europe. 

The worst setbacks were during the Russo-Ottoman war of 1768-1774, when the Ottoman Empire lost territories in the northern Black Sea region. The Ottoman decline climaxed by the end of the 19th century, when they lost much of the Balkans to separatist Serbs and Bulgarians.

“The Eastern question was finally answered after the First World War with the total collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which was forced to sign the Treaty of Sevres and then the Treaty of Lausanne. It gave up its claims to the Balkans and the Middle East. New states came into existence, such as Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey which was established in Anatolia, Istanbul and the Straits, while other territories came under direct rule of the allied victors,” said Abu Shakra.

The third point, according to Abu Shakra, lay in the Ottoman reforms that started during the reign of Sultan Abdul Majid I and continued until the First World War in 1914. For a long time the Ottoman Empire occupied swathes of territory across the continents of the ancient world. It included diverse populations and religions and this great power had an influential role in world politics. However, from the 18th century onward it became a decaying power.

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The European powers, on the other hand, were on the rise despite their rivalries. So while the Ottoman state bureaucracy and military deteriorated, its army suffered from defeats in various wars that it fought on various fronts, draining the empire’s resources. 

These defeats made the Ottoman intelligentsia consider going through reforms to save whatever could be saved and modernize the empire.  This reform movement made important achievements, but it was argued by conservatives that the internal fabric could not withstand the pace of reforms. This tension became a pretext for questioning the validity of the reforms which increased the confidence of non-Muslims (including Armenians), non-Turks (especially Arabs), who started to have a growing sense of identity. This friction was encouraged by the European powers, who had been interfering in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire.

As a result, Sultan Abdul Hamid II came to power representing the conservative nationalist line, which was apathetic to the aspirations of non-Turks, especially the European ones. Although Abdul Hamid was removed from power after 30 years, the theater was prepared for the “Armenian Genocide” during the years of the First World War.


Australia joins US-led mission to protect Hormuz shipping

Updated 49 min 41 sec ago
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Australia joins US-led mission to protect Hormuz shipping

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday that Australia will contribute troops
  • An Australian warship will be redirected from an anti-piracy operation in the Middle East

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia has joined Britain and Bahrain in signing onto a US-led maritime security mission to protect international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday that Australia will contribute troops, a surveillance plane and a Navy frigate to protect shipping lanes off the coast of Iran.
He says it’s a “modest, meaningful and time-limited” contribution in Australia’s national and economic interests.
At least 15 percent of crude oil and up to 30 percent of refined oil destined for Australia transits through the Arabian Gulf.
The warship will be redirected from an anti-piracy operation in the Middle East, while the Australian troops will be based in the headquarters that are coordinating the US-led maritime security mission.
Initially, Australia will be involved for at least six months.