I am a descendant of survivors of the Greek genocide. My great-grandmother and her parents, like their parents and grandparents before them, were Ottoman Greeks born in what is known today as the Republic of Turkey.
A century ago, the Turkish National Movement secured “Turkey for the Turks” by extirpating my ancestors and other minorities from their ancestral homeland in Anatolia. Despite the important role that genocide played in creating the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish state distorts history and denies the crimes it committed against my ancestors and the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian populations of Anatolia more than 100 years ago.
2.5 million slaughtered
Culminating in the burning of Smyrna in September 1922, the Asia Minor Catastrophe was the final phase in the Ottoman Empire’s and the Turkish National Movement’s campaign to dechristianize and Turkify Anatolia. To accomplish this goal, successive Ottoman and Turkish regimes slaughtered up to 2.5 million Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian Christians between 1894-1924. Regarded as one of the darkest chapters in the 5,000-plus year-long history of the Greek people specifically, more than half a million Ottoman Greeks were killed between 1913 and 1922 alone.
Following the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the remaining Ottoman Greeks were exchanged for Greek Muslims in compulsory population transfers between Turkey and Greece. This state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing resulted in more than 1 million Ottoman Greeks being forcibly displaced from Turkey to Greece, and just under half a million Greek Muslims being forcibly displaced from Greece to Turkey. Exiled from their ancestral homeland, this forced displacement marked the end of the 3,000-plus year-long Greek presence in Anatolia.
The campaign to secure “Turkey for the Turks”
The campaign to secure “Turkey for the Turks” was successful beyond its architects’ wildest dreams. Whereas up to 2 million Ottoman Greeks lived in Anatolia prior to World War I, there are less than 2,000 Greeks residing in Turkey today. What’s more, while the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian Christian minorities constituted between 20 to 25 percent of Anatolia’s population at the beginning of the 20th century, they represent less than 0.5 percent of Turkey’s population today. Evidently, Anatolia was dechristianized and Turkified through the persecution, expulsion, mass murder, and genocide of Turkey’s Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian Christian minorities.
In the face of overwhelming historical evidence that includes primary sources, eyewitness accounts, perpetrator testimonies, and survivor recollections, the Turkish government continues to deny the genocide of the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian Christians of Anatolia. Over 100 years later, Turkey’s genocide denial punishes Turks while demonizing its victims and preventing reconciliation with its minorities, and neighbors. Worst of all, as Taner Akçam, the first Turkish historian to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, put it, “If a society or a state doesn’t acknowledge its past wrongdoing, then there’s a chance that it will do it again.”
Turkey’s hostile relations with most of its neighbors
To the surprise of absolutely no one, today, Turkey’s relations with most of its neighbors range from hostile to non-existent. On the one hand, Turkey has invaded both Syria and Iraq, occupied 36 percent of Cyprus for 48 years, and does not have a diplomatic relationship with Armenia. On the other hand, Turkey’s Mavi Vatan—Blue Homeland—doctrine exacerbates tensions with Greece by disputing Greece’s sovereignty over Greek islands in the Aegean Sea and claiming an exclusive economic zone that extends halfway to the Greek mainland. Although a century has passed since the genocide of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Christians of Anatolia, Turkey’s expansionist revisionism only adds insult to injury for its victims.
A genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Ottoman Greeks
In 2007, the International Association of Genocide Scholars recognized that the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish National Movement’s campaign to dechristianize and Turkify Anatolia constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Ottoman Greeks. Although the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed resolutions recognizing the Armenian genocide in 2019, they have yet to formally recognize the Greek genocide. As a global proponent of human rights, the lynchpin of the rules-based international order and home of up to 3 million Americans of Greek origin, the U.S. should commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe on Sept. 14, 2022, and recognize the Greek genocide.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.