20:24, 24 Apr 2015
Siranush Ghazanchyan

As Armenians worldwide mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian
Genocide, the CNN presents eight facts that should be known about
the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

What preceded the mass killings of Armenians that began 100 years ago?

The Ottoman Turks, having recently entered World War I on the side of
Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were worried that Armenians
living in the Ottoman Empire would offer wartime assistance to Russia.

Russia had long coveted control of Constantinople (now Istanbul),
which controlled access to the Black Sea -- and therefore access to
Russia's only year-round seaports.

How many Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire at the start of the
mass killings?

Many historians agree that the number was about 2 million. However,
victims of the mass killings also included some of the 1.8 million
Armenians living in the Caucasus under Russian rule, some of whom
were massacred by Ottoman forces in 1918 as they marched through East
Armenia and Azerbaijan.

How did the mass killings start?

By 1914, Ottoman authorities were already portraying Armenians as a
threat to the empire's security. Then, on the night of April 23-24,
1915, the authorities in Constantinople, the empire's capital, rounded
up about 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders. Many of
them ended up deported or assassinated.

April 24, known as Red Sunday, is commemorated as Genocide Remembrance
Day by Armenians around the world. Friday is the 100th anniversary
of that day.

How many Armenians were killed?

This is a major point of contention. Estimates range from 300,000 to 2
million deaths between 1914 and 1923, with not all of the victims in
the Ottoman Empire. But most estimates -- including one of 800,000
between 1915 and 1918, made by Ottoman authorities themselves --
fall between 600,000 and 1.5 million.

Whether due to killings or forced deportation, the number of Armenians
living in Turkey fell from 2 million in 1914 to under 400,000 by 1922.

How did they die?

Almost any way one can imagine.

While the death toll is in dispute, photographs from the era document
some mass killings. Some show Ottoman soldiers posing with severed
heads, others with them standing amid skulls in the dirt.

The victims are reported to have 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. Rape, too, was frequently reported.

In addition, according to the website, "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."

Was genocide a crime at the time of the killings?

No. Genocide was not even a word at the time, much less a legally
defined crime.

The word "genocide" was invented in 1944 by a Polish lawyer named
Raphael Lemkin to describe the Nazis' systematic attempt to eradicate
Jews from Europe. He formed the word by combining the Greek word for
race with the Latin word for killing.

Pope Francis recently referred to the killings of Armenians as a
"genocide," a move that upset Turkey.

Genocide became a crime in 1948, when the United Nations approved the
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The definition included acts meant "to destroy, in whole or in part,
a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."

Who calls the mass killings of Armenians a genocide?

Armenia, the Vatican, the European Parliament, France, Russia and
Canada. Germany is expected to join that group on Friday, the 100th
anniversary of the start of the killings.

Who does not call the mass killings a genocide?

Turkey, the United States, the European Commission, the United Kingdom
and the United Nations.

A U.N. subcommittee called the killings genocide in 1985, but current
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declines to use the word.