24th April 1915 the Armenian Genocide

Death March of Armenians

Today we lament the beginning of the infamous Armenian Genocide in which 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of Turkey’s Ottoman regime. Force-marched to their deaths across stifling tundra, countless thousands driven en masse into subterranean caves at the mouths of which the Turkish authorities lit lethal fires with which to suffocate their despairing prey, Armenia’s Christian population – sandwiched unfortunately between Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia – was virtually abandoned by the Christian West during their hour of need as the Turks annexed much of western Armenia and brought that country’s legendary Mount Ararat within its own east-west sprawling mass. Even today, many Turks vehemently deny the Armenian Genocide, so much so that Cardiff’s Armenian Genocide memorial was defaced by outraged Turks just days after its dedication. And still the furore continues. Before he took office, Barack Obama made a pledge to recognise the genocide, a gesture swiftly forgotten when he assumed power.  And still the US, British and German governments – their politicians reliant on the good will of Turkey – vacillate between embracing this century-old atrocity and utterly sweeping its 1.5 million victims under the carpet. The Armenians, meanwhile, mindful of their dubious “squeezed” geographical location, continue steadfastly to protest their need for national closure on the world’s stage, even at times displaying a remarkable and singularly Armenian sense of humour. When, in 2003, the Azerbaijanis claimed for themselves a small part of southern Armenia, invoking a century-old forgotten deal with the then Bolshevik government, the local Armenians simply avoided that particular highway and trucks, taxis, vans, cars and motorcycles improvised by re-routing themselves up a dry riverbed instead. And when one particularly pig-headed and thick-skinned Turkish politician undiplomatically requested that the Armenians remove Mount Ararat from their national flag – its now being technically a part of Turkey – the Armenian government riposted: “Then shouldn’t you remove the moon from your flag, for neither is that on your territory.”

[Written by Julian Cope]

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