On this date in 1915, hundreds of Armenian intellectuals – Christians, for the most part – were forcibly deported from the Turkish capital of Constantinople. The number soon escalated into the thousands, and most were eventually murdered.
So kicked off the Armenian Genocide, the persecution of Christian Armenians by the Muslim Young Turks, who wanted to cleanse the country of the troublesome non-coreligionists in preparation for the new Turkey in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman regime, and supposedly in order to ensure against the possibility of the Armenians siding against the Central Powers in World War I. By the time the genocide was over – and it lasted from 1915 to 1923 – hundreds of thousands of Armenians had been killed, with top-range estimates putting the total number at 1.5 million. Massive atrocities, from forced death marches to placing women and children aboard ships and then deliberately sinking them, were carried out by Turkish government-backed forces.
As CNN reports:
While the death toll is in dispute, photographs from the era document some mass killings. Some show Ottoman soldiers posing with severed heads, others with them standing amid skulls in the dirt. The victims are reported to have died in mass burnings and by drowning, torture, gas, poison, disease and starvation. Children were reported to have been loaded into boats, taken out to sea and thrown overboard. Rape, too, was frequently reported.