APRIL 21, 2015 07:58 PM EDT

People lay flowers at the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial
in Yerevan on April 21,2015. (AFP PHOTO/KAREN MINASYAN) Article

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A hundred years ago this week, as British and French troops were
bogged down facing Germany on the western front of World War I,
the Kaiser's ally in the east, the Turkish Ottoman Caliphate, was
preparing for a new kind of war.

A war of extermination.

The target of the Turks was their large Armenian Christian population
living within the Caliphate, whom the Turks feared was loyal to Russia.

On April 19, 1915, Cevdet Bey, the Turkish governor of the city of Van,
(today on Turkey's eastern border with Armenia) ordered the city's
residents to furnish him with 4,000 soldiers under the pretext of

The Armenians, fearing for their lives, refused.

Bey accused the Armenians of "rebellion", and laid siege to the city,
asserting his determination to "crush" it at any cost.

"If the rebels fire a single shot", he declared, "I shall kill every
Christian man, woman, and (pointing to his knee) every child, up
to here."

The next day, April 20, the siege of Van began until a Russian military
force intervened and rescued the Armenians.

The Russian intervention in Van provided the Turks with the pretext
to label the minority Armenians as traitors.

On April 24, the Turkish government rounded up and imprisoned an
estimated 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Istanbul,
sending them to holding centres near Ankara, where they were shot in
cold blood.

By the time 1915 came to an end, nearly 1.5 million Armenians were

Many historians and scholars, as well as the governments of many
countries, including Canada, have labelled the ethnic cleansing by
Turks as the Armenian Genocide, commemorated annually on April 24.

Turkey, however is adamant. It refuses to acknowledge the crimes
committed by the Ottoman Caliphate against its Christian Armenian

In fact, when Pope Francis earlier this month referred to the Armenian
Genocide as one of the "three massive and unprecedented tragedies"
of the last century, Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
rebuked the Pontiff, warning him not to "repeat this mistake."

Turkey is not alone.

Some Islamic groups in the United States have come together to echo
the Turkish line, claiming the Armenian Genocide was just one event in
"the painful history of over 30 nations fighting for over four years
and the loss of over 37 million lives in World War I, including those
of the Armenians."

The U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) said in a press
release they "share the pain suffered by Armenians during this period"
but oppose referring to it as a genocide.

Another reason USCMO gave for opposing the United States acknowledging
the Armenian Genocide, was that Turkey was "the only Muslim-majority
member of NATO."

In Toronto, where thousands of people gathered at Queen's Park on
Sunday to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, a small group of Islamist
men and women held a counter protest promoting the Turkish position.

Keyvan Soltany, a Kurdish Canadian from Iran who attended the
commemoration told me, "I was disgusted to see Islamist women in
burkas and hijab trying to insult the memories of the Armenians who
the Turks killed."

Time and again, too many Islamic leaders have demonstrated, they
represent the interests of global Islamism in the United States and
Canada, not the values of universal human rights, individual liberty
and freedom that make us who we are.

On the issue of the Armenian Genocide, too many Muslim leaders have
failed their community, again.

From: Baghdasarian