In the Ottoman Empire, in accordance with the Muslim dhimmi system, Armenians, as Christians, were guaranteed limited freedoms (such as the right to worship), but were treated as second- class citizens. Christians and Jews were not considered equals to Muslims: testimony against Muslims by Christians and Jews was inadmissible in courts of law. They were forbidden to carry weapons or ride atop horses, their houses could not overlook those of Muslims, and their religious practices would have to defer to those of Muslims, in addition to various other legal limitations. Violation of these statutes could result in punishments ranging from the levying of fines to execution.
The three major European powers, Great Britain, France and Russia (known as the Great Powers), took issue with the Empire's treatment of its Christian minorities and increasingly pressured the Ottoman government (also known as the Sublime Porte) to extend equal rights to all its citizens. Beginning in 1839, the Ottoman government implemented the Tanzimat reforms to improve the situation of minorities, although these would prove largely ineffective. By the late 1870s, Greece, along with several countries of the Balkans, frustrated with conditions, had, often with the help of the Powers, broken free of Ottoman rule. Armenians, for the most part, remained passive during these years, earning them the title of millet-i sadıka or the "loyal millet." 
In the mid-1860s to early 1870s, Armenians began to ask for better treatment from the Ottoman government. After amassing the signatures of peasants from eastern Anatolia, the Armenian Communal Council had petitioned to the Ottoman government to redress the issues that the peasants complained about: "the looting and murder in Armenian towns by [Muslim] Kurds and Circassians, improprieties during tax collection, criminal behavior by government officials and the refusal to accept Christians as witnesses in trial." The Ottoman government considered these grievances and promised to punish those responsible.
Following the violent suppression of Christians in the uprisings in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Serbia in 1875, the Great Powers invoked the 1856 Treaty of Paris by claiming that it gave them the right to intervene and protect the Ottoman Empire's Christian minorities. Under growing pressure, the government declared itself a constitutional monarchy (which was almost immediately dissolved) and entered into negotiations with the powers. At the same time, the Armenian patriarchate of Constantinople, Nerses II, forwarded Armenian complaints of widespread "forced land seizure ... forced conversion of women and children, arson, protection extortion, rape, and murder" to the Powers.
On April 19, 1915, Jevdet Bey demanded that the city of Van immediately furnish him 4,000 soldiers under the pretext of conscription. However, it was clear to the Armenian population that his goal was to massacre the able-bodied men of Van so that there would be no defenders. Jevdet Bey had already used his official writ in nearby villages, ostensibly to search for arms, which had turned into wholesale massacres. The Armenians offered five hundred soldiers and to pay exemption money for the rest in order to buy time, however, Djevdet accused Armenians of "rebellion," and spoke of his determination to "crush" it at any cost. "If the rebels fire a single shot," he declared, "I shall kill every Christian man, woman, and" (pointing to his knee) "every child, up to here."
In addition to the consulates, there were also numerous Protestant missionary compounds established in Armenian-populated regions, including Van and Kharput. In memoirs and reports, their staff vividly described the brutal methods used by Ottoman forces and documented numerous instances of atrocities committed against the Christian minority.
Winston Churchill described the massacres as an "administrative holocaust" and noted that "the clearance of the race from Asia Minor was about as complete as such an act, on a scale so great, could well be. [...] There is no reasonable doubt that this crime was planned and executed for political reasons. The opportunity presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race opposed to all Turkish ambitions, cherishing national ambitions that could only be satisfied at the expense of Turkey, and planted geographically between Turkish and Caucasian Moslems."
During the remaining of 1915 alone, Anckarsvärd dispatched six other reports entitled "The Persecutions of the Armenians". In his report on July 22, Anckarsvärd noted that the persecutions of the Armenians were being extended to encompass all Christians in the Ottoman Empire. Quoting the statement of the Greek chargé d'affaires:
[The deportations] can not be any other issue than an annihilation war against the Greek nation in Turkey and as measures hereof they have been implementing forced conversions to Islam, in obvious aim to, that if after the end of the war there again would be a question of European intervention for the protection of the Christians, there will be as few of them left as possible.
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" and condemned Turkish attempts to deny its factual and moral reality. 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.
^ See, for example, James L. Barton, Turkish Atrocities: Statements of American Missionaries on the Destruction of Christian Communities in Ottoman Turkey, 1915–1917. Gomidas Institute, 1998 ISBN 1-8846-3004-9