April 24th is the day the world commemorates the Armenian Genocide committed by Turks in 1915. That day, 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were arrested in Constantinople and sent to Chankri and Ayash, where they were later slain.
On this day, the Armenian genocide began.
The cleansing continued during and after World War I, resulting in the massacre of millions of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians of Anatolia.
Ordinary Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water. Frequently, the marchers were stripped naked and forced to walk under the scorching sun until they dropped dead.
At the same time, it is said that the Young Turks created a “Special Organisation,” which in turn organised “killing squads” or “butcher battalions” to carry out, as one officer put it, “the liquidation of the Christian elements.” These killing squads were often made up of murderers and other ex-convicts. They drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive.
It is estimated about 1.5 million Armenians, 900,000 Greeks, and up to 400,000 Christian Assyrians, were killed due to the genocide.
Records show that during this “Turkification” campaign government squads also kidnapped children, converted them to Islam and gave them to Turkish families. In some places, they raped women and forced them to join Turkish “harems” or serve as slaves. Muslim families moved into the homes of deported Armenians and seized their property.
On August 30, 1922, Armenians who were living in Smyrna were victims of more Turkish atrocities. The “Smyrna Disaster” of 1922 also killed Greeks who were living in the seaside city and involved thousands of Armenians. Turkish soldiers and civilians set all Greek and Armenian neighbourhoods on fire, forcing the fleeing of Greeks and Armenians to the harbor, where thousands were killed.
On April 24, 1919, the Armenian community that had survived held a commemoration ceremony at the St. Trinity Armenian church in Constantinople. Following its initial commemoration in 1919, this date became the annual day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide.
Today, most historians call this event a genocide–a premeditated and systematic campaign to exterminate an entire people.
However, the Turkish government does not acknowledge the enormity or scope of these events. Despite pressure from Armenians and social justice advocates throughout the world, it is still illegal in Turkey to talk about what happened to Armenians during this era.
After the Ottomans surrendered in 1918, the leaders of the Young Turks fled to Germany, which promised not to prosecute them for the genocide. Ever since then, the Turkish government has denied that a genocide took place.