Hamidian massacres

The Hamidian massacres, also referred to as the Armenian Massacres of 1894-1896, refers to the massacring of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, with estimates of the dead ranging from 80,000 to 300,000 [Akcam, Taner. "A Shameful Act". 2006, page 42.] , and at least 50.000 orphans as a result ["The number of Armenian children under twelve years of age made orphans by the massacres of 1895 is estimated by the missionaries at 50.000". Fifty Thousand Orphans made So by the Turkish Massacres of Armenians. // New York Times, Dec. 18, 1896] . The massacres are named for Abdul Hamid II, whose efforts to reinforce the territorial integrity of the embattled Ottoman Empire reasserted Pan-Islamism as a state ideology. [Akcam, Taner. "A Shameful Act". 2006, page 44.]

Abdul Hamid believed that the woes of the Ottoman Empire stemmed from "the endless persecutions and hostilities of the Christian world." [Akcam, Taner. "A Shameful Act". 2006, page 43.] He perceived the Ottoman Armenians to be an extension of foreign hostility, a means by which Europe could "get at our most vital places and tear out our very guts." [Akcam, Taner. "A Shameful Act". 2006, page 44.]

One of the most serious incidents occurred in Armenian populated parts of Anatolia. Although the Ottomans had prevented other revolts in the past, the harshest measures were directed against the Armenian community. They observed no distinction between the nationalist dissidents and the Armenian population at large, and massacred them with brutal force. [cite book | last = Cleveland | first = William L. | title = A History of the Modern Middle East | publisher = Westview Press | date = 2000 | pages = p. 119 | id = ISBN 0813334896] However, this occurred in the 1890s, at a time when the telegraph could spread news around the world and when the Christian European powers were vastly more powerful than the weakening Ottoman state.


In the period of 1894-96, when the Ottoman Empire was ruled by Sultan Abdul Hamid II, tens of thousands of Armenians were massacred. [A Theoretical Inquiry into the Armenian Massacres of 1894-1896, by Robert Melson p. 481] Some accounts suggest that the dead numbered as high as 300,000.

The origins of hostility towards Armenians lies in their status as a wealthy religious minority, in the days of the waning power of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman loss of dominion over various Christian regions was ushered in by an era of European nationalism, and the insistence of self-determination for many territories that had long been held under Ottoman authority. When this sense of nationalism seemed to be spreading into Anatolia proper, awakening a sense of Armenian political identity that was increasingly bent on equal rights and even autonomy, the Ottoman leadership perceived the threat as a threat to the Islamic character of the Empire, and even to the very existence of the Empire.

The success of Imperial Russia in the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78, and the ensuing Treaty of San Stefano the Ottoman government had to give away a large part of territory (including the cities of Kars and Batumi) to the Russians. The Russian government claimed they were the supporters of the beleaguered Christian communities within the Ottoman Empire and clearly, the Russians could now beat the Ottomans. The Treaty of Berlin - which reduced the magnitude of Russia's gains on the other side of the Black Sea - stated that the Ottoman government had to give legal protection to the Christian Armenians, but in the real world, the treaty's protections were not implemented.

The combination of Russian military success, clear weakening of Ottoman power, and hope that one day all of the Armenian territory might be ruled by Russia led to a new restiveness on the part of the Armenians still living inside the Ottoman Empire. Added to this was the fact that the Ottomans never applied justice evenly in disputes between Christians and Muslims (see Dhimmi).

Starting around 1890 the Armenians began clamoring to obtain the protections promised them at Berlin. Unrest occurred in 1892 at Marsovan and in 1893 at Tokat. Armenians wanted reforms in the Ottoman Empire and an end to the discrimination imposed upon them, with demands for the right to vote and the establishment of a constitutional government. [ [http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/Genocide/armenian_genocide.htm United Human Rights Council] ]

The Turkish massacres of Armenians in 1894, 1895, 1896, and 1909 were still fresh in their minds. ["A Peace to End All Peace", by David Fromkin, p211.]

Another reason for the massacres were the channeling of Kurdish bandits upon Armenians instead of just anybody in the area. Historically Eastern parts of the Ottoman Empire was the most insecure place, where especially the Kurdish rebels ransacked neighbouring towns and villages. When the Empire was too weak and disorganized to halt them, Sultan Abdulhamid (ironically who himself was a half Armenian because of his mother) gave a semi-official status to the Kurdish bandits which is known as Hamidiye Alaylari ({Abdul}Hamids's Regiments) and ignored the massacres as long as they were not directed towards the muslim population. The Armenians being the most populous and richest Christians in the area, faced great losses.

Sasun Resistance

In 1894, Sultan Abdul Hamid II began to target the Armenian people in a precursor of the Hamidian massacres. This persecution strengthened nationalistic sentiment among Armenians. The first notable battle in the Armenian resistance movement took place in Sassoun, where nationalist ideals were proliferated by Hunchak activists, such as Mihran Damadian, Hampartsoum Boyadjian, and Hrayr. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation also played a significant role in arming the people of the region. The Armenians of Sassoun confronted the Ottoman army and Kurdish irregulars at Sassoun, succumbing to superior numbers.hy icon cite book | last = Kurdoghlian | first = Mihran | title = Hayots Badmoutioun, Volume III | publisher = Hradaragoutioun Azkayin Ousoumnagan Khorhourti | year = 1996 | location = Athens, Greece | pages = p. 42-44]

In response to the resistance in Sasun Resistance (1894), the governor of Muş responded by inciting the local Muslims against the Armenians. [ [http://www.crf-usa.org/bria/bria19_3b.htm Constitutional Rights Foundation] ] The historian Lord Kinross claims that this was often achieved by gathering Muslims in a local mosque and claiming that the Armenians had the aim of "striking at Islam." [ [http://www.hyeetch.nareg.com.au/genocide/genocide_p1.html HyeEtch] ] The Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, sent the Ottoman army into the area and also armed groups of Kurdish insurrectionists. The violence spread and affected most of the Armenian towns in the Ottoman empire. The worst atrocity occurred when the cathedral of Urfa, in which three thousand Armenians had taken refuge, was burned. [ [http://www.armenian-genocide.org/hamidian.html Armeniangenocide.org: Hamidian Massacres] ] As Turkish historian Osman Nuri observed, "The mere mention of the word 'reform' irritated him [Abdul Hamit] , inciting his criminal instincts. [The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus - Page 163 by Vahakn N. Dadrian]


In response, tens of thousands of Armenians were massacred, both in Istanbul and elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire. Abdul Hamid's Private First Secretary wrote in his memoirs about Abdul Hamid that he 'decided to pursue a policy of severity and terror against the Armenians, and in order to succeed in this respect he elected the method of dealing them an economic blow ... he ordered they absolutely avoid negotiating or discussing anything with the Armenians and to inflict upon them a decisive strike to settle scores.' The French ambassador described Turkey as "literally in flames," with "massacres everywhere" and all Christians being murdered "without distinction." [Paul Cambon, "Tome Premier (1870–1908): L’etablissement de al Republique – Le Protectorat Tunisien – La regence en Espagne – La Turquie d’Abd Ul Hamid", vol. 1 of Correspondance, 1870–1924 (Paris: Grasset, 1940), p. 395] [Sebastien de Courtois, "The Forgotten Genocide: The Eastern Christians, the Last Arameans" (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2004), pp. 106-110] A French vice-consul declared that the Ottoman Empire was "gradually annihilating the Christian element" by "giving the Kurdish chieftains carte blanche to do whatever they please, to enrich themselves at the Christians’ expense and to satisfy their men’s whims." [Diplomatic Dispatch #2, Vice-Consul of Diyarbekir to Mr. Constans, French Ambassador to Constantinople, 9 January 1901, quoted in de Courtois, "Forgotten Genocide", p. 138] The French diplomatic correspondence shows that the Hamidiye conducted massacres not only of Armenians but also of Assyrians. [Diplomatic Dispatch #17, Vice-Consul ofDiyarbekir to Mr. Constans, French Ambassador to Constantinople, 13 August 1902,quoted in de Courtois, "Forgotten Genocide", p. 144; Diplomatic Dispatch #10, Vice-Consul ofDiyarbekir to Mr. Constans, French Ambassador to Constantinople, 2 June 1904, quotedin de Courtois, "Forgotten Genocide", p. 137; Diplomatic Dispatch #12, Vice-Consul ofDiyarbekir to Mr. Constans, French Ambassador to Constantinople, 27 July 1904,quoted in de Courtois, "Forgotten Genocide", p. 145.] [Hannibal Travis, " [http://utpjournals.metapress.com/content/yv544142p5rnx055/ "Native Christians Massacred": The Ottoman Genocide of the Assyrians During World War I] ", Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, vol. 1.3 (2006)]

The killings occurred from 1895 until 1897. In that last year, Sultan Hamid declared that the Armenian question was closed. All the Armenian revolutionaries had either been killed, or had escaped to Russia. The Ottoman government closed Armenian societies and restricted Armenian political movements.

The formation of Armenian revolutionary groups began roughly around the end of the Russo-Turkish War of 1878 and intensified with the first introduction of Article 166 of the Ottoman Penal code 166, and the raid of Erzerum Cathedral. Article 166 was meant to control the possession of arms, but it was used to target Armenians by restricting them to possess arms. Local Kurdish tribes were armed to attack the defenseless Armenian population. Some diplomats believed that the aim of these groups was to commit massacres so as to incite counter-measures, and to invite "foreign powers to intervene," as Istanbul's British Ambassador Sir Philip Currie observed in March 1894.

These mass killings are considered by some scholars, such as Yehuda Bauer, to have been an actual phase of the Armenian Genocide, which most scholars place strictly in the years 1915-1917.

Inaccurate reportage by the Ottoman government

After George Hepworth, a preeminent journalist of the late 19th century, traveled through Ottoman Armenia in 1897, he wrote "Through Armenia on Horseback", which discusses the causes and effect of the recent massacres. In one chapter Hepworth describes the disparity between the reality of the Massacre in Bitlis and the official reports that were sent to the Porte. After retelling the Turkish version of events, which places the blame solely on the Armenians of Bitlis, Hepworth writes:

"....That is the account of the affair which was sent to Yildiz, and that story contains all that the Sultan has any means of knowing about it. It is a most remarkable story, and the discrepancies are as thick as leaves in Valambrosa. On the face of it, it cannot be true, and before a jury it would hardly have any weight as evidence. It is extremely important, however, because it is probably a fair representation of the occurrences of the last few years. That it is a misrepresentation, so much so that it can fairly be called fabrication, becomes clear when you look at it a second time... and yet it is from an official document which the future historian will read when he wishes to compile the facts concerning those massacres." [Hepworth, George. "Through Armenia on Horseback". London: Isbister and Company Limited, 1898. pg. 239-241]

ee also

* Yıldız Attempt
* Adana massacre
* Armenian Genocide
* Anti-Armenianism


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