NEW YORK – The genocide against the Greeks of Pontos was commemorated at the Greek Press and Communication Office on May 16, 95 years after its most harrowing events, with a program of cultural and scholarly presentations presented by the Consulate General of Greece in NY in coordination with The Pan-Pontian Federation of USA & Canada and the Press Office.
Felicia Theodoridis, who served as the MC, welcomed the guests, as did Nikos Papaconstantinou, Greece’s Press counsellor. Fr. Ioannis Amarantidis of St. Nectarios of Brooklyn offered the invocation and greetings were read from Archbishop Demetrios, who was unable to attend.
Closing remarks were made by Gus Tsiflides, President of the Pan-Pontian Federation of USA & Canada, who declared that Pontinan organizations will continue to strive to the recognition of the genocide, which they owe to their ancestors, and to Justice, because “denial is the last stage of genocide, thus it is also a crime.”
Theodoridis announced that all of the Federation’s events this year will be dedicated to Sano Halo, “the grandmother of all Pontians,” who is the subject of her daughter Thea Halo’s moving book about her life and the genocide.
Manos Koubarakis, the Consul of Greece, representing the Consul General George Iliopoulos, thanked Thea for the book that has helped Americans and the world understand what happened to the people of Pontos.
The keynote address “Ottoman Genocide as a Demographic Policy” was delivered by distinguished Turkish-American scholar Dr. Taner Akcam, chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University.
Akcam spoke of evidence in Turkish archives that all the Asia Minor genocides, whose victims included Greek, Armenian and Assyrian Christians, and which were complemented by violence against moslem Kurds, were all part of a deliberate and systematic policy of ethnic cleansing and Turkification of Asia Minor that began with the Ottoman state, continued with the Young Turks, and concluded by the forces of Kemal Ataturk.
He demonstrated with mathematical clarity that given the documentation he found for a Turkish policy of thinning out Asia Minor’s Christian population to 5-10 percent in the areas where they lived, the “final solution” for remaining millions was obviously their extermination via attacks and death marches.
Dr. Constantine Hatzidimitriou, presented “Turkish responsibility for the destruction of Smyrna in 1992 – What do the American archives tell us?”
He noted that Ataturk was present at Smyrna and was in full control of his forces when the city was burned and killings were rampant, but he also discovered archival evidence that high American officials were cognizant of what was happening around Smyrna, and speculated Washington was motivated by desire to curry favor with Ataturk in order to secure access to the oil of Mosul and Kirkuk.
The cultural portion of the program included a musical presentation via video of “Tin Patrida m’exasa – I lost my homeland,” which begins:
I lost my homeland; I cried and felt pain,
Dying of nostalgia, unable to forget.
Stephanos Papadopoulos, the 2014 recipient of the Jeannette Haien Ballard Writer’s Prize, read a number of poignant poems about the genocide from his collection titled “The Black Sea.”
There was also a short introductory video of the upcoming documentary “Preserving the Memory of the Anatolian Greek Genocide,” by the Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center and the event concluded with a reception and with traditional Pontian Cuisine prepared exclusively by the women’s associations.
Theodoridou thanked the cooperating organizations, including the local Pontian Societies of “Komninoi” of New York and “Pontos” of Norwalk Connecticut and the Holy Institution of Panagia Soumela, where vespers and a wreath-laying this weekend also commemorated the genocide.
A Greek flag-raising ceremony took place at Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan on Pontian Genocide Commemoration Day, Monday, May 19, which happens to be Ataturk’s birthday.
The Pontian flag had also been raised for the past six years but on May 19 a Parks Department official would not permit it.