Do-gooder dilemma

During the 1890s, almost 200,000 Armenians were murdered on the orders of the sultan of Anatolia, in what is now Turkey. It was the first modern manifestation of a phenomenon that has become all too familiar. The Armenians were the minority Christian culture in the Ottoman Empire, second-class citizens without many of the rights Muslims enjoyed. In the late 19th century they began to mobilize politically. The resulting Armenian reform and protest movement gained strength at a time when the Ottoman Empire was “the sick man of Europe,” disintegrating under a burden of debt and corruption. Afraid that the Armenian movement could become a viable political opposition, Sultan Abdul Hamid II gave the Muslim Kurds—who shared the same territory as the Armenians—the arms to “defend themselves.”


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