Talking Turkey

There is an illegal occupation that has gone on for decades in the Middle East and it's not being enforced by the IDF.

In August 1974, Turkey seized nearly 37% of the then-independent Cyprus.  The pretext for the invasion was the protection of Turkish Cypriots, who made up about 18% of the island's population.  On July 15, EOKA B, a Cypriot paramilitary organization supporting union with Greece, backed by the junta in Athens, overthrew the government of Archbishop Makarios.  But the coup failed.  Makarios survived and his thuggish replacement was ousted after eight days in office, when the regime of the colonels was overthrown in Greece.  It was only after the restoration of a democratic government on Cyprus that Turkish troops left their beachheads and marched south.  Some 5,600 Greek Cypriots were killed, and there were widespread rapes and destruction of property.  Over 160,000 residents fled their homes.  To complete the ethnic cleansing, Turkish settlers were moved into the abandoned towns and villages.  The Turks were there to stay: nearly all the churches in their sector were converted to mosques or put to other uses, the icons sold in Europe, and there remains an occupation force of 35,000 men.

UN Security Council Resolutions 367, 541, and 550 and UN Resolutions 3212 and 1987/19 condemned the invasion and called for the withdrawal of Turkish troops.  The resolutions are dead letters.  They are of no interest to the present delegates or to the international media.  There are have been no sanctions against Turkey, no demonstrations, no boycotts.                                                                

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There is also a nationality in the Middle East without a homeland, and whose struggle to secure one has been brutally suppressed.   Not the usual suspects.  The people are the Kurds and their oppressor is Turkey, along with the Iran.

A short detour.  The 18th century Prussian philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is a lot less famous than Karl Marx, but he is responsible for a more eventful movement, one that would eventually shatter communism in Europe.  After the stunning defeat of Prussia by Napoleon at Jena, Herder's followers turned on the tarnished ideals of the French Revolution.  They rejected as an empty abstraction the idea of the individual and celebrated instead the common  language, culture, and history that united a people.  The idea had legs.  Scholars published anthologies of their nation's epic poems and legends; antiquarians recorded songs, saying, rites, and rituals.   And among the European population locked in "the prisonhouse of nations," Austria, and the other multinational empires, Russia and Ottoman Turkey, the longing for a national homeland took root.  The struggles of the Greeks, Serbs, Irish, Poles, Italians, and Hungarians to govern themselves attracted sympathizers across Europe, as did, later, those of the Jews and Arabs.

There is no "Palestinian" language, no sayings, songs, poems, or plays.  The tenant farmers of the Ottoman sanjak of Jerusalem and vilayet of Beirut-subject to bedouin raids, intervillage warfare, and extortionate rent from landlords in Beirut and Damascus-identified with family and tribe.  There was no interest in a "Palestinian" homeland among the few from the region who joined the Arab nationalist movement.  Nor were there any calls for an independent Palestine when Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria and Egypt Gaza from May 1948 until June 1967, and it did not occur to the authorities in Amman or Cairo to propose one.  The idea that someone could be a "Palestinian" was first broached in 1964, in the charter of the PLO, and even then the Palestinian people were proclaimed "an indivisible part of the greater Arab homeland."

The twenty-seven million Kurds, on the other hand, are an ancient people.  They are mentioned in an inscription from 2000 B.C. and, in recorded history, by Xenophon at the end of the 5th century B.C.  They share a common language, with two major dialects. After Mongol and other conquests, the fiercely independent herdsman enjoyed considerable autonomy under the Ottomans.  Tribal loyalties divided the Kurds, but as early as the end of the 16th century, poets spoke of single Kurdish people.  The first full-scale war for independence took place in 1880.  This was unsuccessful and the tribes were soon afterward encouraged by Ottoman authorities to plunder and kill their Armenian neighbors to recompense themselves.  But during World War I over 600,000 then shared the fate of the Armenians, being deported from their homeland, with about half dying.  In the Treaty of Sèvres with the Ottoman Empire after the war, the Allies promised the Kurds autonomy.  That agreement was nullified when Turkish nationalists overthrew the sultan.  The Kurds rebelled repeatedly in subsequent decades, and the Ankara government retaliated, killing thousands, executing leaders, suppressing the Kurdish language and banning the national costume.

There is as little interest in the fate of the Kurds in the U.N. or the media as in the Cypriots.  The party seeking a military solution, the PKK, has been labeled a terrorist organization, and Kurdistan can expect no invitations to join UNESCO.

---

For the historically literate, the supreme irony of the recent Turkish demand for an Israel apology for the deaths of "militants" who attacked soldiers boarding  the blockade-running Mavi Marmara is Ankara's persistent refusal to apologize for the Armenian genocide of 1915-1916.  There is a vast literature on the subject, and the scale of the killings and the government's complicity are beyond dispute.

What's not so well known is that this was not a one-off event.  Massacres of Armenians accelerated after 1880, as part of a campaign to ethnically cleanse Turkey of non-Muslims.  By the previous decade, most of the Ottoman Empire's European subjects had been liberated.  Eight great empires and four smaller empires have been liquidated since the late 19th century.  No colonial power resisted independence movements with the brutality of the Turks.  But the  Bulgarians, Rumanians, Serbs, Montenegrins, and Greeks lived on the periphery of the Empire.  Armenians were scattered throughout eastern and southern Anatolia.  Though they did not seek independence from Turkey, the demand for legal equality with Muslims, including the right to bear arms, was a great affront to Islamic pride.  Worse, Armenians, with the other Christians of the Empire, comprised virtually the entire commercial and professional classes.  They were the bankers, merchants, shopkeepers, lawyers and doctors, and were bitterly resented for their economic success.

Between 1895 and 1896, attacks on Armenians killed over 80,000.  The modus operandi was familiar: government-sponsored raids by neighboring tribes, with killing, raping, and looting, along with extortionate taxes, resulted in protests and sometimes armed resistance, which became the pretext for massacres by soldiers.  Europeans were appalled.  But as before, rivalry over exactly how the territory of "the Sick Man of Europe" should be allocated prevented effective action.  In particular, British worries about the Russian threat to India prevented cooperation between the two Powers who could most effectively pressure Constantinople. However, with both Britain and Russia insisting on reforms after the Hamidian massacres of the mid-1890s, the Sultan found a friend in Imperial Germany, latecomer to the colonial game and eager to expand its influence in Asia.  More massacres followed, including one in Adana in 1909 in which 30,000 Armenians were killed.

---

With the elimination of the Armenians during the First World War and the loss of Arab lands, the only uppity dhimmis remaining in Turkey were the Greeks of western Anatolia.  They had lived there for three thousand years.  The cities of Ionia had been the birthplace of Western poetry, philosophy, and art.  Homer was supposed to have been an Ionian, as were the first individuals to speculate on the nature of the physical world.  For Heraclitus, the greatest of them, the universal element was fire.  It would be fire that would ravage the magnificent Greek city of Symrna, the great commercial port on the Aegean, in the climax of a campaign that would drive 1.2 million Greeks out of Asia Minor.  

This was the first of the great population transfers of the 20th century.  (Some 355,000 Muslims left European territory in exchange.)  In 1944 and 1945, over 12 million Germans fled or were forced from centuries-old communities in what had been Prussia, Silesia, and Bohemia.  In 1947, well over 14 million Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs left their homes after the partition of India. By comparison, the population transfer of 1948 was small potatoes-or should have been:  between 475,000 and 760,000 Arabs-probably around 630,000-left what was to become Israel and approximately 750,000 to 820,000 Jews abandoned their homes in other Middle Eastern countries, 586,000 resettling in Israel.

As with the liquidation of the Armenians, the final ethnic cleansing of Greeks from western Turkey was preceded by a trial run.  The first Balkan War (1912-13), which liberated the Christians of Macedonia and Thrace, uprooted some 160,000 Muslims.  In revenge, the government unleashed chettés, irregular troops, on the Anatolian Greeks, and deported at least 200,000.  (Numbers of those expelled and killed vary more widely than usual, with Greek figures as high as 300,000 dead and 450,000 refugees.)  

The 1920 Treaty of Sèvres authorized the Greeks to occupy Ionia, whose fate was to be decided by a plebiscite in five years.  When rebel nationalist forces under Mustapha Kemal threatened the Sultan, the Allies asked the Greek Army to stop them.  The Kemalists were crushed, but the Greeks were forbidden from taking Constantinople.  The troops remained strung out along a vulnerable front and were denied arms and materiel from the Allies.  The nationalists were meanwhile resupplied by France and Italy, which had switched sides, and Soviet Russia.  Not surprisingly, a counterattack by the nationalists routed the Greeks.  As many as 100,000 residents were killed in and around Smyrna before the great cosmopolitan city was reduced to ashes.  The crews and officers of 27Allied warships, including three American destroyers, watched from the harbor while Smyrna burned.  They turned their spotlights on the residents crowded onto the docks and piers in a futile effort to reduce the killings and rapes, and played music to drown out the screams.

There remained the Greeks of Constantinople, some 400,000 in 1922.  Repression by the nationalists reduced that number to 112,000 a dozen years later.  Then, in September 1955, Kemal's successors organized a brutal pogrom in which, in one night, 4,359 Greek-owned businesses were destroyed and 90 Orthodox churches and seminaries were demolished or desecrated.  Today, the Greek population of Istanbul, former capital of the Byzantine Empire, is about 1,200.

---

Even when Turkey's leaders have themselves been secularists, they have drawn on venerable Islamic beliefs in the countryside to eliminate non-Muslim populations.  Dhimmi can be tolerated only if they accept subordination.  If they demand equal rights under the law, if their mistreatment becomes a pretext for intervention on the part of outsiders, the tolerance granted them must be revoked, and dar al Islam cleansed.

Leadership in the Islamic conquest of the West passed from the Arabs to the Turks at the beginning of the 16th century.  The Arabs had seized the Mediterranean basin, including Sicily and the other islands, nearly all of Spain, and parts of southern France and the coast of Italy.   The Turks then took the Balkans and Hungary and reached the gates of Vienna in 1529 and again in 1683.  Now, with the Greeks and Armenians gone, the extirpation of non-Muslims in dar al Islam has passed into Arab hands.  Maronites, Assyrians, and Copts have been persecuted and killed.  The situation looks especially grim for Copts, if an Islamicist winter follows the "Arab Spring."  Meanwhile, on our watch, about 400,000 Christians, about half the population, have fled Iraq.  The elimination of Israel is to be the grand finale of this long campaign.  

The bien pensants of the West are indifferent to the ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims, when they do not actively support it, as in Kosovo.  When we talk about Israel facing an "existential crisis" we ought to think of Smyrna.  Will we or our children watch on TV as the remnant of Israeli Jews crowds the beaches of Tel Aviv, while the crews of American warships anchored off shore watch impassively? 

There is an illegal occupation that has gone on for decades in the Middle East and it's not being enforced by the IDF.

In August 1974, Turkey seized nearly 37% of the then-independent Cyprus.  The pretext for the invasion was the protection of Turkish Cypriots, who made up about 18% of the island's population.  On July 15, EOKA B, a Cypriot paramilitary organization supporting union with Greece, backed by the junta in Athens, overthrew the government of Archbishop Makarios.  But the coup failed.  Makarios survived and his thuggish replacement was ousted after eight days in office, when the regime of the colonels was overthrown in Greece.  It was only after the restoration of a democratic government on Cyprus that Turkish troops left their beachheads and marched south.  Some 5,600 Greek Cypriots were killed, and there were widespread rapes and destruction of property.  Over 160,000 residents fled their homes.  To complete the ethnic cleansing, Turkish settlers were moved into the abandoned towns and villages.  The Turks were there to stay: nearly all the churches in their sector were converted to mosques or put to other uses, the icons sold in Europe, and there remains an occupation force of 35,000 men.

UN Security Council Resolutions 367, 541, and 550 and UN Resolutions 3212 and 1987/19 condemned the invasion and called for the withdrawal of Turkish troops.  The resolutions are dead letters.  They are of no interest to the present delegates or to the international media.  There are have been no sanctions against Turkey, no demonstrations, no boycotts.                                                                

---

There is also a nationality in the Middle East without a homeland, and whose struggle to secure one has been brutally suppressed.   Not the usual suspects.  The people are the Kurds and their oppressor is Turkey, along with the Iran.

A short detour.  The 18th century Prussian philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is a lot less famous than Karl Marx, but he is responsible for a more eventful movement, one that would eventually shatter communism in Europe.  After the stunning defeat of Prussia by Napoleon at Jena, Herder's followers turned on the tarnished ideals of the French Revolution.  They rejected as an empty abstraction the idea of the individual and celebrated instead the common  language, culture, and history that united a people.  The idea had legs.  Scholars published anthologies of their nation's epic poems and legends; antiquarians recorded songs, saying, rites, and rituals.   And among the European population locked in "the prisonhouse of nations," Austria, and the other multinational empires, Russia and Ottoman Turkey, the longing for a national homeland took root.  The struggles of the Greeks, Serbs, Irish, Poles, Italians, and Hungarians to govern themselves attracted sympathizers across Europe, as did, later, those of the Jews and Arabs.

There is no "Palestinian" language, no sayings, songs, poems, or plays.  The tenant farmers of the Ottoman sanjak of Jerusalem and vilayet of Beirut-subject to bedouin raids, intervillage warfare, and extortionate rent from landlords in Beirut and Damascus-identified with family and tribe.  There was no interest in a "Palestinian" homeland among the few from the region who joined the Arab nationalist movement.  Nor were there any calls for an independent Palestine when Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria and Egypt Gaza from May 1948 until June 1967, and it did not occur to the authorities in Amman or Cairo to propose one.  The idea that someone could be a "Palestinian" was first broached in 1964, in the charter of the PLO, and even then the Palestinian people were proclaimed "an indivisible part of the greater Arab homeland."

The twenty-seven million Kurds, on the other hand, are an ancient people.  They are mentioned in an inscription from 2000 B.C. and, in recorded history, by Xenophon at the end of the 5th century B.C.  They share a common language, with two major dialects. After Mongol and other conquests, the fiercely independent herdsman enjoyed considerable autonomy under the Ottomans.  Tribal loyalties divided the Kurds, but as early as the end of the 16th century, poets spoke of single Kurdish people.  The first full-scale war for independence took place in 1880.  This was unsuccessful and the tribes were soon afterward encouraged by Ottoman authorities to plunder and kill their Armenian neighbors to recompense themselves.  But during World War I over 600,000 then shared the fate of the Armenians, being deported from their homeland, with about half dying.  In the Treaty of Sèvres with the Ottoman Empire after the war, the Allies promised the Kurds autonomy.  That agreement was nullified when Turkish nationalists overthrew the sultan.  The Kurds rebelled repeatedly in subsequent decades, and the Ankara government retaliated, killing thousands, executing leaders, suppressing the Kurdish language and banning the national costume.

There is as little interest in the fate of the Kurds in the U.N. or the media as in the Cypriots.  The party seeking a military solution, the PKK, has been labeled a terrorist organization, and Kurdistan can expect no invitations to join UNESCO.

---

For the historically literate, the supreme irony of the recent Turkish demand for an Israel apology for the deaths of "militants" who attacked soldiers boarding  the blockade-running Mavi Marmara is Ankara's persistent refusal to apologize for the Armenian genocide of 1915-1916.  There is a vast literature on the subject, and the scale of the killings and the government's complicity are beyond dispute.

What's not so well known is that this was not a one-off event.  Massacres of Armenians accelerated after 1880, as part of a campaign to ethnically cleanse Turkey of non-Muslims.  By the previous decade, most of the Ottoman Empire's European subjects had been liberated.  Eight great empires and four smaller empires have been liquidated since the late 19th century.  No colonial power resisted independence movements with the brutality of the Turks.  But the  Bulgarians, Rumanians, Serbs, Montenegrins, and Greeks lived on the periphery of the Empire.  Armenians were scattered throughout eastern and southern Anatolia.  Though they did not seek independence from Turkey, the demand for legal equality with Muslims, including the right to bear arms, was a great affront to Islamic pride.  Worse, Armenians, with the other Christians of the Empire, comprised virtually the entire commercial and professional classes.  They were the bankers, merchants, shopkeepers, lawyers and doctors, and were bitterly resented for their economic success.

Between 1895 and 1896, attacks on Armenians killed over 80,000.  The modus operandi was familiar: government-sponsored raids by neighboring tribes, with killing, raping, and looting, along with extortionate taxes, resulted in protests and sometimes armed resistance, which became the pretext for massacres by soldiers.  Europeans were appalled.  But as before, rivalry over exactly how the territory of "the Sick Man of Europe" should be allocated prevented effective action.  In particular, British worries about the Russian threat to India prevented cooperation between the two Powers who could most effectively pressure Constantinople. However, with both Britain and Russia insisting on reforms after the Hamidian massacres of the mid-1890s, the Sultan found a friend in Imperial Germany, latecomer to the colonial game and eager to expand its influence in Asia.  More massacres followed, including one in Adana in 1909 in which 30,000 Armenians were killed.

---

With the elimination of the Armenians during the First World War and the loss of Arab lands, the only uppity dhimmis remaining in Turkey were the Greeks of western Anatolia.  They had lived there for three thousand years.  The cities of Ionia had been the birthplace of Western poetry, philosophy, and art.  Homer was supposed to have been an Ionian, as were the first individuals to speculate on the nature of the physical world.  For Heraclitus, the greatest of them, the universal element was fire.  It would be fire that would ravage the magnificent Greek city of Symrna, the great commercial port on the Aegean, in the climax of a campaign that would drive 1.2 million Greeks out of Asia Minor.  

This was the first of the great population transfers of the 20th century.  (Some 355,000 Muslims left European territory in exchange.)  In 1944 and 1945, over 12 million Germans fled or were forced from centuries-old communities in what had been Prussia, Silesia, and Bohemia.  In 1947, well over 14 million Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs left their homes after the partition of India. By comparison, the population transfer of 1948 was small potatoes-or should have been:  between 475,000 and 760,000 Arabs-probably around 630,000-left what was to become Israel and approximately 750,000 to 820,000 Jews abandoned their homes in other Middle Eastern countries, 586,000 resettling in Israel.

As with the liquidation of the Armenians, the final ethnic cleansing of Greeks from western Turkey was preceded by a trial run.  The first Balkan War (1912-13), which liberated the Christians of Macedonia and Thrace, uprooted some 160,000 Muslims.  In revenge, the government unleashed chettés, irregular troops, on the Anatolian Greeks, and deported at least 200,000.  (Numbers of those expelled and killed vary more widely than usual, with Greek figures as high as 300,000 dead and 450,000 refugees.)  

The 1920 Treaty of Sèvres authorized the Greeks to occupy Ionia, whose fate was to be decided by a plebiscite in five years.  When rebel nationalist forces under Mustapha Kemal threatened the Sultan, the Allies asked the Greek Army to stop them.  The Kemalists were crushed, but the Greeks were forbidden from taking Constantinople.  The troops remained strung out along a vulnerable front and were denied arms and materiel from the Allies.  The nationalists were meanwhile resupplied by France and Italy, which had switched sides, and Soviet Russia.  Not surprisingly, a counterattack by the nationalists routed the Greeks.  As many as 100,000 residents were killed in and around Smyrna before the great cosmopolitan city was reduced to ashes.  The crews and officers of 27Allied warships, including three American destroyers, watched from the harbor while Smyrna burned.  They turned their spotlights on the residents crowded onto the docks and piers in a futile effort to reduce the killings and rapes, and played music to drown out the screams.

There remained the Greeks of Constantinople, some 400,000 in 1922.  Repression by the nationalists reduced that number to 112,000 a dozen years later.  Then, in September 1955, Kemal's successors organized a brutal pogrom in which, in one night, 4,359 Greek-owned businesses were destroyed and 90 Orthodox churches and seminaries were demolished or desecrated.  Today, the Greek population of Istanbul, former capital of the Byzantine Empire, is about 1,200.

---

Even when Turkey's leaders have themselves been secularists, they have drawn on venerable Islamic beliefs in the countryside to eliminate non-Muslim populations.  Dhimmi can be tolerated only if they accept subordination.  If they demand equal rights under the law, if their mistreatment becomes a pretext for intervention on the part of outsiders, the tolerance granted them must be revoked, and dar al Islam cleansed.

Leadership in the Islamic conquest of the West passed from the Arabs to the Turks at the beginning of the 16th century.  The Arabs had seized the Mediterranean basin, including Sicily and the other islands, nearly all of Spain, and parts of southern France and the coast of Italy.   The Turks then took the Balkans and Hungary and reached the gates of Vienna in 1529 and again in 1683.  Now, with the Greeks and Armenians gone, the extirpation of non-Muslims in dar al Islam has passed into Arab hands.  Maronites, Assyrians, and Copts have been persecuted and killed.  The situation looks especially grim for Copts, if an Islamicist winter follows the "Arab Spring."  Meanwhile, on our watch, about 400,000 Christians, about half the population, have fled Iraq.  The elimination of Israel is to be the grand finale of this long campaign.  

The bien pensants of the West are indifferent to the ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims, when they do not actively support it, as in Kosovo.  When we talk about Israel facing an "existential crisis" we ought to think of Smyrna.  Will we or our children watch on TV as the remnant of Israeli Jews crowds the beaches of Tel Aviv, while the crews of American warships anchored off shore watch impassively? 

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