Massacres in September

Many songs have welcomed the month of September, the beginning of fall.  But unfortunately, it has also been the season for massive terrorist attacks on innocent people. Some anniversaries of these attacks in France, Turkey, and the United States, are being commemorated or remembered in September 2020.

It is France that has the dubious distinction of what has been called the September Massacres, the killing of about 1,400 prisoners, half the prison population of Paris, by a mob in Paris on September 2-6, 1792. It is generally assumed that Jean-Paul Marat, later killed in his bath by Charlotte Corday in July 1793, was the main instigator of the mob. However, Georges Danton was also accused of being responsible because of his fiery speech on September 2, 1792 in which he proclaimed, “The bell we are about to ring is not an alarm bell; it sounds the charge on the enemies of our country.”

The event, the first Terror of the French Revolution, based on rumor emanating from fear and panic, not reliable information, occurred because of rhetoric that if foreign armies invaded Paris, as Prussians and Austrians had done in northern France to end the Revolution, the prisoners, though almost all were ordinary criminals and non-political, would join them. After an initial attack on prisoners by an armed band, massacres took place over the next few days in the Paris prisons. The massacres were all pointless because no prisoners were likely to be part of a supposed counterrevolutionary conspiracy.   

On September 6-7, 1955, another massacre based on fake news took place in Istanbul. The previous month the Turkish prime minister Adnan Menderes falsely claimed that Greek Cypriots were planning massacres against Turkish Cypriots. Less than a month later, it was reported that the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki, Greece, the birthplace of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic of Turkey, had been bombed, and that Greeks were responsible. In fact, the bombing was by a Muslim employee in the consulate who came from Komotini, Greece. On September 6, 2020, a commemoration service was held in the Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul in honor of those killed 65 years ago, the Greeks of Istanbul.

Turkish authorities and some academics have distorted the nature of the event that began as a protest rally.  But it developed into what Turkey calls “the events of September 6-7,” but which in reality was a Turkish  version of the Nazi Kristallnacht of November 1938 carried out by organized mobs whose object was to get rid of Greeks who were an active part of the city’s business and cultural life. Apart from the false accusation of the bombing in Thessaloniki, Greeks were made the scapegoats for bad economic conditions.  Though the country did not initially call for the killing of Greeks, the Turkish mob killed more than 30, with 300 injured, destroyed or looted 4,000 stores, factories, 71 churches, 2,000 residences, and Greek-owned hotels, in all over 5,300 properties.

Turkish police were largely inactive, and finally the government declared martial law and called in the army to stop the violence. The main point is that Turkey continued its policy of getting rid of most of its Greeks.  In Istanbul, the Greek population immediately declined from 116,000 to 49,000. The Greek population in Turkey as a whole declined. In 1927 it had been 120,000; in 1978 it was 7,000, and currently it is about 2,500.

A final irony is that Adnan Menderes was arrested after a military coup d’etat. He was tried, accused, among other issues, of ordering the pogrom of September 6, and of busing villagers into the city to harm the citizens of Greek ancestry, and was executed on May 27, 1960.

This Turkish massacre killed mostly Greeks, but Armenians and Jews were also among the victims.  Turkey, despite unfriendliness toward Israel, has not called for the exodus of its Jews, now estimated to number 17,000. On September 6, 1986, the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul was attacked when Palestinians, allegedly under orders of  Abu Nidal, murdered 22 worshippers, including seven rabbis, none of whom had any relation with Israel. Further attacks took place in March 1992 and November 2003.

For all Americans, September 11, 2001 -- 9/11 -- is unforgettable, and the images of smoke pouring from the destroyed buildings in New York are indelible. This week marks the 19th anniversary of the tragic date when nineteen members of the terrorist group al Qaeda  conducted four coordinated attacks, killing 3,000 people. Fifteen of the terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, two from the UAE, and one each from Lebanon and Egypt. Some had lived in the U.S. and had taken lessons at commercial flying schools, others arrived in the U.S. only a short time before the events.

The first plane, a Boeing 767 with 20,000 gallons of fuel, crashed into the 80th floor of the north tower, of the World Trade Center. It instantly killed hundreds and trapped those in higher floors. Eighteen minutes later, a second airliner crashed in the second Tower causing a mass explosion and the collapse of the building. The calculation is that 2,996, including the 19 terrorists, were killed in the NYC attacks.

A 757 crashed into the west side of the Pentagon, killing 125 military and civilian workers, and a total of 189 altogether. A fourth plane, United 93, crashed in an empty field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the passengers attempted to seize control from the terrorists. All 44 aboard were killed.

From the Oval Office, President George W. Bush proclaimed that the terrorist attacks “could shake the foundation of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.”

The architect of the attacks, Osama bin Laden was finally tracked down and killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011.

Since 9/11, 107 persons have been killed in domestic terrorist attacks. Moreover, the effects of 9/11 remain. There were initially heavy losses in jobs, finance, air transportation, and the task of rebuilding the World Trade Center in NYC. It is gratifying that the World Trade Center in NYC has been rebuilt, with the grand Tower symbolically 1776 feet high, and the site a pitting memorial for the dead.

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