In 1915, the Ottoman state, in the midst of World War I, took the fateful decision of deporting all Armenians in Anatolia to eastern Syria. An entire people was forced to migrate overnight, and many of them, perhaps a million people, perished on the road due to starvation, disease and massacres by locals. There is no doubt this enormous tragedy deserves remembrance and empathy today — and we Turks must be much more considerate about it than we have been over the past century.
The proper term to use in defining the fate of Ottoman Armenians has been a matter of controversy. Armenians themselves and many others in the West use the G word: genocide. Most Turks, in return, only use the much more innocent term “tehcir,” or deportation. Personally, I take a middle ground and opt for the term “ethnic cleansing.” (The difference between ethnic cleansing and genocide is that the former is about cleansing a geographical area from a group of people, whereas the latter is about the very extermination of that people. As a comparison, note that the Ottoman government only pushed Armenians out of Anatolia, whereas the Nazis searched for Jews everywhere in order to exterminate them one by one.)