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I write this post in part to heartily recommend a book ‘The Burning Tigris’ by the scholar Peter Balakian, which has so gloomed my imagination for the past week. Its subject-matter must be reflected on if we are to stand any chance of understanding our current predicament.

Though the numbers continue to be debated – both dispassionately and for crude political reasons – few can deny that the Armenian people were subjected to a nightmare by the Ottoman Empire in the first decades of the Twentieth Century, or that this massacre or genocide has things to tell us about the European future if we fail to uphold our geo-cultural integrity.

Whether 300,000 or 1.5 million, the Armenian population dropped sharply in numbers as the Ottoman Empire entered its final collapse. The Young Turk barbarians, seeking to carve out a single homogenous Turkic state out of a multi-cultural empire, felt they had no choice but to remove the elements most hostile to their design. Naturally, this meant those who did not wish to be subsumed by an Islamic majority. Naturally this meant the Armenians.

An ancient people, and a very important one at that, the Armenians were among the first to adopt Christianity as their national religion, and some argue the faith’s later spread would have been greatly retarded had they not converted when they did. Some of the oldest and most ornate churches stand in Armenia and the Christian faith has dominated its affairs for over 1500 years. To the grinning lust of Jihadi eyes, this made them a symbolic target as well as a political one. They were a spot missed by the Islamic conquests, and a disgracing patch of dissent in a sea of barbaric consensus.

When we speak of the Islamic conquest, we are not speaking of a single, continuous event but of two massive Blitzkriegs, each of them centuries apart. The first is most familiar. Acting on Muhammad’s sayings, the Arabs of the Arabian peninsula stormed the ancient world, converting the nations of the Middle East and North Africa before petering out in France.

Much later, the Turks, a Mongolian people who had laid down roots in Anatolia, picked up the muddied banner of Jihad and pushed into South-Eastern Europe and Central Asia. By the time both storms had passed, the Armenians, by some miracle of fortune, had survived.

Their Turkish political overlords had failed to extinguish and were now intimidated by their ethnic self-awareness and deeply held Christian beliefs. The Ottomans arrested Armenian intellectuals and outlawed the expression of Armenian identity (as they do now to Kurds). In that grimly familiar process, physical persecution is always the final policy.

The majority of the Armenians who died in the genocide were resident in what is now Turkish territory. Most of the early fatalities were military-age males, judged to be a threat to Turkic supremacy and ongoing nationalist reforms. Later in the campaign, men, women and children alike were driven into the unforgiving Syrian desert and left to die.

There is ample evidence to suggest Adolf Hitler took inspiration from the Turks when designing his own sick project. The world’s inaction when civilians were disposed of in frightening numbers, suggested to the devils of the world that anything was possible with a black heart and an iron will. Pure evil begat pure evil.

Until very recently, the history of Modern Armenia has been one of different tyrannies. The Ottoman Empire and Soviet Union held the nation in bondage for much of the Twentieth century. The free Armenia that stands today deserves our most energetic solidarity and respect.

D, LDN.

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