Lemkin: the origin of the word "genocide", (CBS News)
The Armenian Genocide took place before the coining of the term genocide. English-language words and phrases used by contemporary accounts to characterise the event include "massacres", "atrocities", "annihilation", "holocaust", "the murder of a nation", "race extermination" and "a crime against humanity". Raphael Lemkin coined "genocide" in 1943, with the fate of the Armenians in mind; he later explained that: "it happened so many times ... It happened to the Armenians, then after the Armenians Hitler took action."
The survivors of the genocide used a number of Armenian terms to name the event. Mouradian writes that Yeghern (Crime/Catastrophe), or variants like Medz Yeghern (Great Crime) and Abrilian Yeghern (the April Crime) were the terms most commonly used. The name Aghed, usually translated as "Catastrophe", was, according to Beledian, the term most often used in Armenian literature to name the event. After the coining of the term genocide, the portmanteau word Armenocide was also used as a name for the Armenian Genocide.
Works that seek to deny the Armenian Genocide often attach qualifying words against the term genocide, such as "so-called", "alleged" or "disputed," or characterise it as a "controversy", or dismiss it as "Armenian allegations", "Armenian claims" or "Armenian lies", or employ euphemisms to avoid the word genocide, such as calling it a "tragedy for both sides", or "the events of 1915". American President Barack Obama's use of the term Medz Yeghern when referring to the Armenian Genocide has been described "as a means of avoiding the word genocide".
Several international organizations have conducted studies of the atrocities, each in turn determining that the term "genocide" aptly describes "the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in 1915–16". Among the organizations affirming this conclusion are the International Center for Transitional Justice, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, and the United Nations' Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.
In 2005, the International Association of Genocide Scholars affirmed that scholarly evidence revealed the "Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire began a systematic genocide of its Armenian citizens – an unarmed Christian minority population. More than a million Armenians were exterminated through direct killing, starvation, torture, and forced death marches". The IAGS also condemned Turkish attempts to deny the factual and moral reality of the Armenian Genocide. In 2007, the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity produced a letter signed by 53 Nobel Laureates re-affirming the Genocide Scholars' conclusion that the 1915 killings of Armenians constituted genocide.
Bat Ye'or has suggested that "the genocide of the Armenians was a jihad". Ye'or holds jihad and what she calls "dhimmitude" to be among the "principles and values" that led to the Armenian Genocide. This perspective is challenged by Fà'iz el-Ghusein, a Bedouin Arab witness of the Armenian persecution, whose 1918 treatise aimed "to refute beforehand inventions and slanders against the Faith of Islam and against Moslems generally ... [W]hat the Armenians have suffered is to be attributed to the Committee of Union and Progress ... [I]t has been due to their nationalist fanaticism and their jealousy of the Armenians, and to these alone; the Faith of Islam is guiltless of their deeds".:49 Arnold Toynbee writes that "the Young Turks made Pan-Islamism and Turkish Nationalism work together for their ends, but the development of their policy shows the Islamic element receding and the Nationalist gaining ground". Toynbee and various other sources report that many Armenians were spared death by marrying into Turkish families or converting to Islam. Concerned that Westerners would come to regard the "extermination of the Armenians" as "a black stain on the history of Islam, which the ages will not efface", El-Ghusein also observes that many Armenian converts were put to death.:39 In one instance, when an Islamic leader appealed to spare Armenian converts to Islam, El-Ghusein quotes a government official as responding that "politics have no religion", before sending the converts to their deaths.:49