The Ottoman Genocide of the Indigenous Christians: Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians, not an exclusive Armenian Genocide.

by Thea Halo

Armenians have called on President Biden to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, and today the president did so without mentioning the other 1.5 million victims of this crime. Many people were very pleased that the US House of Representatives finally, after over 100 years, passed (H.Res.296) on October 29, 2019– “affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide.” It was definitely long overdue. However, although the resolution did refer to the Greeks, Assyrians, and other Christians, it mentions them in a rather cryptic way and as an afterthought.

It reads: “Whereas the United States has a proud history of recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide, the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, and providing relief to the survivors of the campaign of genocide against Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians;”1

To refer to the other victims of the genocide in this manner, tends to confuse what the other victims actually suffered, and fails to address the extent of this great crime. Is this wording intended to give the impression that the “Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites,2 and other Christians” actually survived the genocide while most of the Armenians did not?

To put Martin Niemöller’s3 poem in a new context, it should be pointed out that:

First they came for the Greeks of Eastern Thrace in 1913,
And no one stopped the slaughters.

Then they came for the Greeks in Western Asia Minor (Anatolia) in 1914,
And no one stopped the slaughters.

Then they came for the Assyrians in Eastern Anatolia in 1914,
And no one stopped the slaughters.

Then they came for the Armenians in 1915,
And no one stopped the slaughters.

Then they came for the Pontic Greeks in 1916,
and again in 1919 under Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk),
And no one stopped the slaughters.

Then they exiled the remaining Assyrians
—whose ancestors had arrived in Anatolia around 2,400 BC.—
and the Greeks—whose ancestors had arrived in Anatolia in 1200 BC.—
and the Armenians, whose ancestors had arrived in Anatolia in 600 BC.,
thus ending over four thousands years
of Assyrian, Greek, and Armenian presence in Anatolia.

Then they gave Anatolia to the Turks
—the perpetrators of the Genocides—
descendants of the Turks who had invaded Anatolia
and conquered Constantinople in 1453 AD,
almost 4,000 years after the arrival
of the Assyrians, Greeks, and Armenians.

Then they renamed Anatolia Turkey.

Total Assyrians slaughtered: 275 thousand, more than half their population.

Total Anatolian and Pontian Greeks slaughtered: 1.2 Million

Total Armenians slaughtered: 600,000 to 800,000, although Armenian scholars estimate deaths as high as 1.5 million.

Totaling over 3 Million Assyrian, Greek, and Armenian victims of the Ottoman Genocide.

Yet news reports often fail to mention the 1.5 million Greek and Assyrian victims of this Genocide, and continue to refer to this crime as The Armenian Genocide.

My mother, a Pontic Greek, lived through that genocide. By age 12, after an inhuman death march to exile by her entire community, she was the only known survivor of her family. It was an Armenian family from Diyarbekir who took my orphaned mother in, and brought her to safety in Aleppo, Syria when they fled Turkey. My father was an Assyrian who fled Turkey on pain of death in 1905 and came to America. In 1925 he visited cousins in Aleppo, Syria who had been driven out of Turkey during the genocide. The Armenian family, who lived in the same building, arranged my mother’s marriage to my father. My mother was only 15. My father was 45. He brought her to America in 1925. Inasmuch, all three of these ethnic peoples, the Pontic Greeks, the Assyrians, and the Armenians became my extended family.

Memorialized in Not Even My Name, my mother’s story represents the story of millions of other Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians who lived through that terrible genocide. Rep. Anna Eshoo reminds us, her Assyrian family were also victims of that genocide. The Greeks and Assyrians should not be dealt with as an afterthought by the press, by Congress, or by the president.

In 2007, the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), hundreds of genocide scholars overwhelmingly confirmed in an historic resolution, that the Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians suffered Genocides from 1914-1923. This period was ruled by the Ottoman ‘Young Turks’ and then Mustafa Kemal Atatûrk and his Nationalists.

Even after the Exchange of Populations in 1923, Greek exiles continued to die due to the years of prolonged starvation and abuse. According to the census of 1928 1,221,555 refugees arrived in Greece.4 Among them were 100,000 Armenians, 1,000 Assyrians, and 9,000 Circassians.5 Therefore, of the estimated 2.5-3 million Greeks of the Ottoman Empire, little more than 1.1 million arrived in Greece by 1923.

It is now over 100 years since this terrible crime. We often hear that denial is the last stage of genocide. However, denial, as unconscionable as it is, still conjures up the victims of the genocide, which allows them to be remembered. Silence, on the other hands, erases the victims of the genocide from memory, as if they never existed. Therefore, silence is the final killer. We must not let that happen.

It’s important to note that the Congressional Resolution H.Res.296 ended with reference to Elie Wiesel’s Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018. Elie Wiesel describes denial as a double killing, as it also murders the memory of the crime. But he also reminds us that “To remain silent or indifferent is the greatest sin.” That should be a message to all of us.

After the IAGS Resolution passed with overwhelming support of the hundreds of Genocide Scholars present, Sweden (2010), The Netherlands (2015). Austria (2015), Armenia (2015) and New South Wales (2015) have all issued historic resolutions acknowledging the destruction of the three indigenous Christian peoples of the Ottoman Empire: Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians, as genocide.

FULL TEXT OF THE IAGS RESOLUTION:

WHEREAS the denial of genocide is widely recognized as the final stage of genocide, enshrining impunity for the perpetrators of genocide, and demonstrably paving the way for future genocides;

WHEREAS the Ottoman genocide against minority populations during and following the First World War is usually depicted as a genocide against Armenians alone, with little recognition of the qualitatively similar genocides against other Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire;

BE IT RESOLVED that it is the conviction of the International Association of Genocide Scholars that the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Association calls upon the government of Turkey to acknowledge the genocides against these populations, to issue a formal apology, and to take prompt and meaningful steps toward restitution.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

  1. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/296/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22hr+2%22%5D%7D
  2. Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, are ethnically Assyrians.
  3. Martin Niemöller was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian born in Lippstadt, Germany, in 1892.
  4. Statistical Annual of Greece; National Printing-Office: Athens, Greece, 1931.
  5. Edward Hale Bierstadt, The Great Betrayal. pp. 248-249.

Thea Halo is the author of Not Even My Name; a former news correspondent for WBAI in NYC; and a former member of both the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) and the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INOGS). Ms Halo’s historical papers are published in a number of Academic books: Genocide in the Ottoman Empire; Sayfo 1915: An Anthology of Essays on the Genocide of Assyrians/Arameans during the first World War; and an upcoming anthology on the Genocide of the Pontic Greeks (during the first World War in Ottoman Turkey). You can view one of her presentations at the Boston State House @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzBfcE4PjTM

One thought on “The Ottoman Genocide of the Indigenous Christians: Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians, not an exclusive Armenian Genocide.

  • April 25, 2021 at 3:53 am
    Permalink

    Bravo Thea A welcome short analysis. Two questions remain to be answered. What was the motivations behind this genocide and and why did the Great Powers of the time ignore these events. A final question is did Hitler know and follow these genocides?
    Dr Roger van Zwanenberg

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.