National Geographic : 2016 Apr
Ghost lands 113 One of the oldest and most intractable po- litical disputes in the world—a toxic standoff that has locked Armenia and Turkey in acri- mony, in enmity, in nationalist extremism for generations—can be reduced to the endless parsing of three syllables: genocide. This word is freighted with alternative meanings, with shadings, with controversy. It is codified by the United Nations as one of the worst of crimes: the attempt to obliterate entire peoples or eth- nic, racial, or religious groups. And yet when does it apply? How many must be slaughtered? How to weigh action versus intent? By what ghastly accounting? The Armenian version of events: The year is 1915. World War I is nine months old. Europe is herding its young into the fires. The vast and multicultural Ottoman Empire—the world’s most powerful Muslim polity—has allied itself with Germany. A large Christian Armenian minority, once so peaceful and trusted as to be labeled by the sultans as the millet-i sadı- ka, or loyal nation, is wrongfully accused of rebellion, of siding with the Russian enemy. Some Ottoman leaders decide to resolve this “Armenian problem” through extermination and deportation. Soldiers and local Kurdish militias shoot Armenian men. There are mass rapes of women. Armenian villages and city neighborhoods are looted, appropriated. The dead clog the rivers and wells. Cities stink of rot. The survivors—ragged columns of women Last year the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, made saints of all the victims of the genocide of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, the sprawling and multiethnic state that gave rise to modern Turkey. A veiled woman attends the canonization ceremony in Ejmiatsin, Armenia.