The CUP blamed the Armenians for the CUP’s disastrous attempt to invade Russia in December 1914. The CUP accused Armenians of collaborating with the Russian army. The Ottoman government used the failed invasion as a pretext for a plan to destroy the Ottoman Armenian population.
The first deportations took place in the city of Zeitun on April 8, 1915. Men were marched out of town and executed. Women and children were forced from their homes and loaded into railroad cars bound for the desert. The Zeitun deportations served as a training event for the Ottoman killing squads.