Compiled by Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Written by Reverend Father Raphael Moore
(Reprinted from Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church Sioux Falls, SD., Protopresbtyer Benjamin Henderson, Priest)
History Of Asia Minor: 1894-1923
During 1894-1923 the Ottoman Empire conducted a policy of Genocide of the Christian population living within its extensive territory. The Sultan, Abdul Hamid, first put forth an official governmental policy of genocide against the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire in 1894.
Systematic massacres took place in 1894-1896 when Abdul savagely killed 300,000 Armenians throughout the provinces. Massacres recurred, and in 1909 government troops killed, in the towns of Adana alone, over 20,000 Christian Armenians.
When WW1 broke out the The Ottoman Empire was ruled by the "Young Turk" dictatorship which allied itself with Germany. Turkish government decided to eliminate the whole of the Christian population of Greeks, Armenians, Syrians and Nestorians. The government slogan, "Turkey for the Turks", served to encourage Turkish civilians on a policy of ethnic cleansing.
The next step of the Armenian Genocide began on 24 April 1915 with the mass arrest, and ultimate murder, of religious, political and intellectual leaders in Constantinople and elsewhere in the empire. Then, in every Armenian community, a carefully planned Genocide unfolded: Arrest of clergy and other prominent persons, disarmament of the population and Armenian soldiers serving in the Ottoman army, segregation and public execution of leaders and able-bodied men, and the deportation to the deserts of the remaining Armenian women, children and elderly. Renowned historian Arnold Toynbee wrote that "the crime was concerted very systematically for there is evidence of identical procedure from over fifty places."
The Genocide started from the border districts and seacoasts, and worked inland to the most remote hamlets. Over 1.5 million Armenian Christians, including over 4,000 bishops and priests, were killed in this step of the Genocide.
The Greek Christians, particularly in the Black Sea area known as Pontus, who had been suffering from Turkish persecutions and murders all the while, saw the Turks turn more fiercely on them as WW1 came to a close. The Allied Powers, at a peace conference in Paris in 1919, rewarded Greece for her support by inviting Prime Minister Venizelos to occupy the city of Smyrna with its rich hinterlands, and they placed the province under Greek control. This action greatly angered the Turks. The Greek occupation was a peaceful one but drew immediate fire from Turkish forces in the outlying areas. When the Greek army farmed out to protect its people, a full-fledged war broke out between Greece and Turkey (the Greco-Turkish war).
The Treaty of Sevres, signed in 1920 to end WW1 and which provided for an independent Armenia, was never ratified. The treaty's terms changed not long after the ink dried as England, France and Italy each began secretly bargaining with Mustafa Kemel (Ataturk) in order to gain the right to exploit oil fields in the Mozul (now Iraq). Betrayed by the Allied Powers, the Greek military front, after 40 long months of war, collapsed and retreated as the Turks began again to occupy Asia Minor.
September 1922 signaled the end of the Greek and Armenian presence in the city of Smyrna. On 9 September 1922, the Turks entered Smyrna; and after systematically murdering the Armenians in their own homes, the forces of Ataturk turned on the Greeks whose numbers had swelled, with the addition of refugees who had fled their villages in Turkey's interior, to upwards of 400,000 men, women and children.
The conquering Turks went from house to house, looting, pillaging, raping and murdering the population. Finally, when the wind had turned so that it was blowing toward the sea so that the small Turkish quarter at the rear of the city was not in danger, Turkish forces, led by their officers, poured kerosene on the buildings and homes of the Greek and Armenian sectors and set them afire. Thus, any remaining live inhabitants of the city were flushed out to be caught between a wall of fire and the sea. The pier of Smyrna became a scene of final desperation as the approaching flames forced many thousands to jump to their death or to be consumed by fire.
The Allied warships and shore patrol of the French, British and American military were eyewitnesses to the events. George Horton, the American Consul in Smyrna, likened the finale at Smyrna to the Roman destruction of Carthage. He is quoted in Smyrna (1922, written by Marjorie Dobkin) as saying: Yet there was not fleet of Christian battleships at Carthage looking on a situation for which their governments were responsible." This horrible act unleashed the last phase of the genocide against the Christians of Turkish Asia Minor.
On 9 September 1997, a series of speakers and memorial services, honoring the memory of the 3.5 million Christians who were murdered by Turkish persecutions from 1894-1923, were held in the greater Baltimore Washington area. The memorial service was conducted by the choirs of St. Mary's Armenian Church, St. Katherine's Greek Orthodox Church, Fr. George Alexson of St. Katherine's, Fr. Vertanes Katayjian of St. Mary's and other Orthodox clergy.
The 75th anniversary of the Christian Holocaust was memorialized on 9 September 1997, the date in 1922 of the destruction of the city of Smyrna. This memorial honors the memory of over 3.5 million Christians who were murdered by Turkish persecutions from 1894-1923. Not only was this the memorial of the Holocaust of Smyrna (now Izmir) and the martyrdom of Smyrna's Metropolitan Chrysostomos, but also of the 3.5 million Christians who perished during the first Holocaust of this century. But the events of 1922 are not an isolated incident. The atrocities committed by Turkish forces against a civilian population began before WW1 and have never ended. This event seeks to expose the continuum of a Turkish campaign of persecution, deportation, and murder designed to rid Asia of its Christian populace.
1914 400,000 conscripts perished in forced labor brigades
1922 100,000 massacred or burned alive in Smyrna
1916-1922 350,000 Pontions massacred or killed during forced deportations
1914-1922 900,000 perish from maltreatment, starvation and massacres; total of all other areas of Asia Minor
TOTAL: 1,750,000 Greek Christians martyred 1914-1922
1894-1896 300,000 massacred
1915-1916 1,500,000 perish in massacres and forced deportations (with subsidiaries to 1923)
1922 30,000 massacred or burned alive in Smyrna
TOTAL: 1,800,000 Armenian Christians martyred 1894-1923
SYRIANS AND NESTORIANS
1915-1917 100,000 Christians massacred
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