There is no need to refer to this year’s symbolism regarding Smyrna, Asia Minor, and Hellenism in the East. This was the region that, for centuries, existed and continues to exist as a point of reference for Hellenism in regards to its faith, culture, architecture, history, cuisine, music, and athletics. However, a century ago, it became the site of martyrdom, tragedy, and death. The spread of Turkish nationalism spawned by the pre-Nazist/fascist Young Turk movement’s rise to power in 1908, as well as interests closely connected to the involvement of Germany, which played a leading role, together with England, France, the United States, and Russia-USSR in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire, led to the first phase of the Greek Genocide.
The final phase of this modern Greek tragedy was carried out when the Kemalist-nationalist movement seized power in 1919, and reached its climax in August and September of 1922 following an offensive led by ‘Hitler’s teacher’ Mustafa Kemal, who had signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union, as well as France and Italy – while the British looked on, snapping photos of the Great Fire on Smyrna’s waterfront… The expulsion of the Greeks by the Young Turks and Mustafa Kemal, who furiously persecuted Hellenism, represents one of the greatest crimes perpetrated not only in Greek history, but global history as well. Of the Greek population in Asia Minor, which exceeded 2.7 million in 1908, over 1 million were killed, 1.3 million fled to Greece as refugees, as well as other nations, and an unknown number remained in modern Turkey as forcibly Islamized converts, and perhaps crypto-Christians…
The Greek Genocide is an issue that has remained on the backburner for many years, and remains absent from political discourse, international relations, and education until today. Every nation, including the Greek people, has a right to its collective memory, and is entitled to persistently demand the official recognition of all crimes committed against it by the perpetrators. There are many examples concerning other ethnic peoples who have suffered comparable or greater crimes against humanity directed against them and succeeded in having them recognized internationally.
We, the descendants of the victims and survivors of the Greek Genocide, demand that the Hellenic Republic do what is self-evident regarding Turkey, which, through its institutional representatives, provokes history and collective memory and commits the hubris of genocide denial on a daily basis.
Tears and anguish are not enough. The Hellenic Republic must stand up to this hubris and demand that Turkey and the international community recognize the Genocide now!
Theofanis Malkidis was born in Alexandroupolis to survivors of the Genocide committed by Turkey between 1908-1924 and the Holocaust committed during the Nazi and Fascist Occupation (1941-1944). He holds a Ph.D. from Panteion University in Athens and is a member of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, which in 2007 recognized the Genocide of the Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians. He has written and translated books about the Greek and Armenian Genocides.