After the great flood Noah’s ark landed
on Mount Ararat, says the Bible.
Nowadays, the snow-capped summit
of the mountain soars over Yerevan.
Although the dormant volcanic cone
of Ararat lies south of the border,
in Turkish Anatolia,
the view of the mountain dominates
the skyline of the Armenian capital.
Most of the territory
that was once part of historic Armenia
belongs to Turkey today.
Under the yoke of the Muslim Ottomans,
the aspirations of the Christian Armenians
to obtain autonomy clashed
with the dreams of their rulers
to establish a pan-Turkish Empire.
In the 19th century the government
of the crumbling Ottoman Empire
started a campaign to wipe out
the Armenian population.
It perpetrated a genocide,
which reached its peak
during the First World War.
In 1908 an extremist wing
of the Union and Progress Party,
the Young Turks, came to power
in the Ottoman Empire.
They rejected demands for ethnic autonomy
and launched a systematic state organized attack
on the Armenian community.
It began on April 24,1915,
when the Ottoman authorities arrested
some 250 Armenian leaders in Istanbul
and murdered them.
Then armed Turks began uprooting men,
women and children from their homes.
Rape and murder became a commonplace.
Depriving them food and water, Turkish squads
forced Armenian communities to march
through the deserts of Syria where they died
of dehydration, starvation and exhaustion.
Hundreds of eyewitnesses
from all over the world recorded
and documented state-supported massacres.
In 1915, for example, Leslie Davis,
the American consul in Kharput, reported
that 10,000 bodies of murdered Armenians
had been discovered near Lake Göeljuk.
In the same year Giacomo Gorrini,
the Italian consul in Trabzon, testified:
“I saw thousands of innocent women
and children placed on boats,
which were capsized in the Black Sea”.
Armenians call the mass slaughter
of their people Metz Yeghérn, the calamity.
Historians estimate the number of those
who lost their lives
in the great Armenian tragedy at 1.5 million.
The government of Turkey, however,
refuses to admit that a state organized genocide
In the fall of 2001 Pope John Paul II
paid a visit to the former Soviet Republic
of Armenia. He laid a rose at the eternal flame
in the memorial of Yerevan
and prayed for the victims:
The lament that rises from this place,
The call of the dead from the depth of Metz Yeghérn,
The cry of innocent blood
That pleads like the blood of Abel,
Like Rachel weeping for her children
Because they are no more.