By Gamaliel Isaac
FrontPageMagazine.com | January 12, 2005
In my previous article, Turkey’s Dark Past I exposed the falseness of the claims of Mustafa Akyol that “Turkey has had an Islamic heritage free of anti-Westernism and anti-Semitism” Mr. Akyol wrote a rebuttal, What’s Right With Turkey, in which he argued that the Turks have a great record when it comes to the Jews and that when the Jews were expelled from Spain, they were welcomed by the Sultan. In addition he writes that Jews expelled from Hungary in 1376, from France by Charles VI in September 1394, and from Sicily early in the 15th century found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. Mustapha Akyol points out that the blood libel and other such standard anti-Semitic nonsense was unknown in Muslim lands until the 19th century and that these were introduced to the Middle East by the “westernized” elite, who had been infected by the anti-Semitic plague from its ultimate source: Europe. He points out that Mr. Salahattin Ulkumen, Consul General at Rhodes in 1943-1944, was recognized by the Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile “Hassid Umot ha’Olam” in June 1990 for his efforts to save Jews and how Marseilles vice-consul Necdet Kent, boarded a railway car full of Jews bound for Auschwitz, risking his own life in an attempt to persuade the Germans to send them back to France.
How can we reconcile the refuge provided by Turkey for the Jews of Europe and the heroic efforts made by Turkish politicians such as Mr. Ulkumen and Mr. Kent with the atrocities committed by the Turks against the Armenians and against the Jews of Palestine which I described in my article, “Turkey’s Dark Past?”
Akyol’s explanation is that what the West sees as an unjust massacre of the Armenians was simply fighting between Turks and Armenians. In his article “What’s Right With Turkey” he wrote: “What happened in 1915, and beforehand, was mutual killing in which the Armenian loss was greater than that of the Muslims (Turks and Kurds), but in which the brutality was pretty similar on both sides.” Another rationale for the Turkish “fighting” provided by Mr. Akyol was that of Armenian revolutionary agitation and aid given the invading Russians by Anatolian Armenians.
In my article “Turkey’s Dark Past” I quote passages from Serge Trifkovic’s book, The Sword of the Prophet, which convincingly demonstrate that what happened at Smyrna was a massacre. Akyol argues that Dr. Trifkovic is an unreliable source and that what happened at Smyrna was simply fighting between the two sides. Mr. Akyol also writes that Smyrna was an Ottoman city that was liberated by the Turks from the occupying Greek army.
Akyol addressed my arguments about the role of Islam in the massacre of the Armenians by referring the reader to two articles he has written, two articles which do shed light on the massacres of the Armenians but not in the way he intended.
In this article I will point out the errors in Akyol’s arguments and provide an alternative explanation for the paradox of Turkish tolerance to the Jews of Europe and cruelty to the Armenian Christians. In addition I will discuss the paradox of the refuge given the European Jews by the Turks in Anatolia in the context of the intolerance of the Turks towards the Jews of Palestine. Finally I will discuss the relevance of Turkish history to the question of whether or not Turkey should be accepted into the European Union.
Smyrna, A Greek or an Ottoman City?
Akyol wrote that “The truth is that Smyrna (known as Izmir in Turkish) was an Ottoman city that included a Greek quarter, and the Turks were not invading Smyrna, they were liberating the city from the occupying Greek army.”
Akyol’s argument that Smyrna was an Ottoman and not a Greek city ignores over a thousand years of history. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Online:
“Greek settlement is first clearly attested by the presence of pottery dating from about 1000 BC. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the Greek city was founded by Aeolians but soon was seized by Ionians. From modest beginnings, it grew into a stately city in the 7th Century, with massive fortifications and blocks of two-storied houses. Captured by Alyattes of Lydia about 600 BC, it ceased to exist as a city for about 300 years until it was refounded by either Alexander the Great or his lieutenants in the 4th century BC at a new site on and around Mount Pagus. It soon emerged as one of the principal cities of Asia Minor and was later the centre of a civil diocese in the Roman province of Asia, vying with Ephesus and Pergamum for the title “first city of Asia.” Roman emperors visited there, and it was celebrated for its wealth, beauty, library, school of medicine, and rhetorical tradition. The stream of Meles is associated in local tradition with Homer, who is reputed to have been born by its banks. Smyrna was one of the early seats of Christianity.
Capital of the naval theme (province) of Samos under the Byzantine emperors, Smyrna was taken by the Turkmen Aydin principality in the early 14th Century AD. After being conquered in turn by the crusaders sponsored by Pope Clement VI and the Central Asian conqueror Timur (Tamerlane), it was annexed to the Ottoman Empire about 1425. Although severely damaged by earthquakes in 1688 and 1778, it remained a prosperous Ottoman port with a large European population.
Izmir [Smyrna] was occupied by Greek forces in May 1919 and recaptured by Turkish forces under Mustafa Kemal (later Kemal Atatürk) on September 9, 1922. “
One problem with the encyclopedic summary above is that as a necessary consequence of its brevity we do not realize what the events described really entail. Here is what Marjorie Housepian Dobkin, wrote about the first conquest of Smyrna in 1402 by Tamerlane and his Muslim army in her book The Smyrna Affair.
“In 1402 Tamerlaine butchered the inhabitants and razed the buildings in an orgy of cruelty that would become legendary. While the inhabitants slept, his men stealthily undermined the city’s wall and propped them up with timber smeared with pitch. Then he applied the torch, the walls sank into ditches prepared to receive them, and the city lay open to the invader. Smyrna’s would be defenders, the Knights of Saint John, escaped to their ships by fighting their way through a mob of panic-stricken inhabitants. They escaped just in time, for Tamerlaine ordered a thousand prisoners beheaded and used their skulls to raise a monument in his honor. He did not linger over his victory – it was his custom to ravage and ride on. He rode on to Ephesus, where the city’s children were sent out to greet and appease him with song. ‘What is this noise?’ he roared, and ordered his horsemen to trample the children to death.”
Corroboration of Mr. Trifkovic
Akyol argues that Mr. Trifkovic is not a reliable source yet there are many independent sources that corroborate the excerpts of Mr. Trifkovic’s book that I included in my previous article. I include a corroboration of his account about the attack on Archbishop Chrystostom in an appendix to this article.
Here are a few accounts not included by Mr. Trifkovic that corroborate his argument that what happened at Smyrna was not just fighting but rather a massacre of the infidel inhabitants of Smyrna and the burning of the city by the Turks.
“Anita Chakerian, a young teacher at the [American Collegiate] Institute, saw the Turkish guards dragging into the building large sacks, which they deposited in various corners. They were bringing rice and potatoes the men said, because they knew the people were hungry and would soon have nothing left to eat. The sacks were not to be opened until the bread was exhausted. Such unexpected generosity led one of the sailors to investigate; the bags held gunpowder and dynamite. On Tuesday night, wagons bearing gasoline drums again moved through the deserted streets around the College…
“At 1:00 A.M. on Wednesday, Mabel Kalfa, a Greek nurse at the Collegiate Institute, saw three fires in the neighborhood. At 4:00 A.M. fires in a small wooden hut adjoining the College wall and on a veranda near the school were put out by firemen. At noon on Wednesday a sailor beckoned Mabel Kalfa and Miss Mills to the window in the dining room. ‘Look there,’ he said. ‘The Turks are setting the fires!’ The women could see three Turkish officers silhouetted in the window of a photographer’s shop opposite the school. Moments after the men emerged, flames poured from the roof and the windows… Said Miss Mills: ‘I could plainly see the Turks carrying tins of petroleum into the houses, from which, in each instance, fire burst forth immediately afterward.’
It was not long before all of Smyrna was on fire. Ms. Housepian writes:
“The spectacle along the waterfront haunted Melvin Johnson for the rest of his life. ‘When we left it was just getting dusk,’ he remembers. ‘As we were pulling out I’ll never forget the screams. As far as we could go you could hear ‘em screaming and hollering, and the fire was going on… most pitiful thing you ever saw in your life. In your life. Could never hear nothing like it any other place in the world, I don’t think. And the city was set in a – a kind of a hill, and the fire was on back coming this way toward the ship. That was the only way the people could go, toward the waterfront. A lot of ‘em were jumping in, committing suicide, It was a sight all right.'”
Ms. Housepian wrote how:
“On the Iron Duke, Major Arthur Maxwell of His Majesty’s Royal Marines, watching through binoculars, distinguished figures pouring out buckets of liquid among the refugees. At first he took them to be firemen attempting to extinguish the flames, then he realized, to his horror, that every time they appeared there was a sudden burst of flames. ‘My God! They’re trying to burn the refugees!’ he exclaimed.”
Ms. Housepian included the account of reporter John Clayton who wrote:
“Except for the squalid Turkish quarter, Smyrna has ceased to exist. The problem for the minorities is here solved for all time. No doubt remains as to the origin of the fire…The torch was applied by Turkish regular soldiers.”
The Rebellion Excuse:
Akyol started his article by excusing the Armenian Genocide with the excuse that the Armenians rebelled against the Turks and helped the Russians.
One reason that this is a poor excuse is that the Armenians had every reason to rebel against the Turks. Marjorie Housepian, describes what Dhimmi life was like under the Turks.
“Beginning in the fifteenth century, Ottoman policy drove the most unmanageable elements, such as the Kurds, into the six Armenian provinces in the isolated northeast. Thereafter, the Armenians were not only subjected to the iniquitous tax-farming system (applicable to the Moslem peasants as well), the head tax, and the dubious privilege of the military exemption tax, but also to impositions that gave the semi barbarous tribes license to abuse them. The hospitality tax, which entitled government officials ‘and all who passed as such’ to free lodging and food for three days a year in an Armenian home, was benign compared to the dreaded kishlak, or winter-quartering tax, whereby – in return for a fee pocketed by the vali – a Kurd was given the right to quarter himself and his cattle in Armenian homes during the long winter months, which often extended to half the year. The fact that Armenian dwellings were none too spacious and the Kurdish way of life exceptionally crude proved the least of the burden. Knowing that the unarmed Armenians had neither physical nor legal redress, a Kurd, armed to the teeth, could not only make free with his host’s possessions but if the fancy struck him could rape and kidnap his women and girls as well.”
In addition the Turks would abduct Christian boys at an early age, sequester them for military training and use them to quell unrest and to fight their battles for them.
Marjorie Housepian wrote about the Armenian “rebellions” as follows:
“After the Treaty of Berlin, Hamid defiantly gerrymandered the boundaries in the northern provinces, usurped Armenian lands, moved in more Kurds, and increased the proportion of Moslems. When the Armenians were driven to protest to Britain that the Porte [Turkish Government] was breaking the terms of the treaty, Hamid denounced them as traitors conspiring with foreigners to destroy the empire. Yet it was not until 1887 that a number of Armenian leaders, despairing of every other means, organized the first of two Armenian revolutionary parties – the second was organized in 1890. The Church discouraged revolutionary activity, fearing that it would lead to nothing more than intensified bloodshed, and the people were on the whole inclined to agree with their religious leaders. Small bands of Armenian revolutionaries nonetheless staged a number of demonstrations during the 1890’s and gave Hamid exactly the pretext he sought. Declaring that the only way to get rid of the Armenian question is to get rid of the Armenians, he proceeded to the task with every means at hand. He sent masses of unhappy Circassians, who had themselves lately been driven from Europe, into Eastern Anatolia – where the Armenian population had already been reduced by massacre and migration – and encouraged them, along with the Kurds, to attack village after village. He roused the tribesmen to the kill by having his agents spread rumors that the Armenians were about to attack them, then cited every instance of self-defense as proof of rebellion and as an excuse for further massacre. He sent his special Hamidieh regiments to put down ‘revolts’ in such districts as Sassoun, where the Armenians were protesting that they were unable to pay their taxes to the government because the Kurds had left them nothing with which to pay…”
Marjorie Housepian explained that the Armenians went great efforts not to rebel. She wrote:
“In order to prove the rebelliousness of the victims it was necessary first to provoke them into acts of self-defense, which could then be labeled ‘Insurrectionary.’ A campaign of terror such as had been practiced earlier in the Balkans was already under way in Armenian towns and villages near the Russian border, and had been ever since Enver’s impetuous winter offensive against the Russians had turned into a disaster; Turkish leaders had publicly ascribed the defeat to the perfidy of the Armenians on both sides of the Russo-Turkish frontier. The Turkish Armenians, however, proved themselves incredibly forbearing in the face of provocation. ‘The Armenian clergy and political leaders saw many evidences that the Turks … were [provoking rebellion] and they went among the people cautioning them to be quiet and bear all insults and even outrages patiently, so as not to give provocation,’ wrote Henry Morgenthau, American Ambassador to Turkey. ’Even though they burn a few of our villages,’ these leaders would say, ‘do not retaliate for it is better than a few be destroyed than that a whole nation be massacred.’”
Was the Turkish Destruction of Smyrna Vengeance?
Akyol wrote that the Turks were not invading Smyrna, they were liberating the city from the occupying Greek army. He also wrote that the Greeks had previously committed atrocities against the Turks and that “The bloodshed in Smyrna in September, 1922 was an act of vengeance.” Undoubtedly vengeance played a role but that explanation is incomplete. If the bloodshed in Smyrna was an act of vengeance against the Greeks then why did the Turks also annihilate the Armenian population of Smyrna? If atrocities committed by Greeks during the re-occupation of Smyrna is the explanation for Turkish atrocities, then why did the Turks commit atrocities against the Armenians and Greeks in Smyrna before the Greek re-occupation? It has been estimated that during the seven centuries of Turkish presence in Asia Minor several millions of Greeks,… were systematically massacred.
John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States (1824-1828) had the following to say about the suffering of the Greeks under the Turks:
“If ever insurrection was holy in the eyes of God, such was that of the Greeks against their Mahometan oppressors… They were suffered to be overwhelmed by the whole mass of the Ottoman power; cheered only by the sympathies of all the civilized world, but without a finger raised to sustain or relieve them by the Christian governments of Europe; while the sword of extermination, instinct with the spirit of the Koran, was passing in merciless horror over the classical regions of Greece, the birth-place of philosophy, of poetry, of eloquence, of all the arts that embellish, and all the sciences that dignify the human character.”
The reason why the allies assigned Greece the responsibility to administer Smyrna after World War I was stated by Alexander Millerand, president of the Supreme Allied Council as follows:
“The Turkish government not only failed in its duty to protect its non-Turkish citizens from the looting, violence and murders, but there are many indications that the Turkish government itself was responsible for directing and organizing the most cruel attacks against the populations, which it was supposed to protect. For these reasons, the Allied powers have decided to liberate from the Turkish yoke all the lands where the majority of the people were non-Turks.”
Persecution against the Greeks in Turkey continues to this very day.
The Turkish Paradox
Why were the Turks so brutal to the Armenians and yet as Mr. Akyol pointed out in his previous article, did they offer refuge to Jews fleeing from European Nations. In order to understand this we need to first understand the concept of Dhimma. Tudor Parfitt in his book, The Jews in Palestine 1800-1882 (The Boydell Press, 1987) explains that concept as follows:
“Dhimma is the relationship between the protector (in this case the Sultan) and the protected (the Dhimmi) and was the dominant factor in the status of the ahl al-kitab (People of the Book) i.e. Jews, Christians, Sabeans, (sabi’un) and later Persian Zoroastrians, in the Muslim state. Dhimma required the state to protect the life and property of the Dhimmi, exempt him from military service and allow him freedom of worship, while the Dhimmi was expected to pay the poll tax(cizye), not to insult Islam, not to build new places of worship and to dress in a distinctive fashion in order not to be mistaken for a Muslim. In cases of civil and family law, non-Muslims had judicial autonomy except in such cases which involved both a Dhimmi and a Muslim, in which event the case would be tried before a Muslim court (mahkama) where the Dhimmi’s legal testimony was unacceptable…The measure of religious toleration that obtained under Islam had to be purchased: and the price was a considerable one.”
One reason it was difficult to obey the Dhimma contract was that in addition to infidels being required to pay exorbitant taxes they were also required to live in lowliness and degradation. This was explained by the Sultan of Morocco, Mulay Abd ar –Rahman in a letter he wrote in 1841 to the French Consulate at Tangiers as follows:
“The Jews of Our fortunate Country have received guarantees from which they benefit in exchange for their carrying out the conditions imposed by our religious Law on those people who enjoyed its protection: these conditions have been and still are observed by our coreligionists. If the Jews respect these conditions, Our Law prohibits the spilling of their blood and enjoins the protection of their belongings, but if they break so much as a single condition, [then] Our blessed Law permits their blood to be spilt and their belongings to be taken. Our glorious faith only allows them the marks of lowliness and degradation, thus the sole fact that a Jew raises his voice against a Muslim constitutes a violation of the conditions of protection.”
An example of the consequences of violating the Dhimma contract is given by a letter written by Porter, a British ambassador to Turkey to a colleague in London on June 3, 1758, about an unfortunate Jew and an Armenian who thought the dress codes had been forgotten. I include an excerpt below:
“This time of Ramazan is mostly taken up by day in sleep, by night in eating, so that we have few occurrences of any importance, except what the Grand Seignor [Sultan Mustafa III] himself affords us he is determin’d to keep to his laws, and to have them executed, that concerning dress has been often repeated, and with uncommon solemnity, yet as in the former reigns, after some weeks it was seldom attended to, but gradually transgress’d, these people whose ruling passion is directed that way, thought it was forgot, and betook themselves to their old course, a Jew on his Sabbath was the first victim, the Grand Seignor going the rounds incognito, met him, and not having the Executioner with him, without sending him [the Jew] to the Vizir, had him executed, and his throat cut that moment, the day after an Armenian follow’d, he was sent to the Vizir, who attempted to save him, and and condemn’d him to the Galleys, but the Capigilar Cheaia [head of the guards] came to the Porte at night, attended with the executioner, to know what was become of the delinquent, that first Minister had him brought directly from the Galleys and his head struck off, that he might inform his Master he had anticipated his Orders.”
Jews and Armenians as long as they meekly tolerated the depredations of Dhimmitude and obeyed all the rules were generally not killed outright because as jizya [tax] paying infidels they was considered a valuable commodity. Joan Peters, in her book From Time Immemorial, wrote how after the conquest of Alexandria, Caliph Omar received word from his general describing the wealth they had just attained.
“I have captured a city from the description of which I shall refrain. Suffice it to say that I have seized therein 4,000 villas with 4,000 baths, 40,000 poll-tax paying Jews and four hundred places of entertainment for the royalty.”
Akyol responded to two quotes from the Koran from my previous article, by referring the reader to two articles he had written. In one of those articles “ Still Standing For Islam and Against Terrorism,” Mr. Akyol, quoted Karen Armstrong’s writings about the aftermath of the fighting at Badr as follows:
“The Muslims were jubilant. They began to round up prisoners and, in the usual Arab fashion, started to kill them, but Muhammad put a stop to this. A revelation came down saying that the prisoners of war were to be ransomed. “
The quote chosen by Akyol demonstrates that money was what kept the Muslims from murdering the infidel. Ransom was why Muhammad put a stop to the Muslim murder of the prisoners of war from Badr. Money is the reason that subjugated people, who pay the jizya and karaj taxes are not killed.
Another argument in Akyol’s article is that according to Islam there is no compulsion in religion. Although Muslims have violated this law frequently, a recent example being the forced conversion of the wife of an Egyptian priest, there have actually been cases where they have compelled infidels not to convert.
Bernard Lewis, in his book The Arabs in History, wrote that during:
“the time of `Abd al-Malik the Muslim government actually resorted to discouraging conversion … in order to restore the failing revenues of the state.”
In 1492, when Spain expelled the Jews, Sultan Bayazid II ordered the governors of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire “not to refuse the Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to receive them cordially.” This act of kindness may have at least in part been motivated by financial need. The Sultan even said that: “the Catholic monarch Ferdinand was wrongly considered as wise, since he impoverished Spain by the expulsion of the Jews, and enriched Turkey”.
Serge Trifkovic, in an article in Chronicles Magazine titled Turkey in the European Union: a lethal fait accompli (10/29/04), argued that tolerance did not play a role in the welcome extended to the Jews by Sultan Bayazid II. He wrote:
“The act that resonates with modern Ottoman apologists was the invitation to the Jews of Spain to resettle in the Sultan’s lands after expulsion under Ferdinand and Isabella. They were invited not because of the Turks’ ‘tolerance,’ however, but primarily because it was necessary to replace the vast numbers of Christians who had been killed, expelled, or reduced to penury, and thus to maintain the Sultan’s tax base. The fact that the Ottoman Jews held a more favored status within the Empire than the giaours (infidel Christian dogs) is as much a reason for celebration of the Ottoman ‘tolerance’ as is the fact that the Nazis were somewhat more ‘tolerant’ of occupied Slavs than of the Jews.”
The Jews of Turkey as a whole did not violate the Dhimma contract. The Armenians by rebelling and seeking assistance from foreign powers did violate the contract. The Zionist movement also violated the Dhimma contract by advocating an independent state of Israel. This is one explanation for the paradox of Turkey giving refuge to Jews and massacring Armenians and threatening to massacre Jews in Palestine.
A report of the Chief Dragoman (Turkish-speaking interpreter) of the British embassy regarding the 1894-96 massacres supports this explanation. He wrote:
“…[The perpetrators] are guided in their general action by the prescriptions of the Sheri [Sharia] Law. That law prescribes that if the ‘rayah’ [Dhimmi] Christian attempts, by having recourse to foreign powers, to overstep the limits of privileges allowed them by their Mussulman [Muslim] masters, and free themselves from their bondage, their lives and property are to be forfeited, and are at the mercy of the Mussulmans. To the Turkish mind the Armenians had tried to overstep those limits by appealing to foreign powers, especially England. They therefore considered it their religious duty and a righteous thing to destroy and seize the lives and properties of the Armenians…”
Violation of the Dhimma contract is not the only reason the Armenians of Turkey were massacred and the Jews of Palestine were threatened with massacre. The Jews of Palestine, and the Armenians of Turkey had one crucial thing in common that endangered them, Turkey was occupying their homeland and they wanted to liberate their homeland. The ultimate crime as far as the Turks were concerned was the Armenian, and Jewish desire for freedom, because in addition to violating the Dhimma contract, such freedom threatened the integrity of their empire.
Liberation, the Root Cause of Turkish Revenge
Turkish vengeance occurred when they felt there was a threat to the integrity of their empire. In April 1876 when Bulgarians fought for their freedom, the Turks committed mass slaughter in Bulgaria, killing 12000-15,000 Bulgarians.
Graber, in his book, Caravans to Oblivion, The Armenian Genocide, explained how the threat of Armenian liberation led to revenge by the Turkish authorities.
“It was in Geneva in 1887 that the first radical Armenian political organization was born. It was called Hunchak, meaning ‘bell,’ and it was revolutionary in its aims. It was followed in 1890 by the foundation of the much more important and longer lived Dashnakstutium. Both organizations called for an independent Armenia…This was basically a new position for the Armenians. Its effect on Abdulhamid was predictable. He felt he was faced with a sinister revolution that he must use all his resources to combat.
“When Armenian resistance first arose in 1893, however, it was not driven by urban radicals or intellectual leaders. Its voice was the Armenian peasantry in Sassun, deep in the Armenian mountains. It was not based primarily on a yearning for freedom; its cause was much nearer to the hearts of a peasant society. The wandering Kurdish tribes had been given tacit allowance by the sultan to extort the peasant Armenian communities in the way that gangsters extort protection money for use of their turf. According to the historian Christopher J. Walker, “The Kurdish aghas [commanders] used to demand from them a kind of protection tax – an annual due of crops, cattle, silver, iron ore…agricultural implements or clothes… In many places the Armenians were forced to pay double taxes…
“By 1892 Abdulhamid had authorized the formation of some thirty regiments of Hamideye, each about five hundred men strong and each composed of itinerant Kurds whose spoken or unspoken function was to suppress the Armenians. To defend themselves against the depredations of the Kurds and the corruption of the Turkish officials, Armenian peasants in the Sassun district retreated into the mountains and held out against successive attacks mounted by Kurds and regular Turkish army units. …
“In the end, despite some early success, the Armenian peasants were overrun and murdered – men, women and children – in their mountain hideouts.”
The Armenian desire for national liberation ultimately led to their destruction. Graber wrote that:
“In November 1914, the Russians published a declaration that promised national liberation to the Armenians on the condition that they oppose their Ottoman masters. Some Armenians answered the call; small numbers of Armenian soldiers deserted from the Turkish army and some in the areas of the battles gave assistance to the Russian forces… In the winter of 1914-15, the Ottoman army mounted a major attack against the Russians… Enver Pasha, who had assumed command of the Third Army, made fatal errors which led to the loss of most of his forces and the loss of wide stretches of territory to the Russian army. There are those who point to Enver Pasha’s direct responsibility for the military defeat as the motive for his search for a scapegoat; the Armenians were accused of treachery by Enver Pasha and his supporters. It was alleged that Armenian betrayal, according to the Empire’s rulers, had caused the defeat… To this day, the Turkish government claims the treachery of the Armenians as the explanation for what subsequently befell them.
“During the night, between April 23 and April 24, 1915, the Constantinople police broke into the homes of the Armenian elite in the city. Two hundred thirty five Armenian leaders politicians, writers, educators, lawyers, etc. – were taken to the police station and then deported.”
The method of elimination by deportation is explained by Graber as follows:
“The Young Turks had no railroad system to collect and dispose of the Armenians. Despite the efforts to proceed with the construction of the Berlin to Baghdad railroad, there were few miles of track available, and the condition of most highways was appalling. Consequently, those charged by the Teshkilati Mahsusa with the responsibility of eliminating the Armenian community evolved a system of such primitive brutality that even today, after our century has witnessed the indiscriminate massacre of many millions, the Ittihadist project still evokes the most fundamental feelings of revulsion. There is no doubt that if a more sophisticated machinery for slaughter had been available, the Young Turks would have used it. Lacking such machinery, their system of eradication worked along the following lines, as described by one scholar of the period:
“‘Initially all the able-bodied men of a certain town or village would be ordered, either by a public crier or by an official proclamation nailed to the walls, to present themselves at the Konak [government building]. The proclamation stated that the Armenian population would be deported, gave the official reasons for it, and assured them that the government was benevolent. Once at the Konak, they would be jailed for a day or two. No reason was given. Then they would be led out of jail and marched out of town. At the first lonely halting place they would be shot, or bayoneted to death. Some days later the old men and the women and children were summoned in the same way; they were often given a few days grace, but then they had to leave. It was their misfortune not to be killed at the first desolate place. The government’s reasoning appears to have been: the men might pose a threat – leaders might spring up among them, who would defy the order; but why waste valuable lead on women, old men and children? Instead they were forced to walk, endlessly, along pre-arranged routes, until they died from thirst, hunger, exposure, or exhaustion.'”
Armenians were also slaughtered enroute. The following is a story of a young girl, who was deported:
“I was twelve years old, I was with my mother. They drove us with whips and we had no water. It was very hot and many of us died because there was no water. They drove us with whips, I do not know how many days and nights and weeks, until we came to the Arabian Desert. My sisters and the little baby died on the way. We went to a town, I do not know its name. The streets were full of dead, all cut to pieces. They drove us over them. I kept dreaming about that. We came to a place on the Desert, a hollow place in the sand, with hills all around it. There were thousands of us there, many, many thousands, all women and girl children. They herded us like sheep into the hollow. Then it was dark and we heard firing all around. We said, “The killing has begun.” All night we waited for them, my mother and I, we waited for them to reach us. But they did not come, and in the morning, when we looked around, no one was killed. No one was killed at all. They had not been killing us. They had been signaling to the wild tribes that we were there. The Kurds came later in the morning, in the daylight; the Kurds and many other kinds of men from the Desert; they came over the hills and rode down and began killing us. All day long they were killing; you see, there were so many of us. All they did not think they could sell, they killed. They kept on killing all night and in the morning—in the morning they killed my mother.”
Jewish Liberation and The Revenge of the Turks
A declaration about Zionism released in January 25, 1915 by the Turkish Authorities and published by Haherut, a Hebrew language newspaper, demonstrates that Turkish hostility to Jews in Palestine resulted from the threat of Jewish liberation. The declaration was:
“The exalted Government, in its resistance to the dangerous element known as Zionism, which is struggling to create a Jewish government in the Palestinian area of the Ottoman Kingdom and thus placing its own people in jeopardy, has ordered the confiscation of all postal stamps, Zionist flags, paper money, banknotes, etc., and has declared the dissolution of the Zionist organizations and associations, which were secretly established. It has now become known to us that other mischief makers are maliciously engaged in libelous attempts to assert that our measures are directed against all Jews. These have no application to all of those Jews who uphold our covenant…We hope and pray that they will be forever safe, as in the past…It is only the Zionists and Zionism, that corrupt incendiary and rebellious element, together with other groups with such delusionary aspirations, which we must vanquish.”
Yair Auron, in his book The Banality of Indifference, Zionism and the Armenian Genocide, wrote how the Turks almost annihilated the Jewish community of Palestine because of the threat of Zionism. He wrote:
“In the spring of 1917, the small Jewish community in Palestine was stunned by an order issued by the Turkish authorities for the deportation of the 5,000 Jews from Tel Aviv to the small farming villages in the Sharon Plain and the Galilee. This may have been the beginning of a plan to deport the Jews in the villages and in the Jerusalem region as an emergency war measure, and the decree aroused grave concern about the future of the Jewish settlement in the country. When the deportation order became known to the Nili organization [a hebrew spy organization], its members publicized the plan in the world press. American Jewry was shocked, and the nations fighting against Turkey released reports on Turkish intentions to exterminate the Jews in Palestine, as they had already done to the Armenians. Public opinion in the neutral countries, as well as in Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was outraged and Jamal Pasha was forced to reconsider his plan of action.
Mustafa Kemal’s Reforms and Turkish Humanitarianism
Mustafa Kemal believed that Islam was responsible for Turkish enmity toward the Western world as well as Turkish regression. In a speech he gave in March 1923 he said:
“You know there is an unforgiving enmity between the societies of the Muslim world and the masses of the Christian world. Muslims became eternal enemies of Christians, and Christians those of Muslims. They viewed each other as non-believers, fanatics. The two worlds co-existed with this fanaticism and enmity. As a result of this enmity, the Muslim world was distanced from the western progress that took a new form and color every century. Because, Muslims viewed progress with disdain and disgust. At the same time, the Muslim world had to hold on to its arms as a result of this enmity that lasted for centuries between the two groups. This continuous occupation with arms, enmity, and disdain for western progress constitute another important cause of our regression.”
Mustafa Kemal abolished the Caliphate, replaced Shariah rule with penal codes based on European models, emancipated women, enforced equality for all citizens regardless of religion, adopted modern Western clothing and the Latin script, and abolished the religious education system.
It is possible that Mustafa Kemal’s reforms improved the attitude of the Turks toward Turkish Jews, and made possible the heroic and humanitarian efforts made by men such as Salahattin Ulkumen to save Turkish Jews from the Nazis during World War II.
The Failure of Democracy in Turkey
In 1924 and again in 1930 President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk approved the formation of opposition parties in his effort to introduce democracy in Turkey. As soon as the parties began to speak publicly, they drew wide spread political support, and it became clear that people were dissatisfied with the governments secularist and economic policies. In both cases, the parties were promptly disbanded. The next attempt to transition toward a multiparty democracy occurred in 1945. The president of Turkey, Ismet Inonu, agreed to allow a multiparty system and opposition parties quickly formed. The Democratic opposition party (DP), that supported bringing Islam into politics won the election but opposition to it grew. The DP responded with legislation that restricted freedom of speech and the press. In 1960, the military overthrew the DP government. In the next election Turkish voters voted in the successor parties to the DP, the Justice Party and the New Turkey Party They essentially put back into power the party that was ousted by the military in preceding year. In 1995 Necmettin Erbakan was elected prime minister of Turkey. His radicalism can be seen in a speech he gave to Kurds, pleaded for their support “to save the world from European infidels.” Three years later, the Constitutional Court banned the Welfare Party on the grounds that it was engaged in fundamentalist activity and was violating the secular principles of the Turkish constitution. In the 1999 elections most of the former members of the Welfare party were reelected to parliament as members of the new Virtue party. Today, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Justice and Development Party is prime minister even though he was sentenced to jail in 1998 for inciting religious hatred. If it wasn’t for the military, Turkey would probably have reverted to a Shariah state long ago. There are many who complain that because of the military Turkey is not democratic enough, the truth is that without the military Turkey would not be democratic at all.
The opinions of the Turkish masses are moving against the United States and Israel partly as a result of Prime Minister Erdogan governments influence over the media according to an article by Soner Cagaptay in the Middle East Quarterly. The growing influence of Islam and the growing hostility toward Israel and the United States is alarming because it indicates that Turkey is regressing from the enlightenment that made possible the rescue of Jews during World War II toward the dark ages of Turkey’s fundamentalist past.
Should Turkey be Accepted into the European Union?
The secular Turkish army has been a stabilizing force on Turkey in the past but if Turkey joins the European Union it is unlikely to be able to play this role. The Anatolia news agency quoted the European Union envoy to Turkey, Ambassador Hansjorg Kretschmer, as saying that “the European Turkey’s EU-inspired democracy reforms will be incomplete if the country fails to curb the influence its powerful army wields in politics” If the influence of the army is eliminated Europe may find itself with an Islamic army in its midst.
Some European Leaders in their eagerness to appease the Islamic world are oblivious to this threat. New EU commissioner Olli Rehnn said on Oct. 20 that “Turkey’s EU membership will open new horizons for both Turkey and the Union and bring forth new challenges.” On the same day Germany’s foreign minister Joschka Fischer went a step further and declared that Turkish entry to the EU would be as important for Europe as the D-Day invasion 60 years ago – a key way to liberate Europe from the threat of insecurity from the Middle East and “terrorist ideas.”
In light of these comments by European leaders, I think the most suitable way to finish this article is with the final sentence of Marjorie Housepian Dobkin’s book The Smyrna Affair.
“The course of history in recent years suggests that the ultimate victims may be those who delude themselves.”
Here is a corroborating account to that told by Serge Trifkovic about the tragic attack on the Armenian Patriarch Chrysostomos as told by Marjorie Housepian Dobkin. Archbishop Chrysostomos tried to protect his Armenian flock from the depredations of the Turks, and when given an opportunity to flee by an American friend refused to abandon them. Marjorie Dobkin recounts his fate below:
“The Patriarch was walking slowly down the steps of the Konak when the [Turkish] General appeared on the balcony and cried out to waiting mob, ‘Treat him as he deserves!’ The crowd fell upon Chrysostomos with guttural shrieks and dragged him down the street until they reached a barber shop where Ismael, the Jewish proprietor, was peering nervously from his doorway. Someone pushed the barber aside, grabbed a white sheet, and tied it around Chrysostomos’s neck, shouting, ‘Give him a shave!’
“They tore out the Patriarch’s beard, gouged out his eyes with knives, cut off his ears, his nose, and his hands. A dozen French marines who had accompanied Chrysostomos to the government house were standing by, beside themselves. Several of the men jumped instinctively forward to intervene, but the officer in charge forbade them to move. ‘He had his hand on his gun, though he was trembling himself,’ one of the men said later, ‘so we dared not lift ours. They finished Chrysostomos there before our eyes.’”
1 Isaac G, “Turkey’s Dark Past”, FrontPageMagazine.com, 11/22/04
2 Akyol M., “What’s Right with Turkey”, FrontPageMagazine.com, 12/3/04
3 Trifkovic, S. The Sword of the Prophet: Islam: history, theology, impact on the world, Regina Orthodox Press, c2002
4 Akyol M., “What’s Right with Turkey”, FrontPageMagazine.com, 12/3/04
5 Dobkin, M., The Smyrna Affair, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, [1st ed.] 1971
6 Dobkin, M., The Smyrna Affair, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, [1st ed.] 1971
7 Dobkin, M., The Smyrna Affair, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, [1st ed.] 1971
8 Akyol M., “What’s Right with Turkey”, FrontPageMagazine.com, 12/3/04
9 The Turkish Crime of Our Century – The Greek Holocaust of Thrace, Asia Minor and Pontos, http://imia.cc.duth.gr/turkey/gree.e.html
10 Bostom, A. G., “John Quincy Adams Knew Jihad”, FrontPageMagazine.com 9/29/04
11 The Turkish Crime of Our Century – The Greek Holocaust of Thrace, Asia Minor and Pontos, http://imia.cc.duth.gr/turkey/gree.e.html
12 Turks: Continued Oppression of Greeks http://www.hellas.org/mongols/mongols/gr-in-tr.htm
13 Akyol M., “What’s Right with Turkey”, FrontPageMagazine.com, 12/3/04
14 Parfitt, T., “The Jews in Palestine 1800-1822″, The Boydell Press, 1987
15 Ye’or Bat, “The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: from Jihad to Dhimmitude, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996, Madison, NJ
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18 Akyol, M. “Still Standing for Islam – and Against Terrorism” FrontPageMagazine.com 10/8/04
19 Klein, A. “Christians protest kidnapping forced conversion”, Worldnetdaily.com 12/6/04
20 Lewis, B. “The Arabs in History”, Oxford University Press, 1993
21 Trifkovic, S. “Turkey in the European Union” a lethal fait accompli”, Chronicles Magazine, 10/29/04
22 Graber, G. S. :Caravans to Oblivion, The Armenian Genocide: John Wiley and Sons 1996
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25 Karal, E.Z., Ataturk’ten Dusunceler, , METU Press October 1998 p.60
26 Lim, T.C., Can Turkey Consolidate Democracy? http://instructional1.calstatela.edu/tclim/F03_Courses/550model1.pdf
27 Arif T. Payasioglu, “Political Leadership and Political Parties,” in eds. Robert Ward & Dankwart
Rustow, Political Modernization in Japan and Turkey (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964), 420.
28 Ben Lombardi, “Turkey – The Return of the Reluctant Generals?” Political Science Quarterly 112 (April
29 Kemal Karpat, p. 143.
30 “Islamic Party Leader Condemns ‘European Infidels’ ” (Paris, AFP in English, 21 November 1994) in FBIS-WEU-94-226, 23 November 1994, 57.
31 Cagaptay, S., “Where Goes the U.S.-Turkish Relationship?” Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2004
32 “Turkish Army should Toe European Union line, EU official says,”, EU Business, 6/14/03
33 Dobkin, M., The Smyrna Affair, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, [1st ed.] 1971
34 Dobkin, M., The Smyrna Affair, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, [1st ed.] 1971