The Armenian genocide was the systematic destruction of the Armenian people and identity in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Spearheaded by the ruling Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), it was implemented primarily through the mass murder of around one million Armenians during death marches to the Syrian Desert and the forced Islamization of others, primarily women and children.
Before World War I, Armenians occupied a somewhat protected, but subordinate, place in Ottoman society. Large-scale massacres of Armenians had occurred in the 1890s and 1909. The Ottoman Empire suffered a series of military defeats and territorial losses—especially during the 1912–1913 Balkan Wars—leading to fear among CUP leaders that the Armenians would seek independence. During their invasion of Russian and Persian territory in 1914, Ottoman paramilitaries massacred local Armenians. Ottoman leaders took isolated instances of Armenian resistance as evidence of a widespread rebellion, thou