“By the end of the war 90 percent of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire were gone.” (Suny xxi)
While currently reading “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else” A History of the Armenian Genocide by Ronald Suny, I can say it’s a great choice of book to read. Prior to reading this book, I had only briefly heard of the Armenian Genocide. It was never taught or talked about in any of my history classes throughout high school which I find surprising. The Armenian Genocide was an intense, violent, and tragic war that I think should be more recognized as a part of history. However, the war is often lied about and many people still refuse to acknowledge that it is was a true event, mostly being the Turkish state and historians. They say that there was “no genocide” and that the “Armenians were to blame for it.” Therefore, Ronald Suny gives the whole truth about the war in full detail.
Power, land, and more power, were the key motives for empires and the Ottomans were in trouble and wanted a comeback. This led to the massacre of over 1 million Armenians. The Armenians did try to fight back and managed to kill a couple thousand Turkish soldiers but it wasn’t enough to stop the violence from the Ottoman’s. A big contribution to all of this was the fact that Europe was undergoing massive imperialism and expansion. There was a lot of competition which motivated the Ottoman’s more and made them more fearful that their empire will crumble. The war never really had a clear “end” because the Armenians continued to suffer and struggle for many more years to come. There was also a big religious component that played in the war. “Dhemmi” or zimmi” meant you were protected religously. The Christians consisted of the Armenians, Greeks, Serbs, Croatians, and Bulgarians while the muslims were mostly the Kurds and Arabs. Although the three major fights were between Ottomanism, Islamicism, and Turkism. Ottomanism wanted equal rights for all, Islamism wanted equal muslim entities, and Turkish was secular and ethnic. In the end, I think this genocide should be brought tonight more and acknowledged better.
“Those who observed the killings, as well as the Allied powers engaged in a war against the Ottomans, repeatedly claimed that they had never witnessed anything like it.” (Suny xxi)
1915 Armenian Genocide map- Turkish Empire
After reading A Memory of Solferino by Henry Dunant, I instantly wrote down adjectives to describe it because of how strongly I think it applied to the reading. A few of them being, heartfelt, deep, emotional, hard-read, tragic, and detailed. The beginning of the reading really caught my attention because of how much dedication and care for people was shown especially when talking about the Red Cross and Jean Henry Dunant (“The father of the Red Cross.” The details about his life was one of the things that stayed with me throughout the rest of the reading. Dunant strived to find a way to prevent human suffering and provide care for all people. “It was natural for him to want to relieve the pain and suffering of all the wounded.” It was really enjoyable reading through the first part of the article due to how heartfelt it was but it slowly became harder and harder. Throughout the main parts of it, the author told many stories from the battle and described scenes of the wounded that were very difficult and upsetting to read. I could really feel how gruesome and violent the war was due to the detailing. The stories about the war continued almost to the rest of the article and the theme I found captivating in the beginning seemed to fade away. I hoped the inspirational and deep comments would continue but it turned into more historical content and less personal insights. Although towards the end the author switched back and gave out more personal insights again and thoughts about the future which left it on a better note. A quote that really stood out to me was “If new weapons are just becoming more dangerous, battles will only become more murderous.” I agreed with this quote and found it an important thing to keep in mind. At this day in age violence seems to be escalating all around the world and its a horrible thing that just seems to be getting worse and worse each day. The last thing the world needs are more catastrophic weapons.
The book To Kill a People by John Cox focuses on the history of genocide mainly in the twentieth century. The book starts off with a good general introduction which I found quite helpful in getting the main idea and general topics down that will be discussed later throughout the book. What is the definition of “genocide”? Personally, I think it’s good to break down a broad open-ended question and just focus on the word at focus and simply define it. For example, in the introduction it takes a moment to just define what genocide even is. “Genocide is the attempt to destroy any recognized, stable, and permanent group as it is defined by the perpetrator..” (Cox 11). There are probably millions of different definitions of genocide but I think this one is fairly accurate and to the point.
The first thing that stood out to me while starting to read this book was the portrait of two mutilated Congolese children. As a reader you can tell the two boys aren’t of the same age, however both are relatively young. I look at the details of pictures, the little things can tell a lot. And in general, a photograph can have an endless amount of interpretations and meanings. The facial expressions of the two boys Yoka (standing on the right) and Mola (sitting on the left) just show the emotion of the setting. It was said that Yoka lost his arm because he had “failed to meet a quota” for rubber. And Mola, lost both of his hands due to a mercenary tying them too tightly. Both reasons seemed to be due to just pure carelessness. A couple questions that I had while looking at this photo was, who was behind the camera? who took the photo? and why?. Was the portrait taken in protest of what was happening or the opposite?
Currently being almost at the end of Killing Civilians by Hugo Slim, I’m quite disturbed. This book has hit on many touchy topics varying from how civilians suffer in war, ideologies of the violence and strategies used, and rape/ sexual violence. The whole book however is on the subject of genocides. A topic that I didn’t know a lot about before reading this book. The author, Hugo Slim analyzes all of the different components that have happened in some of the most tragic genocides in history. I found that reading about them opened up my eyes to better understand these events and what really occurred.
“The second sphere of civilian suffering also involves direct physical attack upon the person” (Slim 60). In specific stories such as the Japanese mass rape in the City of Nanking, the detail is gruesome and difficult to read. You almost get put in their shoes and experience what they did. “Age of patients ranged from 3-36… 47% of rape victims being less than 18 years old”, was the quote that stood out to me the most in this section. Only reading the first part of the sentence and hearing that the youngest age of a rape victim was 3 sounded so inhumane I paused and questioned if this statistic was even correct or not. I couldn’t believe what I was reading in this chapter. It was written to almost sound like a norm at the time and happened in many different war countless times. Women and children were said to have been dragged through the streets, demoralized, and beaten sometimes to death. Even worse, countless of these women were said to have committed suicide after experiencing sexual violence. It gave me chills to read about the horrors that occurred. The analyzation of using sexual violence seems to stem from “power.” To have power over the enemy was a major strategy used during war. It was almost like the goal was to do whatever it took to make the enemy feel completely powerless.