A Grudging Rescue: France, the Armenians of Cilicia, and the History of Humanitarian Evacuations
- Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 10, Number 1, Spring 2019
- pp. 1-27
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Humanitarian evacuation is today a well-known practice, but as an articulated policy it only dates back to the evacuation from Macedonia of Kosovo Albanian refugees in 1999. This article investigates a much earlier example, the evacuation of Armenians from Cilicia (now in southern Turkey) by France in 1921. It shows how the evacuation of entire populations over long distances became thinkable, in an age of mass displacement and emerging humanitarian consciousness, and practicable, as military logistics were applied to humanitarian crises. It analyzes the political decision to evacuate, showing how it sprang from the interaction of factors in the eastern Mediterranean, in France, and internationally. On the basis of this case study it establishes humanitarian evacuations as an object of historical enquiry, and sets an agenda for future research.