Anna Aleksanyan

Mass Rape and Body Destruction of the Armenian Women During the Genocide

The Armenian Genocide was gender-based from the moment the Ottoman Turks set it in motion. The Union and Progress Party unleashed its genocide program against the Armenians, targeting men first. If physical elimination prevailed for men, the plan was different for women. Women, children and elderly were exiled to the remote Arabian deserts. Kidnapping, humiliation, starvation, as well as systematic and widespread rape and sexual violence, accompanied their relocation. Special rituals accompanied gang rapes of the Armenian women from the very beginning of the deportation.  Perpetrators undressed women and girls in front of the community and then raped them on the altar of the church. This “ritual” was used in many places of Armenian settlements of the Empire, as a result of which many women committed suicide as they were not able to bear this “shame.” The ritual following the sexual assault was cutting and mutilating the women’s bodies. Perpetrators injured sexual organs, cutting the breasts and womb. Many victimized women died as a result of these acts, but those who survived were deprived of any opportunity to feel like a woman, become a mother and/or wife, again.  Rape and sexual violence committed against women and girls were a weapon of genocide.

This paper examines sexual harassment and particularly rape of the women and their psychological and physical destruction during the genocide. The research was carried out based on the archival materials, survivors’ testimonies as well as on the reports on the trials of the Young Turkish perpetrators of 1919-21 which was published back then both in the Armenian and Turkish press.