Turkish Genocide against the Armenians: Western Reaction

Figure 1.--Here are Armenian widows, with their children. This means their husbands have already been killed by the Turks. They were reportedly photographed somewhere in Turkey. (This could mean the Ottomon Empire and no specufically Turkey.) The photograph wasctaken September 16, 1915. Image couresy of George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).

The Ottoman attrocities against the Armenian people were widely published in the Western media. The resulting publicity generated considerable support for the Armenians. When news of the firsrt massacres reached America (1894), private groups, especially churches but also civic groups and various other ad hoc groups were organized to assist the Armenians. The National Armenian Relief Committee was formed. A wide range of groups (suffregetts, Protestant and Cathloic missionary groups, Jewish organizations, and others) raissed substantial funds. Many noted individuals (William James, Henry James, Stephen Crane, Julia Ward Howe, and many others) adopted the Armenian cause. Condemnation of the massacres was included in the 1896 Republican platform which was almost devoid of other foreign policy issues. When the Turkish genocide began in 1915 important Americans called for intervention. Again it attracted the support of important leaders. Relief funds were collected to aid those Armenians who managed to escape from Turkey. One of the most important groups was Near East Relief. Actual intervention to stop the Turks from killing Armenians never came. There was no international action tp punish the Turks after the killings. [Balakian] One might ask why. One of the primary reasons was the location of the killings. They took place in Anatolia, an area that could not be easily reached. Much of the killing took place during the War. After the War, the geo-political importance of Turkey made it a potentially costly country to confront. Also the issue of national soverignity discouraged intervention. Many felt and still do that what a country does within its own borders does not merit international intervention. This argument is still widely used today (Cambodia, Iraq, Rawanda, Sudan, and Yugoslavia).


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Created: 7:17 AM 11/10/2005
Last updated: 7:18 AM 11/10/2005