Confiscations and Protests

Recent tragic events in North America have fired discussions about a government’s responsibility to protect certain citizens from other citizens. The point in question has been whose ‘right to bear arms’ does the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution preserve. The military force of the central government? The police units of towns and cities, or states or provinces? The desire of individual citizens to protect their homes and families, hunt game, or participate in shooting for sport?

No such rights were even considered in the Ottoman Empire. The concept of rights did not exist in that place at that time. No one had rights. Policy in the Empire snaked its way out of the whims of whomever was in power.

Although the May 12 of 1913 protest of the patriarch of the Armenian Church probably wasn’t his first to the Sultan’s grand vizier of the government in Constantinople, its specific complaints were noted by modern historians. The patricarch registered an official objection to the wounding, killing, and forcible conversions of Armenian adults and children to Islam. He also complained that all weapons were being confiscated from Armenians. The patriarch went on to complain that Rumelians, Muslim refugees from the European  Balkans and Thrace, were being settled in Eastern Anatolia, a largely Armenian area of the Ottoman Empire. 

The patriarch’s voice of protest went unheeded. After the Young Turks took over the government of the Ottoman Empire on January 4th, 1914, they ramped up tensions by arming and training militias of Kurds, Rumelians, and released convicts called Chetes, between August and October of 1914. In October of 1914, local gendarmes across the Empire were ordered to raid Armenian homes to confiscate any weapons they could find. If any Armenian dared to complain about the confiscation, or what else the gendarmes did when they were in the homes, that Armenian would be arrested.

In the end, the Ottoman Turkish army and the Muslim militias had most of the weapons in the Empire. The Young Turks of Constantinople had set the stage for the next scene.

In June and July of the next year, 1915, more protests landed on deaf ears in the Ottoman Turkish government offices, this time from foreigners. The German ambassador von Wangeheim registered with the Young Turks his objection to the mass deportations, pillaging, and massacres of Turkey’s Armenian population. Von Wangeheim reported to the German Chancellor that the Turkish government was trying to “exterminate the Armenian race in the Turkish empire” (p. 213 of A Peace to End All Peace). 

Another German, Pastor Johannus Lepsius, a Protestant missionary, travelled to Constantinople and met with a Young Turk, the Minister of War Enver. When asked by Enver where he had gotten his information about the atrocities, Pastor Lepsius said he had gotten numerous reports from German consuls, missionaries, and other eyewitnesses in the interior of Ottoman Turkey. Lepsius intervened with limited success on behalf of the defenceless Armenian women, children, and elderly who made up the mass deportation lines.

When those men in power (such as the Young Turks) arm everyone (all Turks) who: 1) have been encouraged to be jealous of a certain people’s economic and professional success (such as the Armenians) and who: 2) have been taught by their religion (Islam) to seek the death of those aren’t of their religion (such as Christians), and when the men in power (such as the Young Turks) confiscate all items an oppressed people (such as the Armenians) could use in defense of their homes and families, the scene has definitely been set for the mass murder of the oppressed people group. And that is exactly what the government of Ottoman Turkey orchestrated against the Armenians in 1915. 

There seem to be no end to these kinds of pebbles on the beach of world history. Forcibly oppress and disarm an ethnic group + arm a preferred religious or ethnic group = blood bath