This was genocide, but Armenians were not its only victims
Forgetting the Christians who were slaughtered is nearly as bad as denying it happened
Tuesday October 31, 2006
Timothy Garton Ash mockingly suggests bills to criminalise the denial of genocides committed by other countries, including France ( This is the moment for Europe to dismantle taboos, not erect them, October 19 ). And he’s right. Let’s mention the absurdity of enforcing the bill except against the powerless. Would France jail the prime minister of Turkey ?
But the double standard Garton Ash mentions should include the mind-boggling omissions by the Armenian drafters of the bill, who make no mention of the co-victims of the Armenian genocide : the Pontic Greeks, who lost 353,000 out of their population of 700,000 in Turkey ; and the Assyrians, who lost three-quarters of their population - some put the figure at 750,000.
There is also the matter of the other Asia Minor Greeks. At the Lausanne conference in 1923, Lord Curzon stated that 1 million Greeks had been slaughtered and 1 million more were exiled. These genocides took place at the same time and place as that of the Armenians : in Turkey between 1914 and 1923. The genocide was of the Christians of Ottoman and Kemalist Turkey. By age 10, my Pontic Greek mother had lost everyone and everything she had ever loved, including her name, on her own death-march to exile from Turkey in 1920. My father was Assyrian.
The precursor to the Nazi Holocaust was not just the Armenian genocide of 1915-16, but the pogroms, or early stages of what would become a genocide, against the indigenous Greeks of Asia Minor in 1914. According to US Consul General George Horton, Greek businesses were boycotted and Turks were encouraged to kill Greeks and drive them out, reminiscent of Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany 24 years later. Thousands were slaughtered or sent to islands in the Aegean Sea. According to the US ambassador to the Ottoman empire, Henry Morgenthau Sr, the Young Turks were so successful in their campaign that they decided to target the other Christian "races" as well. Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) picked up where the Young Turks left off.
The Armenian people are part of my extended family. My aunt was Armenian, as was the family who rescued my mother in Turkey. In Armenia, all victims of the genocide are honoured : Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians. But the framers of the French bill, along with numerous Armenian-descended historians in the US and elsewhere, prefer exclusivity.
Thus, if the bill passes the upper house of the French parliament, perhaps we should first jail its Armenian drafters, as well as those who actively deny the other genocides.
These co-victims had inhabited the territory of what became Turkey for three millennia. One must ask which is worse : genocidal denial, or being invisible as if one never existed ? At least with denial, there is the possibility of debate. The expropriation by a single group of such a monumental evil serves to strip the other, "nameless" victims of that same evil of their rightful place in history - thereby assuring that their genocide is complete.
· Thea Halo is the author of Not Even My Name, a memoir of her Pontic Greek mother, and has lectured for the International Association of Genocide Scholars
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