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Turkey, Genocide, and Erdogan Turkey, Genocide, and Erdogan
by Nikos Laios
2017-04-20 09:05:21
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I

A Historical Overview of Asia Minor
and the Construction of the Turkish National Identity

To understand the present existential and political crisis facing the Turkish people in their referendum regarding the future shape of Turkey - whether they turn back the clock to become an eastern leaning authoritarian 'Sultanate' with imperialist aspirations or a western leaning secular democracy as envisioned by Ataturk - we need to undertake a historical excursus into the Turkish identity and national consciousness, for this is at the very heart of the matter. A non-Mediterranean people living in a conquered land with a profound insecurity complex about their own identity with a secret fear that the lands they conquered will one day be taken away from them by powers within and without Turkey, and restored to the original native inhabitants. Where Turkey was once a multi-ethnic state, but has now erased this once cosmopolitan character by the construction of an inauthentic Turkish national identity at the turn of the twentieth century built on dreams of past imperialistic glory, conquest and jingoism.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the imperialistic sultanate was dying, and by the next century a new secular vision of a modern state by the 'Young Turks' evolved aimed at adapting to the new realities in the world. Whereby the construction of a new homogeneous identity entailed the physical destruction and ethnic cleansing of the previous native inhabitants of Asia Minor through the perpetration of the most heinous genocide and crimes against humanity which have yet to be answered for. Yet here lies the problem for the Turkish people, to be able to come terms with the present and build a new positive vision for their future, they will need en masse to come to terms with their past and their crimes. Where their President Recep Erdogan, rather than taking a moral road of redemption of the Turkish nation, is instead undertaking a historical denial and revisionism and is turning his nation away from the secular vision of Ataturk back to an imperialist autocratic rule, where the dangerous shoots of fascism are starting to appear in Turkish society. To understand why this is happening in modern day Turkey, we need to study its identity, its past and the genocides that it perpetrated.

The genocides perpetrated by the Turks against the Armenians and Greeks at the beginning of the twentieth century marks one of the most vilest and heinous periods of human history, and one that still weighs heavily on the consciousness of the human community for the perpetration of the genocides by Turkey; of the collaboration by Germany through its alliance with Turkey, and of the inaction and silence of the international community due to its vested economic and political interests at the time. To understand the causes of these genocides, one must examine the history of the region that we now call Turkey and an examination later on regarding the narrative of myth making of the Turkish national identity which directly lead to the genocides.

ottoman01_400The nation of what is now called Turkey is situated on the geographical landmass of what is called Asia Minor, and where the people of Turkey are not natives of the Mediterranean, or of Asia Minor but originated from deep from within the heart of Central Asia. Having moved from Mongolia to the Central Asian region Turkmenistan, east of the Caspian Sea and north of Iran; and it is this theft and usurpation of the lands from the rightful natives of Asia Minor that lies at the core of the insecurity of the Turkish identify. Where until the coming of the Turks, Asia Minor was peopled by natives peoples such as the Greeks, Armenians, Kurds, Circassians, Assyrians, Jews and Laz people; who lived and evolved in Asia Minor for thousands of years before the Turks.

The Greek people have been living in Asia Minor since the middle of the second Millennia BC, whereby through the turmoils in Mycenaean Greece; Ionian, Aeolian and later Dorian Greeks settled the Aegean cost of Asian Minor. Founding glorious cities such as Miletus, Smyrna, Ephesus, Colophon, Halicarnassus, etc. Where in the eight century BCE Greeks started to navigate the Black Sea which they referred to as 'Euxinos Pontos', meaning 'hospitable sea'; founding the Greek cities of the Black Sea: Sinope, Sampsounta and Trebizond. The Ancient Greek geographer Strabo referred to Smyrna as the first of Greek cities in Asia Minor.

After the conquests by the brilliant Greek-warrior King Alexander the Great; he freed the Greek cities from Persian tyranny and spread Greek language and culture, which then dominated Asia Minor and which was further deeply ingrained and accelerated during the Roman rule, and the Greek Byzantine rule after it to such a degree that many native Anatolian languages became extinct and where the Greek Koine language became the common language.

The Greek Byzantine empire flourished for nearly fifteen hundred years preserving the legacy of the Ancient Greek and Roman worlds; preserving science, maths, literature, philosophy, art, architecture, astronomy, medicine, music, food and many other features of the ancient world; thereby passing this back to Western Europe during its dark ages to spark a rejuvenation of European society and civilisation. Being able to use Byzantine diplomacy to play off one of the many hostile neighbours against another; it's dazzling golden cities a beacon  of civilisation and hope which enabled the civilising of those great Slav people the Russians and spreading the Christian religion to them; forever linking the Russians to European civilisation.

The city of Constantinople dazzling with its universities, hospitals, architectural masterpieces such as the church of the holy wisdom  -Agia Sophia - palaces and subterranean waterways and plumbing, or the height of its art. Where the noted Professor Norman H. Baynes stated:

“With its love of luxury and passion for colour, the art of this age delighted in the production of masterpieces that spread the fame of Byzantium throughout the whole of the Christian world. Beautiful silks from the workshops of Constantinople also portrayed in dazzling colour animals – lions, elephants, eagles, and griffins – confronting each other, or represented Emperors gorgeously arrayed on horseback or engaged in the chase." [1]

Then in 1204 A.D, the treacherous Western crusader Europeans diverted the fourth crusade and directed it to Constantinople and sacked the city of their fellow Christians. Sir Steven Runciman, a famous British historian of the crusades wrote the following about the sack of Constantinople:

“For nine centuries,” he goes on, “the great city had been the capital of Christian civilisation. It was filled with works of art that had survived from ancient Greece and with the masterpieces of its own exquisite craftsmen. The Venetians ... seized treasures and carried them off to adorn ... their town. But the Frenchmen and Flemings were filled with a lust for destruction. They rushed in a howling mob down the streets and through the houses, snatching up everything that glittered and destroying whatever they could not carry, pausing only to murder or to rape, or to break open the wine-cellars.... Neither monasteries nor churches nor libraries were spared. In St Sophia itself, drunken soldiers could be seen tearing down the silken hangings and pulling the great silver iconostasis to pieces, while sacred books and icons were trampled underfoot. While they drank merrily from the altar-vessels a prostitute set herself on the Patriarch’s throne and began to sing a ribald French song. Nuns were ravished in their convents. Palaces and hovels alike were entered and wrecked. Wounded women and children lay dying in the streets. For three days the ghastly scenes ... continued, till the huge and beautiful city was a shambles. ... When ... order was restored, citizens were tortured to make them reveal the goods that they had contrived to hide. [2]

The attacks on the Byzantine Empire therefore terminally weakened it and it continued till the late fifteenth century, where even under the shadow of impending doom saw some of the most important flowering of culture. Where brilliant intellectual figures such of Plethon Gemistos (Γεώργιος Γεμιστός), operated a Neoplatonic school of philosophy and who taught other important intellectual figures such as Basilios Bessarion and Georgios Scholarios, and where eight hundred codices of Ancient Greek and Roman works were brought to Italy.

Where during the Council of Florence, he met Cosimo De Medici and influenced him to open a new Platonic Academy, and where the works of Plato, Plotinius and their Neoplatonic works were translated into Latin, thereby sparking the Renaissance. This is Greek world of Asia Minor: a world where long established ancient peoples like the Armenians in eastern Anatolia forged their own long and glorious culture.

ottoman02_400Then in the late fifteenth century, at the nadir of their power, the alien Turks invaded the Christian city of Constantinople and that ended the Byzantine Greek empire in Asia Minor; and it became dark days for the Greek, Armenian and other Christian peoples who had been hitherto long standing native citizens of Asia Minor, who then became subject peoples in their own traditional lands to a new foreign people. The irony being that one of the instruments of the Turkish subjugation of Asia Minor was through their elite Janissary troops who were not even Turkish by race but were Greek and other Christian peoples. The Janissaries were instituted by the Ottoman Sultan Murad the 1 in 1383 as an elite personal core of household troops recruited from Greek and Christian slaves whilst young boys; who were taken from their homes and became brainwashed and Turkified. So the irony is that Constantinople and Byzantium fell by Greek hands. The Turks had Turkified as thoroughly as they could Anatolia, where subject peoples where forced to convert to Islam, their women sullied and besmirched and placed into harems; where even their greatest architect and builder of Mosques Mimar Sinan was a former Janissary soldier and Cappadocian Greek who was forcibly Turkified as a very young boy.

The Turkish Ottoman Empire by the end of the sixteenth century reached the zenith of its empire and started to slowly decline by then just at the same time as the European states were emerging from the reformation. Which was a separation of church and state, and lead to the flowering of science and knowledge; to the enlightenment and the humanist achievement of the central paramount importance of the individual as the centre of society. Where the search and pursuit of learning, truths and philosophical self-examination became the societal focus; the freeing of the mind to meet the stars. At this historical crossroad, the European states crossed the tired Ottoman Empire which started to crumble. For the Ottoman Empire had not contributed one civilizational legacy to mankind like the Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Chinese and Indian civilisations had. The Ottoman civilisation was known as an arrogant, barbaric, violent civilisation that brought nothing but blood and conquest before it and centuries of misery for its captured and subjugated peoples, who lived as second class citizens in the Ottoman Empire.

By the end of the eighteenth century, Europeans were starting to form a consciousness of nationhood and nation states were developing. Towards the end of the 18th century, Greek nationalists inspired by the ideas of the enlightenment and the French Revolution became self-aware and yearned to regain their freedom after centuries of subjugation, and their merchant and intellectual classes started to mobilise ideas and organise for their emancipation. A missionary eyewitness was quoted as saying in regards to the Turks treatment of their subject peoples that they enjoyed massacring the Christians;

"The slaughter of the Christians was a joy to the Turks, a massacre was heralded by the blowing of trumpets and concluded by a procession. Accompanied by the prayers of the mullahs and muezzins, who from the minarets implored the blessings of Allah, the slaughter was accomplished in admirable order according to a well arranged plan.

The crowd, supplied with arms by the authorities, joined most amicably with the soldiers and the Kurdish Hamidieh on these festive occasions. The Turkish women stimulated their heroes by raising a guttural shriek of their war cry, the Zilghit, and deafening the hopeless despair of their victims by singing their nuptial songs. A kind of wild cannibal humour seized the crowd...the savage crew did not even spare the children."[3]

The Yazidi people also suffered greatly during the Ottoman Turkish empire, where their treatment by the Turks was extremely harsh in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; where they suffered seventy two massacres at the hands of the Turks and where punitive expeditions were organised against the them by the Turkish governors (Wali) of Diyarbakir, Mosul and Baghdad and which was legitimised by fatawa edicts from Islamic clerics. The aim being the conversion of Yazidis to the Sunni Islam of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

By the nineteenth century, the European empires were becoming dominant, the Ottoman Turkish Empire started to fall apart with the Greeks and other Balkan European peoples regaining their freedom by defeating and expelling the foreign alien Turks from their homelands. While in Asia Minor, the British ethnographer William Ramsay described the conditions of Armenian life writing in the late 1890s after a visit to the Ottoman Empire and stated the following;

"We must, however, go back to an older time, if we want to appreciate what uncontrolled Turkish rule meant, alike to Armenians and to Greeks. It did not mean religious persecution; it meant unutterable contempt ... They were dogs and pigs; and their nature was to be Christians, to be spat upon, if their shadow darkened a Turk, to be outraged, to be the mats on which he wiped the mud from his feet. Conceive the inevitable result of centuries of slavery, of subjection to insult and scorn, centuries in which nothing that belonged to the Armenian, neither his property, his house, his life, his person, nor his family, was sacred or safe from violence – capricious, unprovoked violence – to resist which by violence meant death."[4]

In this environment the three great European powers; France, Russia and Great Britain questioned Ottoman Turkey's treatment of its Christians and pressured for the implementation of reforms. Where the Ottoman government instituted a series of reforms called the Tanzimat, designed for the better the treatment of minorities but were never implemented by the Muslims of the empire because they could never accept the Christians as equal human beings. In 1875, the Great powers invoked the treaty of Paris of 1856 claiming it gave them the right to intervene to protect the Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire. Under this pressure, the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II entered into negotiations with the powers and declared a constitutional monarchy with a parliament. The Ottoman Empire was stripped of territory, and a hitherto proud conquering warrior people lost pride and felt resentment; that in the glistening light of the Belle Époque and the industrial revolution, could not reconcile and understand that their rude and backward steppe warrior culture was by now antiquated and had no place any longer in the modern world and that belonged more to the time of the thirteenth century instead.

This confusion and the national insecurity complex of its own identity haunted the Turkish psyche and was to play out in the most horrific manner in the early twentieth century when they allowed what Jung calls the 'dark shadow' of their individual and national archetypes to play out and express itself horrifically, instead of resolving itself in healthy manner; and this darkness was about to be harnessed by a new force and expression; The 'Young Turks'.

II

The Dark Shadow:
Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity by Turkey

"I refer to those awful massacres.
They are the greatest stain that has ever disgraced our
nation and race. They were entirely the work of Talat and Enver”
[5]

In the eastern Anatolian hinterland of Turkey, the Armenians had come under the sway of Ottoman rule in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with large communities present in the western provinces and the capital of Constantinople. The Armenian community was divided into three religious groupings; Armenian Apostolic, Armenian Catholic and Armenian Protestant - with most Armenians belonging to the Armenian Apostolic denomination. Under the Ottoman millet system of governance, the Armenians were allowed to rule themselves with relatively little interference by the Ottoman government; with seventy percent of their population living in poverty and squalor in the rural provinces.

ottoman03_400However, the Armenians were regularly overtaxed and subject to the arbitrary whims of their Kurdish and Turkish neighbours who would exploit them without any interference of the authorities. Who would be forced at times to convert to Islam and be kidnapped and subject to theft and brigandage; and were allowed certain freedoms like their fellow Christians and the Jews, under the dhimi system. The dhimi system was based on the 'Pact of Umar'  -  as implemented in other Muslim countries - where they were allowed the freedom of worship, a livelihood and the right to property, but were at all times considered as second class citizens; and who were referred to as the 'gavours', meaning infidel and unbeliever.

The Armenians were forbidden from riding atop camels or horses, were not allowed to carry weapons, they were forbidden to ring any church bells, their houses were not allowed to overlook those of any Muslims, and their testimonies against Muslims were inadmissible in any court of law. The Turkish trait of racism, bias and inhumanity continued unabated from the moment they stole the lands from the rightful natives of Asia Minor and were further entrenched and codified into a system of bigotry - where even with the horrors perpetrated by the Germans during World War Two against its Jewish communities - pales in comparison to the long term systemic abuse that the Turks perpetrated against its Armenian and Greek peoples spanning several hundred years.

The late nineteenth century brought with it pressures being exerted by the great European powers on Turkey for it to enact reforms aimed at improving the conditions of its Armenian and Greek subjects, and which the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II failed to enact; in an environment of the peaceful agitation by its Armenians for their rights. The Armenians came to see Russia in the aftermath the Russo-Turkish wars of 1877-1878 as the guarantors of their security; where the Armenians did not seek independence from the Ottoman Empire, but simply an autonomy. The Sultan paid lip service to the treaty of Berlin that he signed in 1878 which was designed to protect the rights of the Armenians in the Ottoman provinces; Sultan Abdul Hamid created a paramilitary corps known as the Hamidiye, consisting of Kurdish troops. This corps was entrusted with the duty in the Sultan's own words to "deal with the Armenians as they wished". [6]:40

The corps used the tools of massacres and oppression to deal with the Armenians, and where on 1st October 1895, the Armenians had gathered in Constantinople for the implementation of the rights reforms, where instead Ottoman police units broke the assembly of the Armenians violently. Where massacres of Armenians broke out in Constantinople and the other Armenian populated provinces: Van, Trabzon, Sivas, Harput, Erzurum and Bitlis, these massacres became known as the Hamidian massacres where estimates of the Armenian victims of the pogroms range between 100,000 and 300,000.[7]:57-8 [8]

The advent of the twentieth century brought with it the Balkan wars, World War one, and a loss of power, prestige and territory for Ottoman Turkey and further increased the inherent insecurity complex of Turkey and Turks, both as a nation and as a people. The decision was made to bring a sense of security to the Turks by unifying them by undertaking a campaign to purge non-Turkish ethic groups from their territories to enable the formation of a modern nation state. This was attempted when the power shifted from the Sultan to a corps of army officers involved through the formation of the revolutionary movement called 'The Young Turk' movement, and through the 'Committee of Union of Progress'(CUP).

The CUP founded an organisation called 'Special Organisation' entrusted with the organisation and running of the deportation and extermination of the Armenians and Greeks through extermination camps and death marches of the Armenians and Greeks.

On the 14th November 1914, religious fatwas where announced and signed by twenty nine religious figures, and approved by the Ottoman Chamber of Deputies and the Sultan.

The fatwa was announced to massive crowds in Istanbul from the balcony of the Fatih Mosque which was written to legitimise the jihad as supported by the Quran, and declared an Islamic Holy war by the Ottoman government against their internal non-Muslim enemies  and urged its Muslim followers to take up this fight [9]. The CUP passed the 'Temporary Laws of Deportation' on 29th May 1915, authorising the deportation of anyone it deemed a threat to national security [10A].

In considering the causes of the massacres of the Armenians in Adana by the Turks in 1909, the English Vice-Consul Major Charles Doughty-Willie advised that;

"The Turks, masters for centuries, found their great stumbling block in equality with the Christians... Among the fiercer professors of Islam resentment grew. Were God's adversaries to be the equals of Islam? In every cafe the heathen were speaking great mouthing words of some godless and detested change...” [10B]. By 18th of April, over 1,000 Armenians where dead with further unknown casualties and 4,437 Armenian dwellings where torched and half the town raised.

Elizabeth Kolbert wrote in her article 'Dead Reckoning, the Armenian genocide and the politics of silence' for the New Yorker, in regards to the  Turkish historian Tamer Akman's account of the Armenian death marches and deportations to death camps in his book 'A shameful act: and the question of Turkish responsibility' where she states:

"Around the same time, orders were issued to begin rounding up Armenians wholesale and deporting them. “Some regional variations notwithstanding,” Akcam reports, the deportations “proceeded in the same manner everywhere.” Armenians would be given a few days or, in some cases, just a few hours to leave their homes. The men were separated from the women and children, led beyond the town, and either tortured or murdered outright. Their families were then herded to concentration camps in the Syrian desert, often bound by ropes or chains. Along the way, they were frequently set upon by Kurdish tribesmen, who had been given license to loot and rape, or by the very gendarmes who were supposed to be guarding them. A Greek witness wrote of watching a column of deportees being led through the Kemakh Gorge, on the upper Euphrates. The guards “withdrew to the mountainside” and “began a hail of rifle fire,” he wrote. “A few days later there was a mopping-up operation: since many little children were still alive and wandering about beside their dead parents.” In areas where ammunition was in short supply, the killing squads relied on whatever weapons were at hand—axes, cleavers, even shovels. Adults were hacked to pieces, and infants dashed against the rocks. In the Black Sea region, Armenians were loaded onto boats and thrown overboard. In the area around Lake Hazar, they were tossed over cliffs."[11]

Men were forced into labour battalions, women and children taken on death marches, and whole populations were taken to extermination camps. Rape was also used as a weapon of genocide - as it is being used by ISIS today - where Turkish soldiers during 1915- 1919 would use women as sex slaves and where their commanders advised them to "do to the women whatever you wish". Where Armenian women were sold as sex slaves in Damascus as reported by German consuls at the time, and where these women became important sources of income for the Turkish troops. Where Rossler, the German consul of Aleppo heard of accounts of Armenian women being raped by 10-15 men and then being left to die. [12]

ottoman04_400The crimes committed by Turkey during the first quarter of the twentieth century were horrific, a time which saw Turkey allied with Germany and which also saw its defeat. The new Turkey emerged after 1923, and which saw the word Ottoman being replaced with Turkish, solidifying their Turkish sense of national consciousness. A Turkish politician of the time Celal Bay stated in a telegram that;  "Blood flowed instead of water in the river, and thousands of innocent children, blameless elderly, helpless women and strong youths were flowing towards death in this blood flow"[13].

On the 17th of October 1920, Hasan Fehmi (Atac), deputy of Gumushane stated in a secret session of the National Assembly the following:  "As you know, the issue of relocation was an event that made the world to yell blue and made all of us to be considered murderers. We knew, before we did it, that the Christian world would not tolerate it and they would direct their anger and hatred toward us. Why did we impute the title of murderer to our race? Why did we enter into such decisive and difficult struggle? That was done just to secure the future of our country, which we know to be more precious and sacred than our lives."[14]

The primary and secondary archaeological, historical and documentary evidence supporting these genocides are overwhelming, besides the first person testimonies of the German allies of Turkey at the time, the Red Cross and foreign consular officials, and that today's Turks attempt to deny these genocides is just as great a crime. The Turkish novelist Halide Edip was critical of the decisions made by the Ottoman government towards the Armenians and wrote in the Vakit newspaper of 21st October 1918 the following: "We slaughtered the innocent Armenian population...we tried to extinguish the Armenians with methods that belong to the medieval times".[15]

The time came for the Turks to deal with their Greek subjects, and after living in Asia Minor for over 3,000 years, the Greek presence there was extinguished by the Turks by genocide, and by 1923 with the few remaining Greek populations in the Pontus and Aegean exchanged with Greece in the population exchanges of the time.

In June of 1909, General Mahmut Şevket Paşa, who was the Ottoman Commander-in-Chief told the Orthodox Patriarch Ioakeim III, Greek Patriarch of Constantinople the following: "We will cut off your heads, we will make you all disappear. Either we will survive or you"[16]. Rafet Bey informed Dr. Ernst von Kwiatkowski, the Austro-Hungarian consul in Samsoun. On 26 November 1916: "We must at last do with the Greeks as we did with the Armenians..."[17]. Three thousand years of a Greek presence was wiped out and they used the same techniques on them that they used on the Armenians; whilst at the same time the Australian and British troops were fighting the Turks at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles, the Turks wiped out the Gallipoli Greeks who have been living there since ancient times, and all across the Aegean coast of Turkey, the Greeks of the Pontus region, the Greeks of Cappadocia, and the Greeks of Thrace.

In an excerpt from a book byGiannis Kapsis called 'The Black Bible' by a Greek genocide victim advises the following: "My name is Sophia Nicolau. I am from Ivrindi of Asia Minor. I along with my husband and 8 year old son Manolaki, escaped to the mill at Gioun-Yiorkes. Suddenly Turkish villagers appeared. They encircled the mill shouting wildly. Then they broke the door open and attacked us. In front of my new deceased husband and son's eyes they raped me many times. Then slaughtered my son and with their knives they cut my husband into pieces. They removed his skin and made me eat his meat" [18]

On 13 August 1923 Mustafa Kemal declared in the Turkish Grand National Assembly and which was validated by the French military colonel Mougin: "At last we've uprooted the Greeks ..." [19]. The city of Smyrna was sacked, burned, looted and pillaged and where Kemal afterwards lead a procession of victory into the city. The General Secretary to the Smyrna Y.M.C.A, Enst Otto Jacob advised the following after arriving in Athens in late 1922: "The Turkish policy of the elimination of the Christian minorities in Asia Minor has been determinedly carried into effect. The Christian quarters of Smyrna have been practically wiped out; the populations are dead from massacre, fled, or banished into exile. When I left, only fifty thousand homeless and foodless refugees remained in the city"[20].

Ernst Jacob stated the following in his diary of 22nd September 1922: "In Smyrna, hunger and exposure are the least of the evils: persecution, deportation, robber, rape, murder—those are going on now, and the victims are justified in dreading that they will go on until the last of their races are extinguished"[21].

Then as a result of the sustained policies of genocide by the Turks, the new successor nation of Turkey was born in 1923 built on the ashes, blood and bones of the victims, perpetrated by the great grandparents and grandparents of today's Turks. Where they have inherited and profited by this disappearance of the true natives of Asia Minor, dispossessing them and wiping them off the face of the earth, taking over their properties and possessions for today to leisurely be sipping their Turkish coffees on the Aegean cost and wondering what the past has to do with them.

The freedom of religion and choice is respected in Turkey, but only if one is a practicing Sunni Muslim. The claim that modem Turkey is a secular republic is a rather brittle claim, for from the day modern Turkey was established after 1923, bigotry and the unequal treatment of its minorities was enshrined within its institutions. Where the Turkish state was actively involved in the persecution of other religions, where hatred and intolerance was actively promoted against its non-Muslims. The institution of the Diyanet, the Presidency of Religious affairs came to being in 1924 post the Sultanate period by the Kemalist government.

Where the Turkish journalist Uzay Bulut stated on the Diyanet's role the following:

"Although the Diyanet has many branches, the first duty of the High Board of Religious Affairs, according to its official website, is "To make decisions, share views and answer questions on religious matters by taking into consideration the fundamental source texts and methodology, and historical experience of the Islamic religion as well as current demands and needs."

The problem with this institution is that "modern" Turkey claims to be a "secular" republic; a secular republic is supposed to treat all people -- Muslims and non–Muslims -- equally. A "secular" government also has the duty of embracing the principles of pluralism and objectivity in regulating matters of religion.

The objective of the Diyanet, on the contrary, is to keep religion (Islam) under the control of the state, and to keep the public under the control of the state by means of religion.

Since the founding of the Diyanet, mosques have been built by the state; muftis, muezzins and imams have been employed by the state, and their salaries have been paid from the taxes of all citizens, regardless of their religion. Also, the Friday sermons delivered by imams in all mosques across Turkey are written by the Diyanet" [22]. Discrimination was actively practised by Turkish society against Christians, where Christians were legally barred from certain professions; pharmacists, lawyers, bank employees and civil servants. On 16th of March in 1923, the founding father of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk proclaimed in a speech to the Adana Turkish Merchant Society the following: "The Armenians have no right whatsoever in this beautiful country. Your country is yours, it belongs to Turks. This country was Turkish in history; therefore it is Turkish and it shall live on as Turkish to eternity... Armenians and so forth have no rights whatsoever here. These bountiful lands are deeply and genuinely the homeland of the Turk"[23].

Ismet Inonu, Turkey's first Prime Minister stated the following on the 4th of May 1924:

 "Nationalism is our only factor of cohesion. Before the Turkish majority, other elements have no kind of influence. At any price, we must Turkify the inhabitants of our land, and we will annihilate those who oppose Turks or 'le Turquisme'." [24]

In 1946, the CHP, The Republican People's party stated in their published Minority Report the following: "We have to take serious precautions in Istanbul, especially against Greeks. There is only one statement to make on this topic: Not a single Greek should remain in Istanbul by the 500th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul". Then in 1955, the Turkish government nearly actualised this aspiration in a state sponsored pogrom against the Greeks, Jews and Armenian minorities in Istanbul in what can be characterised as Turkey's very own 'Kristallnacht' against its minorities. Where Turkish mobs devastated the Greek, Jewish and Armenian districts; killing thirty seven Greeks, raping two hundred Greek women, desecrating Greek cemeteries and places of worship, and forcibly circumcising many Greek men. The results of this modern day pogrom was that the majority of Greeks from Istanbul left Turkey for Greece; the population dropping from 100,000 in 1955 to 2,500 today, to Turkey's eternal dying shame.

The journalist Noel Barber who witnessed the events in 1955 in Istanbul on the night of 14th September advised of the following: "The church of Yedikule was utterly smashed, and one priest was dragged from bed, the hair torn from his head and the beard literally torn from his chin. Another old Greek priest [Fr Mantas] in a house belonging to the church and who was too ill to be moved was left in bed, and the house was set on fire and he was burned alive. At the church of Yeniköy, a lovely spot on the edge of the Bosporus, a priest of 75 was taken out into the street, stripped of every stitch of clothing, tied behind a car and dragged through the streets. They tried to tear the hair of another priest, but failing that, they scalped him, as they did many others." [25]

The Turkish writer Aziz Nesin in his accounts of the events of 1955 advised of the following:

"A man who was fearful of being beaten, lynched or cut into pieces would imply and try to prove that he was both a Turk and a Muslim. “Pull it out and let us see," they would reply. The poor man would peel off his trousers and show his "Muslimness" and "Turkishness": And what was the proof? That he had been circumcised. If the man was circumcised, he was saved. If not, he was doomed. Indeed, having lied, he could not be saved from a beating. For one of those aggressive young men would draw his knife and circumcise him in the middle of the street and amid the chaos. A difference of two or three centimetres does not justify such a commotion. That night, many men shouting and screaming were Islamized forcefully by the cruel knife. Among those circumcised there was also a priest." [26]

ottoman05_400Since 1955, the discrimination by Turkey has continued against its minorities; where the prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was well know not only for his efforts for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and his advocacy of human and minority rights, but who openly wrote on and discussed the Armenian genocide, was assassinated in 2007 by Turkish nationalists on 19th of January. Where to the present day, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President and the AKP party continue with their jingoistic, racist Neo-Ottoman posturing threatening anyone legally that attacks the 'Turkishness' of Turkey; threatens Greece in regards to questioning Greece's sovereignty of the eastern Aegean, flirts and supports conservative Islamist parties and governments, and who turns a blind eye where material, men and support flows across their porous southern border to their Sunni coreligionists ISIS. Where ISIS utilises the same tools of terror and genocide that Turkey first used and successfully so over the last several hundred years against its religious non-Muslim minorities. The last Islamic caliphate passing on the baton proudly to the latest incarnation of the caliphate in present day Syria and Iraq - the original 'Turkey-ISIS' inspiring the new ISIS.

Is there hope for redemption for Turkey? For there are indeed small voices at present within Turkey who are attempting an honest self-examination, of coming to terms with their past; but these voices at the moment are being side-lined by the dominant voices of the nationalists. The psychologist Carl Jung once stated:  “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the dark conscious."

In trying to understand the reasons for the Turkish denial of genocide, Elizabeth Burns Coleman and Kevin White stated in their book 'Negotiating the Sacred: Blasphemy and Sacrilege in a Multicultural Society' the following: "Turkish denialism of the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians is official, riven, driven, constant, rampant, and increasing each year since the events of 1915 to 1922. It is state-funded, with special departments and units in overseas missions whose sole purpose is to dilute, counter, minimise, trivialise and relativize every reference to the events which encompassed a genocide of Armenians, Pontian Greeks and Assyrian Christians in Asia Minor." They further provide the following list of reasons for the Turkish genocide denial:

“* A suppression of guilt and shame that a warrior nation, a ‘beacon of democracy’ as it saw itself in 1908 (and since), slaughtered several ethnic populations. Democracies, it is said, don’t commit genocide; ergo, Turkey couldn’t and didn’t do so.

* A cultural and social ethos of honour, a compelling and compulsive need to remove any blots on the national escutcheon.

* A chronic fear that admission will lead to massive claims for reparation and restitution.

* To overcome fears of social fragmentation in a society that is still very much a state in transition.

* A ‘logical’ belief that because the genocide was committed with impunity, so denial will also meet with neither opposition nor obloquy.

* An inner knowledge that the juggernaut denial industry has a momentum of its own and can’t be stopped even if they wanted it to stop."[27]

ottoman06_400Turkey has been affected by the same 'dark shadow' that affected Germany after World War One, and that lead to the terrible events of World War Two; the dark shadow in the individual and national archetype that emerges when it dominates in an unbalanced national psyche and leads to a self-destructive and cannibalising tendency of the soul.

Whereas Germany has faced its past and guilt of World War II and has successfully sought its moral redemption and readmission into the family of nations, Turkey remains a moral pariah and outcast due to the denial of its past deeds. History can never be changed nor can it be revised, and a chair at the table of civilised and peaceful family of nations   awaits Turkey, and this will not be achieved by the present course of actions by Turkey and its President Erdogan, but only with coming to terms with its past and seeking a moral redemption. We all wait and hope that this will happen one day. Our journey in life as individuals and as nations is one of hope, and of a hope of a return from our exile from redemption, and only then can we find a lasting peace and fraternity. While we wait and hope for Turkey to make that journey of redemption back to its soul, here I think we should reflect upon this quote by J.R.R. Tolkien which rings true here:  “We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most human, is still soaked with the sense of exile.” [28]

 **********************************************

Reference:

1. N.H. Baynes, Byzantium, An Introduction to East Roman Civilisation.

2. Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, Cambridge 1966 [1954], vol. 3, p.123.

3. Marjorie Housepian, The Smyrna Affair.

4. Ramsay, W.M. (1897). Impressions of Turkey during Twelve Years' Wanderings. London: Hodder            and Stoughton. pp. 206–207.

5. Najmuddin; Najmuddin, Dilshad; Shahzad (2006). Armenia: A Resume with Notes on Seth's Armenians in India. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 1-4669-5461-2.

6. Balakian, Peter (2003). The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. New York: HarperCollins. pp. 25, 445. ISBN 0-06-019840-0.

7. Balakian, Peter (2003). The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. New York: HarperCollins. pp. 25, 445. ISBN 0-06-019840-0.

8. Akçam 2007, pp. 40–2

9. Olusoga, David (2014). The World's War. Head of Zeus. ISBN 9781781858974.

10. A& B. Dadrian, Vahakn N. Warrant for Genocide: Key Elements of Turko-Armenian Conflict, pp. 71-72.

11. Dead Reckoning: The Armenian genocide and the politics of silence, New Yorker, Nov 6 issue 2006

12. Gust, Wolfgang (2013). The Armenian Genocide: Evidence from the German Foreign Office Archives, 1915-191. Berghahn Books. pp. 26–27. ISBN 9781782381433.

13. Halep Valisi Celal'in Anılar", Vakit, December 12, 1918, Turkish text: Nehirde su yerine kan akıyor ve binlerce masum çocuk, kabahatsız ihtiyar, aciz kadınlar, kuvvetli gençler bu kan cereyanı içinde ademe doğru akıp gidiyorlardı

14. Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi Gizli Celse Zabıtları, Vol. I, Ankara, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 1985, p. 177, Turkish text: Tehcir meselesi, biliyorsunuz ki dünyayı velveleye veren ve hepimizi katil telâkki ettiren bir vaka idi. Bu yapılmazdan evvel âlem-i nasraniyetin bunu hazmetmeyeceği ve bunun için bütün gayz ve kinini bize tevcih edeceklerini biliyorduk. Neden katillik ünvanını nefsimize izafe ettik? Neden o kadar azim, müşkül bir dava içine girdik? Sırf canımızdan daha aziz ve daha mukaddes bildiğimiz vatanımızın istikbalini taht-ı emniyete almak için yapılmış şeylerdir.

15. Insel, Ahmet. “This Conduct Was a Crime Against Humanity: An evaluation of the initiative to Apologise to the Armenians.Birikim

16. Recorded by a German diplomat stationed in Constantinople in a 26 June 1909 report addressed to the German Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow. See, Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes (PAAA), Türkei Nr. 168, Beziehungen der Türkei zu Griechenland, Bd. 6, Nr. 170 (26.6.1909). See also, the German article "[Mahmut Sevket pasha and the Ecumenical Patriarchate]", Osmanischer Lloyd, 146

17. Wien Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, PA, XXXVIII, Karton 369, Konsulate 1916, Trapezunt, ZI. 44/pol., Kwiatkowski to Burian, Samsun (30.11.1916)

18. 1922 H Mavri Vivlos. Giannis P. Kapsis

19. Tsirkinidis, Harry, At last we uprooted them… The genocide of the Greeks of Pontus, Thrace and Asia Minor, through the French archives, Thessaloniki: Kyriakidis Brothers, 1999, p. 300.

20."Dr. Rechad and the Greeks", The Times, 17 October 1922, p.8.

21. Papoutsy, Christos, Ships of Mercy: The True Story of the Rescue of the Greeks: Smyrna, September 1922, Portsmouth, N.H.: Peter E. Randall, 2008, p. 62.

22. Uzay Bulut, “Secular" Turkey, Gatestone Institute, 27 May 2015

23. Corporatist Ideology in Kemalist Turkey: Progress or Order? by Taha Parla and Andrew Davison, Syracuse University Press, 2004.

24. Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, by Susan Meiselas (with chapter commentaries by Martin van Bruinesen) New York: Random House, 1997.

25. Noel Barber, London Daily Mail, 14 September 1955

26. Aziz Nesin, Salkım Asılacak Adamlar (1987) quoted in: (Vryonis, 2005, p.225), as quoted in: (Gilson, 2005)

27. Coleman, Elizabeth Burns; White, Kevin, Negotiating the Sacred: Blasphemy and Sacrilege in a Multicultural Society (PDF), pp. 82–83, ISBN 1920942475.

28. J.R.R. Tolkien; The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

 *************************************************************************

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