Was the Turkish Destruction of Smyrna Vengeance?
Akyol wrote that the Turks were not invading Smyrna, they were liberating the city from the occupying Greek army. He also wrote that the Greeks had previously committed atrocities against the Turks and that “The bloodshed in Smyrna in September, 1922 was an act of vengeance.” Undoubtedly vengeance played a role but that explanation is incomplete. If the bloodshed in Smyrna was an act of vengeance against the Greeks then why did the Turks also annihilate the Armenian population of Smyrna? If atrocities committed by Greeks during the re-occupation of Smyrna is the explanation for Turkish atrocities, then why did the Turks commit atrocities against the Armenians and Greeks in Smyrna before the Greek re-occupation? It has been estimated that during the seven centuries of Turkish presence in Asia Minor several millions of Greeks,… were systematically massacred.
John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States (1824-1828) had the following to say about the suffering of the Greeks under the Turks:
“If ever insurrection was holy in the eyes of God, such was that of the Greeks against their Mahometan oppressors… They were suffered to be overwhelmed by the whole mass of the Ottoman power; cheered only by the sympathies of all the civilized world, but without a finger raised to sustain or relieve them by the Christian governments of Europe; while the sword of extermination, instinct with the spirit of the Koran, was passing in merciless horror over the classical regions of Greece, the birth-place of philosophy, of poetry, of eloquence, of all the arts that embellish, and all the sciences that dignify the human character.”
The reason why the allies assigned Greece the responsibility to administer Smyrna after World War I was stated by Alexander Millerand, president of the Supreme Allied Council as follows:
“The Turkish government not only failed in its duty to protect its non-Turkish citizens from the looting, violence and murders, but there are many indications that the Turkish government itself was responsible for directing and organizing the most cruel attacks against the populations, which it was supposed to protect. For these reasons, the Allied powers have decided to liberate from the Turkish yoke all the lands where the majority of the people were non-Turks."
Persecution against the Greeks in Turkey continues to this very day.
The Turkish Paradox
Why were the Turks so brutal to the Armenians and yet as Mr. Akyol pointed out in his previous article, did they offer refuge to Jews fleeing from European Nations. In order to understand this we need to first understand the concept of Dhimma. Tudor Parfitt in his book, The Jews in Palestine 1800-1882 (The Boydell Press, 1987) explains that concept as follows:
“Dhimma is the relationship between the protector (in this case the Sultan) and the protected (the Dhimmi) and was the dominant factor in the status of the ahl al-kitab (People of the Book) i.e. Jews, Christians, Sabeans, (sabi’un) and later Persian Zoroastrians, in the Muslim state. Dhimma required the state to protect the life and property of the Dhimmi, exempt him from military service and allow him freedom of worship, while the Dhimmi was expected to pay the poll tax(cizye), not to insult Islam, not to build new places of worship and to dress in a distinctive fashion in order not to be mistaken for a Muslim. In cases of civil and family law, non-Muslims had judicial autonomy except in such cases which involved both a Dhimmi and a Muslim, in which event the case would be tried before a Muslim court (mahkama) where the Dhimmi’s legal testimony was unacceptable…The measure of religious toleration that obtained under Islam had to be purchased: and the price was a considerable one."
One reason it was difficult to obey the Dhimma contract was that in addition to infidels being required to pay exorbitant taxes they were also required to live in lowliness and degradation. This was explained by the Sultan of Morocco, Mulay Abd ar –Rahman in a letter he wrote in 1841 to the French Consulate at Tangiers as follows:
“The Jews of Our fortunate Country have received guarantees from which they benefit in exchange for their carrying out the conditions imposed by our religious Law on those people who enjoyed its protection: these conditions have been and still are observed by our coreligionists. If the Jews respect these conditions, Our Law prohibits the spilling of their blood and enjoins the protection of their belongings, but if they break so much as a single condition, [then] Our blessed Law permits their blood to be spilt and their belongings to be taken. Our glorious faith only allows them the marks of lowliness and degradation, thus the sole fact that a Jew raises his voice against a Muslim constitutes a violation of the conditions of protection.”
An example of the consequences of violating the Dhimma contract is given by a letter written by Porter, a British ambassador to Turkey to a colleague in London on June 3, 1758, about an unfortunate Jew and an Armenian who thought the dress codes had been forgotten. I include an excerpt below:
“This time of Ramazan is mostly taken up by day in sleep, by night in eating, so that we have few occurrences of any importance, except what the Grand Seignor [Sultan Mustafa III] himself affords us he is determin’d to keep to his laws, and to have them executed, that concerning dress has been often repeated, and with uncommon solemnity, yet as in the former reigns, after some weeks it was seldom attended to, but gradually transgress’d, these people whose ruling passion is directed that way, thought it was forgot, and betook themselves to their old course, a Jew on his Sabbath was the first victim, the Grand Seignor going the rounds incognito, met him, and not having the Executioner with him, without sending him [the Jew] to the Vizir, had him executed, and his throat cut that moment, the day after an Armenian follow’d, he was sent to the Vizir, who attempted to save him, and and condemn’d him to the Galleys, but the Capigilar Cheaia [head of the guards] came to the Porte at night, attended with the executioner, to know what was become of the delinquent, that first Minister had him brought directly from the Galleys and his head struck off, that he might inform his Master he had anticipated his Orders.”
Jews and Armenians as long as they meekly tolerated the depredations of Dhimmitude and obeyed all the rules were generally not killed outright because as jizya [tax] paying infidels they was considered a valuable commodity. Joan Peters, in her book From Time Immemorial, wrote how after the conquest of Alexandria, Caliph Omar received word from his general describing the wealth they had just attained.
“I have captured a city from the description of which I shall refrain. Suffice it to say that I have seized therein 4,000 villas with 4,000 baths, 40,000 poll-tax paying Jews and four hundred places of entertainment for the royalty."
Akyol responded to two quotes from the Koran from my previous article, by referring the reader to two articles he had written. In one of those articles “ Still Standing For Islam and Against Terrorism," Mr. Akyol, quoted Karen Armstrong’s writings about the aftermath of the fighting at Badr as follows:
“The Muslims were jubilant. They began to round up prisoners and, in the usual Arab fashion, started to kill them, but Muhammad put a stop to this. A revelation came down saying that the prisoners of war were to be ransomed. “
The quote chosen by Akyol demonstrates that money was what kept the Muslims from murdering the infidel. Ransom was why Muhammad put a stop to the Muslim murder of the prisoners of war from Badr. Money is the reason that subjugated people, who pay the jizya and karaj taxes are not killed.
Another argument in Akyol’s article is that according to Islam there is no compulsion in religion. Although Muslims have violated this law frequently, a recent example being the forced conversion of the wife of an Egyptian priest, there have actually been cases where they have compelled infidels not to convert.
Bernard Lewis, in his book The Arabs in History, wrote that during:
“the time of `Abd al-Malik the Muslim government actually resorted to discouraging conversion … in order to restore the failing revenues of the state."
In 1492, when Spain expelled the Jews, Sultan Bayazid II ordered the governors of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire "not to refuse the Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to receive them cordially." This act of kindness may have at least in part been motivated by financial need. The Sultan even said that: "the Catholic monarch Ferdinand was wrongly considered as wise, since he impoverished Spain by the expulsion of the Jews, and enriched Turkey".
Serge Trifkovic, in an article in Chronicles Magazine titled Turkey in the European Union: a lethal fait accompli (10/29/04), argued that tolerance did not play a role in the welcome extended to the Jews by Sultan Bayazid II. He wrote:
“The act that resonates with modern Ottoman apologists was the invitation to the Jews of Spain to resettle in the Sultan's lands after expulsion under Ferdinand and Isabella. They were invited not because of the Turks' 'tolerance,' however, but primarily because it was necessary to replace the vast numbers of Christians who had been killed, expelled, or reduced to penury, and thus to maintain the Sultan's tax base. The fact that the Ottoman Jews held a more favored status within the Empire than the giaours (infidel Christian dogs) is as much a reason for celebration of the Ottoman 'tolerance' as is the fact that the Nazis were somewhat more 'tolerant' of occupied Slavs than of the Jews."
The Jews of Turkey as a whole did not violate the Dhimma contract. The Armenians by rebelling and seeking assistance from foreign powers did violate the contract. The Zionist movement also violated the Dhimma contract by advocating an independent state of Israel. This is one explanation for the paradox of Turkey giving refuge to Jews and massacring Armenians and threatening to massacre Jews in Palestine.
A report of the Chief Dragoman (Turkish-speaking interpreter) of the British embassy regarding the 1894-96 massacres supports this explanation. He wrote:
"…[The perpetrators] are guided in their general action by the prescriptions of the Sheri [Sharia] Law. That law prescribes that if the 'rayah' [Dhimmi] Christian attempts, by having recourse to foreign powers, to overstep the limits of privileges allowed them by their Mussulman [Muslim] masters, and free themselves from their bondage, their lives and property are to be forfeited, and are at the mercy of the Mussulmans. To the Turkish mind the Armenians had tried to overstep those limits by appealing to foreign powers, especially England. They therefore considered it their religious duty and a righteous thing to destroy and seize the lives and properties of the Armenians…"
Violation of the Dhimma contract is not the only reason the Armenians of Turkey were massacred and the Jews of Palestine were threatened with massacre. The Jews of Palestine, and the Armenians of Turkey had one crucial thing in common that endangered them, Turkey was occupying their homeland and they wanted to liberate their homeland. The ultimate crime as far as the Turks were concerned was the Armenian, and Jewish desire for freedom, because in addition to violating the Dhimma contract, such freedom threatened the integrity of their empire.
Liberation, the Root Cause of Turkish Revenge
Turkish vengeance occurred when they felt there was a threat to the integrity of their empire. In April 1876 when Bulgarians fought for their freedom, the Turks committed mass slaughter in Bulgaria, killing 12000-15,000 Bulgarians.
Graber, in his book, Caravans to Oblivion, The Armenian Genocide, explained how the threat of Armenian liberation led to revenge by the Turkish authorities.
“It was in Geneva in 1887 that the first radical Armenian political organization was born. It was called Hunchak, meaning 'bell,' and it was revolutionary in its aims. It was followed in 1890 by the foundation of the much more important and longer lived Dashnakstutium. Both organizations called for an independent Armenia…This was basically a new position for the Armenians. Its effect on Abdulhamid was predictable. He felt he was faced with a sinister revolution that he must use all his resources to combat.
"When Armenian resistance first arose in 1893, however, it was not driven by urban radicals or intellectual leaders. Its voice was the Armenian peasantry in Sassun, deep in the Armenian mountains. It was not based primarily on a yearning for freedom; its cause was much nearer to the hearts of a peasant society. The wandering Kurdish tribes had been given tacit allowance by the sultan to extort the peasant Armenian communities in the way that gangsters extort protection money for use of their turf. According to the historian Christopher J. Walker, “The Kurdish aghas [commanders] used to demand from them a kind of protection tax – an annual due of crops, cattle, silver, iron ore…agricultural implements or clothes… In many places the Armenians were forced to pay double taxes…
"By 1892 Abdulhamid had authorized the formation of some thirty regiments of Hamideye, each about five hundred men strong and each composed of itinerant Kurds whose spoken or unspoken function was to suppress the Armenians. To defend themselves against the depredations of the Kurds and the corruption of the Turkish officials, Armenian peasants in the Sassun district retreated into the mountains and held out against successive attacks mounted by Kurds and regular Turkish army units. …
"In the end, despite some early success, the Armenian peasants were overrun and murdered – men, women and children – in their mountain hideouts.”
The Armenian desire for national liberation ultimately led to their destruction. Graber wrote that:
“In November 1914, the Russians published a declaration that promised national liberation to the Armenians on the condition that they oppose their Ottoman masters. Some Armenians answered the call; small numbers of Armenian soldiers deserted from the Turkish army and some in the areas of the battles gave assistance to the Russian forces... In the winter of 1914-15, the Ottoman army mounted a major attack against the Russians… Enver Pasha, who had assumed command of the Third Army, made fatal errors which led to the loss of most of his forces and the loss of wide stretches of territory to the Russian army. There are those who point to Enver Pasha’s direct responsibility for the military defeat as the motive for his search for a scapegoat; the Armenians were accused of treachery by Enver Pasha and his supporters. It was alleged that Armenian betrayal, according to the Empire’s rulers, had caused the defeat… To this day, the Turkish government claims the treachery of the Armenians as the explanation for what subsequently befell them.
"During the night, between April 23 and April 24, 1915, the Constantinople police broke into the homes of the Armenian elite in the city. Two hundred thirty five Armenian leaders politicians, writers, educators, lawyers, etc. – were taken to the police station and then deported.”
The method of elimination by deportation is explained by Graber as follows:
“The Young Turks had no railroad system to collect and dispose of the Armenians. Despite the efforts to proceed with the construction of the Berlin to Baghdad railroad, there were few miles of track available, and the condition of most highways was appalling. Consequently, those charged by the Teshkilati Mahsusa with the responsibility of eliminating the Armenian community evolved a system of such primitive brutality that even today, after our century has witnessed the indiscriminate massacre of many millions, the Ittihadist project still evokes the most fundamental feelings of revulsion. There is no doubt that if a more sophisticated machinery for slaughter had been available, the Young Turks would have used it. Lacking such machinery, their system of eradication worked along the following lines, as described by one scholar of the period:
"'Initially all the able-bodied men of a certain town or village would be ordered, either by a public crier or by an official proclamation nailed to the walls, to present themselves at the Konak [government building]. The proclamation stated that the Armenian population would be deported, gave the official reasons for it, and assured them that the government was benevolent. Once at the Konak, they would be jailed for a day or two. No reason was given. Then they would be led out of jail and marched out of town. At the first lonely halting place they would be shot, or bayoneted to death. Some days later the old men and the women and children were summoned in the same way; they were often given a few days grace, but then they had to leave. It was their misfortune not to be killed at the first desolate place. The government’s reasoning appears to have been: the men might pose a threat – leaders might spring up among them, who would defy the order; but why waste valuable lead on women, old men and children? Instead they were forced to walk, endlessly, along pre-arranged routes, until they died from thirst, hunger, exposure, or exhaustion.'"
Armenians were also slaughtered enroute. The following is a story of a young girl, who was deported:
“I was twelve years old, I was with my mother. They drove us with whips and we had no water. It was very hot and many of us died because there was no water. They drove us with whips, I do not know how many days and nights and weeks, until we came to the Arabian Desert. My sisters and the little baby died on the way. We went to a town, I do not know its name. The streets were full of dead, all cut to pieces. They drove us over them. I kept dreaming about that. We came to a place on the Desert, a hollow place in the sand, with hills all around it. There were thousands of us there, many, many thousands, all women and girl children. They herded us like sheep into the hollow. Then it was dark and we heard firing all around. We said, “The killing has begun.” All night we waited for them, my mother and I, we waited for them to reach us. But they did not come, and in the morning, when we looked around, no one was killed. No one was killed at all. They had not been killing us. They had been signaling to the wild tribes that we were there. The Kurds came later in the morning, in the daylight; the Kurds and many other kinds of men from the Desert; they came over the hills and rode down and began killing us. All day long they were killing; you see, there were so many of us. All they did not think they could sell, they killed. They kept on killing all night and in the morning—in the morning they killed my mother.”
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