Never Forget. The Greek Genocide of 1914-1923
The Greek Genocide (or Ottoman Greek Genocide) refers to the systematic extermination of the native Greek subjects of the Ottoman Empire before, during and after World War I (1914-1923). It was instigated by two successive governments of the Ottoman Empire; i.e. the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) party, and the Turkish Nationalist Movement of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It included massacres, forced deportations and death marches, summary expulsions, boycotts, rape, forced conversion to Islam, conscription into labour battalions, arbitrary executions, and destruction of Christian Orthodox cultural, historical and religious monuments. According to various sources, approximately 1 million Ottoman Greeks perished during this period.
The first phase of the Greek Genocide commenced in 1914 in Eastern Thrace where entire Greek communities were forcibly and often violently expelled or deported to the interior of Asia Minor. Other measures used to persecute Greeks in this region were the boycotting of Greek businesses, killings, heavy taxation, seizure of property and prevention from working on their lands. In the Spring and Summer 1914, the ethnic cleansing of Greeks along the western shoreline of Asia Minor was carried out. These operations, including those in Eastern Thrace, were planned and executed by the CUP using regular and irregular forces including members of the CUP’s paramilitary unit, the Special Organization (Teşkilat-i Mahsusa).
With the outbreak of the Great War, all Ottoman Greek males aged between 21-45 were forcibly conscripted into labour battalions (Amele Taburlari). Most of them perished under appalling conditions being forced to work around the clock with little food or water. In 1915, under the advice of German military personnel, the CUP deported Greek communities from the Dardanelles and Gallipolli regions under the pretext of military necessity. These Greeks were not permitted to take anything with them. Goods in their shops were later sold by Ottoman authorities. They were deported to the interior and to Muslim villages where they were forced to choose between Islam or death. In most cases, before deportations took place Ottoman gendarmes (police) and chetes (armed irregulars) seized money and valuables from communities, committed massacres and burnt churches and schools. In December 1916, the persecution of Greeks in the Pontus region commences. By 1917, it was reported that over 700,000 Greeks had fallen victim to a preconceived and well-orchestrated plan of annihilation.
According to figures compiled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, by 1918, 774,235 Greeks had been deported from their homes, many of them to the interior of Turkey, never to be seen again. Following the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in WW1, prominent leaders of the CUP were given death sentences in Ottoman Courts-Martial for their role in organizing the massacre of Greeks during the war. But the post-war formation of the Turkish Nationalist movement under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk interrupted proceedings to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Kemalist Nationalists continued the CUP policy of persecuting Greeks which culminated in the burning of the cosmopolitan city of Smyrna (today Izmir) to the ground and the expulsion of all remaining Greeks from Turkey. All able-bodied Greek males were refused exit from Turkey and instead were sent to the interior where most perished in slave labour camps or were massacred.
By 1923, various sources state that around 1 million Greeks perished in the genocide.
Contributor: Bill V. Thomopoulos
Anti-Money Laundering & Counter-Terrorist Financing Specialist
Vancouver, BC, Canada