Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

3-2015

Abstract

The eastern Anatolian provinces of the Ottoman Empire witnessed a great wave of anti-Armenian riots throughout 1895 and 1896. These extensive massacres took the lives of thousands of Armenians, while several tens of thousands of Armenians converted to Islam in order to escape certain death. Despite the historical and political significance of these anti-Armenian riots, the origins, extent and momentous consequences of this wave of massacres and the agency of perpetrators remain seriously understudied. More important, however, the socio-political context and dynamics of these communal riots have not been sufficiently investigated yet. Based on extensive research conducted in the Ottoman and British archives, this paper investigates the socio-political dynamics of the anti-Armenian riots of 1895-96, interrogating the extent to which the riots were a spontaneous display of popular anti-Armenian feelings or the result of a carefully organized and premeditated policy engineered by state actors. This paper suggests that, the security concerns and policies of the Hamidian administration – or the “securitization of the Armenian population” – prepared the ground for the marginalization of the Armenians and the empowerment of Muslim notables and Kurdish chieftains at their expense, creating asymmetrical power relations necessary for the emergence of what I would term a “climate of violence.” Underscoring the agency and background motives of perpetrators, this paper attempts to demonstrate that the inter-communal tensions and violence between the Armenian and Muslim populations were caused by the convergence of state security practices, that increasingly branded the Armenians as a fundamental threat to imperial unity, with the socio-economic interests of the local Kurdish chieftains and Muslim notables.

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