August 7, 2011
By Janet Levy
In Germany, where Holocaust denial is punishable by up to five years in prison, Stuttgart University recently capitulated to pressure from resident Turkish Muslims and canceled an event entitled, “Persecution, Expulsion and Annihilation of Christians in the Ottoman Empire 1912-1922.” Ironically, this occurred in a country that was forced to confront its own genocidal past, educate its population and pay restitution to victims. University officials explained that they wanted to “remain neutral” on the subject of the nearly 100-year-old, well-documented Turkish massacre of more than two million Christians. Citing neutrality in the face of crimes against humanity is deeply troubling, particularly in light of Germany’s Holocaust past and the missed opportunity the event represented to educate students about genocide and potentially prevent its recurrence.
Equally troubling is Turkey’s continued denial and banning of information about these crimes, not only within its own borders, but, as exemplified in Germany, within other countries as well. In contrast to Germany where laws since the end of World War II seek to prevent a Holocaust from ever happening again, the Turkish government under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, passed in 2005, makes it a crime punishable by up to two years imprisonment to insult the Turkish state. This provision prevents any public commemoration or consideration of the Turkish Muslim atrocities committed against Ottoman Christians.
This silencing and strong-arming of other nations by a country that is majority Muslim represents Islamization embedded within a national policy of Turkification. Turkey’s past aggression, labeled the “Armenian Genocide,” follows the Islamization pattern that exists today: annihilation of all non-Muslims, no matter their religion, ethnicity or national origin. It was a jihad against Anatolian Christians. Further, Turkey destroyed genocide documentation, many of its killers went unpunished, restitution was never paid to victims and the perpetrators are eponymously commemorated in the naming of landmarks, cities and streets. Tragically, Hitler was inspired by the Turkish extermination of Armenian Christians and justified his “Final Solution” with a statement that “no one remembers the Armenian Genocide.”
In fact, the world does remember but is held at bay because of continued denial of historical truths, insistence on the Islamic point of view and political pressure to silence others with opposing views, prevalent throughout the Muslim world today on other fronts and continuing today in the jihad against the Anatolian Christians.
The “Armenian Genocide”
Most historians regard 1912 to 1925 as a time of massive Christian annihilation and relocation by the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Although commonly given the misnomer “Armenian Genocide,” the atrocity was a carefully planned ethnic cleansing to rid Asia Minor of Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and other minorities in order to establish an exclusively Muslim Turkish state. Some scholars date the first phase of the Christian genocide from the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid and his Hamidian Massacres of 1895-1897 through the Istanbul Pogrom of 1955 .
The Hamidian massacres attempted to assert Muslim supremacy and advance the cause of Turkification. French ambassador Pierre Paul Cambon described Turkey at the time as “literally in flames” with “massacres everywhere” and Christians murdered “without distinction.” Marauding Kurdish chieftains in the region were encouraged to join in and channel their aggression into the killing, pillaging and raping of non-Muslim populations. Estimates of the number of Christians who perished during the reign of Sultan Hamid range from 100,000 to 300,000.
From the 1900’s to 1922, the Christian population declined from 25% to less than 5% within Anatolia. Under Islam, Christians had few rights, paid exorbitantly high taxes – the jizya – and enjoyed limited political representation and access to government services. Their testimony was inadmissible, no provision existed for their legal protection, they were prohibited from owning firearms, and their property, wives and children were vulnerable to spontaneous attacks.
Approximately 2.5 million Armenians, Assyrians and Greek Christians were massacred during this period. Kurds were encouraged to settle in Christian territory, demand the payment of tributes and illegally seize land. They were given free rein against local Christians in exchange for their loyal service to the Ottoman government.
The Turkish campaign began five years prior to World War I, when the Young Turks, a secret society of students and military officers, seized control of the Ottoman government. Initially, in an attempt to solidify their control, the Young Turks promised equality for all non-Muslims. Once in power, they rescinded this policy and devised a scheme of plunder to obtain much needed economic resources for the declining Ottoman Empire. To encourage and justify the attacks, they promulgated rumors that Christians were traitorously assisting the Empire’s enemies. A fatwa was declared against Christians and was announced in mosques throughout the empire. A two-fold plan was devised to homogenize Turkey through: 1) the assimilation or dilution of non-Turkish Muslims by dispersing them throughout the empire and 2) the elimination of non-Muslims who were deemed infidels and enemies of Islam. Convicts were released from prison to staff the Special Organization, which was formed to carry out the final solution to the Christian problem. Escorted by military troops, they raped, robbed and killed innocent Christian men, women and children.
The Christian genocide was a three-phase process. First, able-bodied men were rounded up and deported for labor battalions. Second, community leaders and influential people were publicly executed. Then, defenseless women, children and the elderly were massacred or resettled and enslaved.
Ethnic Greeks, uprooted from their ancestral home of 3,000 years, were the first to be victimized in what in Greece is called, the “Great Catastrophe.” During the first six months of 1914, a concerted effort began to exterminate Greeks with the goal of clearing them out of Asia Minor to make room for Muslim refugees from the Balkans. All Greek men, aged 18 to 50, were ordered to report for military duty. They were incorporated into the Ottoman army then transferred to labor battalions where they died by the thousands of exposure, cold, hunger and deprivation.
House-to-house searches were conducted for firearms. Greeks were taken from their homes, deported and massacred. Greek men and women were tortured and accused of disloyalty to the Ottoman government. Women and girls were raped and forced to convert to Islam. Boys and girls were kidnapped and transported into the interior of the Empire. The government was more reserved in its treatment of Greeks than the Armenians, Assyrians and other minorities and did not subject them to general massacre. That’s because the Greek government had expressed concern for the welfare of the victims and the Turks were afraid that Greece would enter World War I on the side of the Allies.
Armenians & Other Minorities
In 1915, the Young Turks moved against the Armenians, Assyrians and other minority groups. All non-Turks were disarmed and troops dispatched to collect weapons. In the process, the Young Turks murdered men, raped women and burned houses. Armenians and Assyrians serving in the army were removed from combat ranks and forced to serve in labor battalions. Non-Muslim leaders were removed from the community under the pretext that they were conspiring against the government. Imprisoned and marched out of town, they were roped together and forbidden to bring any possessions or bid farewell to their families. Once the population was disarmed and the men removed, the reign of terror began, similar to the Greek Genocide.
Published compilations at the time provided details of the deliberate massacre of innocent Christians from eyewitness accounts by diplomats and missionaries from various parts of the Ottoman Empire as well as from American, German, Italian, Scandinavian, Greek, Kurdish, Russian, Assyrian and Armenian witnesses. Volumes included the British Blue Book, “The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-1916,” “The Black Book of Sufferings of the Greek People” and “Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story” by the American Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913-1916, who witnessed the genocide of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek population.
Descriptions of the atrocities were horrific. Witnesses observed villages surrounded and often set ablaze with no possible exit for villagers. Property, livestock and homes were confiscated by the authorities. Children were poisoned or murdered with injections of morphine and entire schools pumped with toxic gas. Women and children were loaded into boats and taken out to sea to be capsized or thrown overboard. Women and girls were striped naked, beaten with tree branches, raped in full view of family members and skinned and burned alive. The bellies of pregnant women were bayoneted and fetuses tossed into the air and impaled on swords. Some victims were injected with live typhus and suffered a slow death from the ravages of disease. Others were made to march naked with horseshoes nailed to their feet. No water or food was provided and they endured constant beatings by the gangs that escorted them. People were tied to horses and dragged to their deaths or had their bodies torn in half by being tied to opposite tree limbs. Others were crucified, hacked to death and sawed into pieces.
Churches were ransacked and priests beaten and made to march naked as they were massacred. Men were beaten on the soles of their feet until they swelled and burst and their limbs required amputation. The Turks pulled out facial hair, extracted nails, ripped out tongues, applied hot irons to the chests of victims, poured hot butter into their wounds and taunted them about Christ coming to their aid. The Ottoman Turks even reviewed the records of the Spanish Inquisition to come up with ideas for torture.
Some Christians were deported with the idea that they would die en route without food or water. During the journey, they were robbed, whipped, bayoneted and murdered by Muslims who prohibited them from stopping for water. Others were hit with saws, hammers and clubs and left to be devoured by wild animals.
Christian victims who weren’t killed were enslaved in harems, kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. Surviving women were required to remand their children to the government to be raised as Muslims.
Postwar & Modern Genocide
After World War I and during the Greco-Turkish War 1919 to 1922, assaults against the Greeks continued as hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Christians were killed and expelled. Again, conflict between Muslims and Christians was misidentified, this time with a nationalist label as most Greeks were Eastern Orthodox Christians. The Treaty of Lausanne, which contained the terms to end the Greco-Turkish war, included a compulsory exchange of population – Greek and Turks – as well as a provision forcing Greeks to relinquish their rights to pursue compensation for the victims of genocide and deportations. Successive legislation harmed the economic prospects of Greeks in Turkey by barring them from certain trades and professions and imposing a significant wealth tax on their earnings.
In September 1955, further efforts of Turkification led to the Istanbul Pogrom directed at the Greek minority. Triggered by Greece’s appeal to the United Nations for self-determination for the island of Cyprus, Turkey falsely claimed that Greece was planning to attack Cyprus. Turkish forces set off a bomb[Ukendt fo9] at the birthplace of Mustafa Kemal in Thessaloniki, blamed Greek residents and initiated the Pogrom. Turkish mobs were supplied with shovels, pickaxes, crowbars and other tools and transported into the city to attack the Greek community. Following the pogrom, Greek emigration accelerated.
Tragically, the Greek population in Turkey decreased from 120,000 in 1927 to 7,000 in 1978 and 2,500 in 2006. Today, the Greek government avoids the topic of Cyprus as well as the genocide in order to maintain good relations with Turkey. Neither Greek nor Turkish schools teach the Greek Genocide.
The Christian population in Turkey today is less than 1%. Before World War I, Turkey was 33% Christian. Today, fewer than 10,000 Assyrians, 60,000 Armenians and 2,000 Greeks live in Turkey. Turkey has been allowed to avoid punishment and has kept the spoils of the victims of its mass genocide. Whenever the Christian genocide is mentioned, Turkish officials express anger at having Turkey’s national honor besmirched. Western reluctance to “humiliate” Turkey with charges of genocide aid and abet the denial of any wrongdoing by the Turkish government which has eliminated all traces and references to the Christian genocide from Turkish history.
Along with persisting in its policy of denying its history of jihad against Christians and minority genocide, Turkey continues to pursue its goals of Turkification and Islamization. Discriminatory practices against minorities continue unabated. Full political participation, equal rights and freedom of expression and religion are curtailed by the Islamist Erdogan government. The denial of the well-documented historical truth and the memorializing of its murderers perpetuate the crime of genocide and is an affront to its victims, families and survivors. The descendants of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek victims deserve nothing less than full recognition of this atrocity and a full apology by the Turkish government. Western governments, which like Stuttgart University, fail to speak up and plead neutrality to avoid offending Turkey, should recognize they are abetting a jihad, which has persisted for nearly 100 years and will only expand worldwide.