By SOSSI ESSAJANIAN

A poster by the American Committee For Relief in the Near East. PHOTO: http://bit.ly/a3Lk1g
A poster by the American Committee For Relief in the Near East. IMAGE: University of Minnesota

The United Nations defines genocide as steps taken to wipe out “in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Ninety-five years ago during the month of April, the Ottoman Turkish government began a planned and organized genocide against its Armenian citizenship, killing 1.5 million people including its Assyrian and Pontic Greek citizens.

But this genocide has a place in U.S. history as well. Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1916, sent detailed, official reports to the U.S. government about the planned massacres taking place in the Eastern provinces of the Empire. U.S. missionary groups also filed reports on the genocide, along with other organizations, government representatives and individuals. Together, these reports inspired the founding of many organizations by leading U.S. philanthropists (people who give donations to help human kind) to raise money and send help for the victims.

One of those philanthropists was Cleveland H. Dodge, who formed the organization Near East Relief (today known as the Near East Foundation). Others included Clara Barton (of the Red Cross) and President Woodrow Wilson. “Women’s groups, churches, synagogues, and civic organizations around the country organized to protest the massacres—which were boldly and regularly in U.S. newspapers and magazines—and to raise money,” writes author Peter Balakian in his book The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response.

Today, the Turkish government denies that the Ottoman Empire committed genocide. However, many official sources, the U.S. record of official reports and the large outpouring of assistance during that time document the genocide.

 IMAGE: American Chamber of Commerce in Armenia
IMAGE: American Chamber of Commerce in Armenia

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