Armenia Genocide timeline: What happened, where is Armenia & why has Joe Biden apologised?

Armenia claims to show an Azerbaijani tank being destroyed

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Armenia is a landlocked country on the crossroad between Europe and Asia, and is a former Soviet Republic. Armenia is situated in southeastern Europe/Western Asia, east of Turkey, north of Iran and south of the mountainous Caucasus region. The country is bordered by Azerbaijan and Georgia, and is just slightly smaller than Belgium. President Joe Biden said on Saturday the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was, in fact, genocide. In his statement Mr Biden said the American people honour “all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today”. He added: “Over the decades, Armenian immigrants who have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten their tragic history… we honour their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”

What happened in Armenia?

Armenia suffered a genocide, which began in 1915 and killed millions of its people.

The Ottoman Turks, who at the time had just entered World War I on the side of Germany, were worried that Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire would help Russia.

Russia had long been in control of Constantinople (now Istanbul), which controlled access to the Black Sea – and therefore access to Russia’s only year-round sea ports.

Many historians agree that about two million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire at the time the killings began.

However, victims of the mass killings also included some of the 1.8 million Armenians living in the Caucasus under Russian rules.

By 1914, Ottoman authorities were already portraying Armenians to be a threat to the empire’s own security.

On the night of April 23 and April 24, 1915, authorities in Constantinople rounded up about 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, many of which ended up deported or assassinated.

The number of people killed throughout the genocide remains a point of contention.

Estimates range from 300,000 to two million deaths between 1914 and 1923, with not all of the victims located in the Ottoman Empire.

But most estimates – including one of 800,000 between 1915 and 1918, made by Ottoman authorities themselves – fall somewhere between 600,000 and 1.5 million.

The Government in Turkey puts the number of dead Armenians at 300,000.

Whether due to killings or forced deportations, the number of Armenians living in Turkey fell from two million in 1914 to under 400,000 by 1922.

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Victims reportedly died in mass burnings and by drowning, torture, gas, poison, disease and starvation.

Children were reported to have been loaded into boats, taken out to sea and thrown overboard, while rape was very often reported as well.

According to the website of the Armenian National Institute: “The great bulk of the Armenian population was forcibly removed from Armenia and Anatolia to Syria, where the vast majority was sent into the desert to die of thirst and hunger.”

Armenia, the Vatican, the European Parliament, France, Germany, Russia, Canada, Argentina and the US are among dozens of states and other bodies to formally recognise what happened as a genocide – but Britain is among those that have not.

Why has Joe Biden apologised?

Both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump avoided using the word genocide in order not to anger Turkey, which says the killing campaign was much smaller than other reports suggest.

Some Turks still view the Armenians as having been a threat to the Ottoman Empire during a time of war, and say many people of varying ethnicities – including Turks – were killed during the conflict.

For both Armenians and Turks, the topic is one of a very sensitive nature.

President Biden’s apology signals that relations between the US, Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – which have deteriorated over the last few years anyway – should not prevent the use of a term that would validate the plight of Armenians and signal a commitment to not repeat the past.

According to one person familiar with the conversation, President Biden told President Erdogan on Friday he planned to recognise the 1915 event as a genocide.

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