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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 18 April 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 18 APRIL 2015 19 FEATURE from Gallipoli in 1915 forced onto crowded steamers, standing room only; how, on disembarking, men of military age were removed (for forced labour in the labour battalions of the Ottoman army) and how the rest were "scattered ... among the farms like ownerless cattle": Exposed to the burning rays of the sun and to the darkness and terrors of the night, we were ... without any food, the transportation of which had been strictly forbidden us, and even without water until the second day when the station agent saw to it that two carloads of water were brought to us ... We had been without bread, too, if some of our number had not been able to procure it from Turkish villages. For twenty-eight days without bread, olives, or cheese, we set eyes on little else that was edible; our hardships could not fail to produce their natural result. Every day, three or four deaths occurred. After sixteen days, these deportees were forced to walk for another four days to various villages, care being taken "upon entrance, to separate the members of families from one another". One such village was Kermasti, where the "crowding together and the hardships we The 1913 massacres were spontaneous acts of savagery, based on longstanding hatreds inflamed by the recent deportations and massacres of Turkish Muslims from Greece and other Balkan lands. endured resulted in 13-15 deaths per day of the 2,000 inhabitants of Marmora alone". Corpses being "borne to the cemetery were stoned. If a man dared to go from one village to another, it was at the risk of his life." One man, accompanied by his son, "ventured to go from Mitchlich to Apollionus, and both were found dead two days later, beheaded near a stream". Though the entire Greek population of Turkey was not, in those years, targeted for genocide like the Armenians, pockets of Greek genocide not only occurred during the war, but were made possible because of the war. Gallipoli was such a pocket. With the official moratorium on Greek deportations in place, Liman von Sanders advised the Ottoman government that "he would be unable to take the responsibility for the security of the army" unless potentially disloyal Greeks were removed from the peninsula. The evacuation of Gallipoli now began less than a week before the invasion of April 25. The Greek Patriarchate in Constantinople (legally responsible for the spiritual life of Greek Christians) kept careful records, including eyewitness reports. These reports accord with the foregoing eyewitness account from Marmora. Gallipoli's Greeks received two hours notice before they were forced "to embark in steamers". Their merchandise was seized and "sold to Mussulman societies", while women were "exposed to the brutal instincts of their Mussulman guards". Of the final deportation figure of some 22,000 souls, a few managed to reach Greece, though in a pitiful state, and some others were able "to prolong their existence by embracing Islam". For young Greek men, their fate was not (yet) deportation, but life or death in forced-labour battalions. But most of Gallipoli's Greeks were among the "490,063 souls wandering in the mountains, the plains and the villages of Anatolia" where they "succumbed for the most part to hunger, cold and privations". Even as the first invading troops waded ashore, there were still some 10,000 Greeks hiding out on Gallipoli - most of them in the countryside, some given refuge by humane and courageous Turks. As the fighting raged, squads of gendarmes and Arab auxiliaries, at times possibly aided by Turkish regulars, were rounding up Gallipoli's last Greeks and sending them to their dismal fates. How did the Ottoman empire, which was once, comparatively at least, a model of ethnic diversity and tolerance, come to this? When the Gallipoli fighting was under way, Enver Pasha and his party were in power and Enver, as Minister for War, was boasting to a German military attache that he would "solve the Greek problem during the war" just as he had ‘solved’ the Armenian problem. By now these ‘solutions’ had nothing to do with the brotherhood of ethnic and religious minorities and everything to do with their elimination. No longer was the empire's decline due to a corrupt and retrograde regime which had kept it in a premodern condition, rather it was the fault of its Christian subjects - more specifically, it was the result of "the struggle of the Christian minorities for equal rights and reform". While Armenians as well as Assyrians were targeted by special measures which aimed at their annihilation, Greeks were also expelled. In total, almost one-third of the Anatolian population were either relocated or killed. This ethnic cleansing and homogenisation paved the way for today's Republic of Turkey. *This is an extract from Deutschland Uber Allah! The Germans and Gallipoli 1915. John Williams is a photographer, historian, and an author of five books. Greeks made up about half of the population of the Gallipoli peninsula.
11 April 2015
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