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ConIFA World Football Cup 2018: Who are Western Armenia?


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As part of The National Student's coverage of the ConIFA World Football Cup, we're giving you the low down on all 16 teams competing in the tournament. This time, we're introducing you to Western Armenia, the final team to be introduced and the history of Armenians in Turkey. 

Who are they?

Western Armenia refers to the historical parts of the Armenian homeland that is now part of the Republic of Turkey. The side, however, draws on a wide Western Armenian diaspora. 

The Ottoman Empire captured Armenia in their successful war against the Persian Safavids. Western Armenia was kept by the Ottomans whilst the East, now entirely part of the Armenian nation was given to the Russian Empire after the Russo-Turkish war of the 1820s.

The Ottoman Empire had been successful at uniting the many different people groups and religions under one banner for much of its existence but by the late 19th Century it was known as "The Sick Man of Europe" and the fall of Constantinople was a matter of time. 

The Armenians had previously lobbied the Europeans for greater protection and Sultan Abdul Hamid II saw the failures of Ottoman rule as being a result of external Christian influence, while nationalism saw Balkan territories such as Bosnia, Albania, Greece and Bulgaria win independence. Armenian Christians were seen by him as an extension of this foreign hostility. 

In the 1890s he began to target them, between 80,000 and 300,000 Armenians are believed to have lost their lives in the Hamidian massacres, with 50,000 children orphaned. The Ottoman authorities also targeted other Christian groups such as the Assyrians and Greeks but stopped following international condemnation. 

The widespread use of the telegram helped news reach Europe quicker. 

From 1915, 1.5 million Armenians are believed to have lost their lives in a series of massacres that some refer to as The Armenian Genocide, but Turkey continues to deny to this day, with arguments being only Russian sympathisers were killed and the deaths of Armenians forcibly deported were not planned.

That April, the governor of Van demanded 4,000 men for war during the First World War, however, the people of Van believed this to be an attempt to leave the city defenceless. The town was sieged and eventually relieved by Russian forces.

Red Sunday would occur days later when 270 Armenian notables in Constantinople were rounded up, arrested and deported. Allegations involve Armenians being forcibly marched out of their homes into the deserts of Syria and Anatolia without the supplies needed to survive. Mass burnings, drownings, poisonings were reported, as well as the confiscation of property. 

One of the final acts of the Ottoman Empire was to sentence the perpetrators for war crimes, however, the eventual fall of the Empire saw amnesties given and denial became Turkish policy. 

The Turkish Human Rights Association recognised the events as a genocide in 2006 and every April 24, the "I apologise" campaign commemorates the events. 

In 2018, Turkey responded angrily to Dutch recognition of the events as a genocide

Armenian nationalists would assassinate all the major Ottoman officials behind the events during Operation Nemesis, the exception being war minister Enver Pasha who was killed fighting the Bolsheviks in Tajikistan. 

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who was fighting on the other side of the country during the attacks said in an 1926 interview: "These left-overs from the former Young Turk Party, who should have been made to account for the millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse, from their homes and massacred, have been restive under the Republican rule."

This quote is seen by some as evidence that Ataturk was ashamed of what had occurred a decade earlier.

Adolf Hitler when discussing plans to invade Poland and carve it as Lebensraum for the German people after massacring Poles is believed to have said: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

Tensions between Turks and Armenians continue to be tense. 

In 2005, after journalist Orhan Pamuk made statements accusing Turkey of committing genocide against the Armenians and Kurds, a lawyer pressed charges against him. Pamuk's books were burnt across Turkey and though the charges were dropped, he was later fined 6000 liras, the equivalent of £1,000. It is also believed he was one of a number to be targeted in assassination plots by ultra-nationalists.

In 2004, Turkish journalist Hrant Dink published a piece suggesting one of Ataturk's adopted daughters Sabiha Gökçen, the first female fighter pilot in the world, was of Armenian origin. It is widely accepted she was ethnically Bosniak.

Dink, an Armenian himself, wrote extensively on minority rights and for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. 

In January 2007, Dink was shot three times in the back of the head with the shooter saying "I shot the infidel" as he walked away.

10 years on, the head of the police intelligence branch gave testimony saying the killing was "deliberately not prevented", the investigation has been accused of being flawed, in 2011, Ogun Samsat was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

On the 24th April 2011, the commemoration day, Sevag Balikci, a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent serving military service was shot dead, the official report was the shooting was an accident but many believe the attack was deliberate and racially motivated. 

The team and their ConIFA history

The team was formed as recently as 2015, they narrowly lost their first game 3-2 against the reserve side of Olympique Marseille. 

They competed in the last ConIFA World Football Cup beating Chagos Islands 12-0 before losing to Abkhazia. They were knocked out by Panjab in the quarter-finals but would beat Iraqi Kurdistan in the first placement round before losing to Sapmi. 

The side is managed by former Armenia international Harutyan Vardanyan who has previously played for Fortuna Koln and Young Boys Berne amongst others. 

Famous Turkish Armenians 

Notable individuals of Armenian descent in Turkey include Alen Markaryan, leader of Besiktas fan group Carsi, former European welterweight boxing champion Garbis Zakaryan, influential musician Cem Karaca and renowned economist Daron Acemoğlu. 




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