August 6, 1999
FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION AND PUBLICATION
"A statue of a killer amidst the descendants of his victims"
A reliable source has confirmed reports that the publisher of Athens News, Yannis Horn, has donated large sums of money for the erection of a statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Thessaloniki. Appended at the end of this message is the response by a veteran journalist confirming this disturbing news, that was also reported by Athens News itself.1
Given Ataturk's pivotal role in the massacre of tens of thousands of Greek Orthodox and Armenian Christians in Smyrna during Kemal's 1922 invasion and destruction of that once-cosmopolitan city; given the fact that Kemal was a high-ranking officer in the Young Turk government when it perpetrated the Armenian and Pontian Greek genocides and that his dictatorship established the Turkish state's official doctrine of denying and covering up these genocides; given that his regime's ethnic cleansing of over a million Greeks extinguished Asia Minor's indigenous Hellenic civilization from an area that it had flourished in for two millennia (see http://www.ahmp.org/1922nyt.html for reports of the 1922 holocaust by The New York Times); given Ataturk's brutal repression of practicing Muslims; and given the fact that Kemal Ataturk is directly responsible for creating the authoritarian militocracy that continues to rank as among the worst human rights violators on earth and as Europe's worst postwar transnational aggressor -- in effect the only nationalist-fascist government to have survived the WWII era to this day -- erecting an Ataturk monument would be unconscionable.
Historians of the period, genocide studies scholars, and human rights activists have opposed the veneration of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the past. When Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas was slated to star in what would have been a propaganda film glorifying Ataturk, protests led to his withdrawing after he learned about "how many Ataturk had killed" (Variety, July 21, 1998).
Athens News, Greek government officials, the mayor of Thessaloniki, and the Greek press must be urged by Hellenes, Armenians and people of conscience that the raising of an Ataturk monument in Thessaloniki would constitute an unconscionable act of genocide denial and a glorification of authoritarian rule.2
Moreover, given that the disparagement or criticism of Ataturk continues to be a criminal offense in Turkey, such a glorification of Ataturk would in effect constitute an exporting of Turkey's policy of censorship to Greece, an EU democracy.
Many have argued that erecting such a statue would constitute a good-faith gesture towards Greco-Turkish reconciliation given the subsequent period of detente between both nations that Ataturk helped usher in while he busied himself reconstructing Turkey into a secular, totalitarian, nationalist state. Yet the torturing of history, the denial of crimes against humanity, the veneration of a ruthless dictator, and the encouragement of Turkey's Stalinesque deification of Ataturk is a wholly inappropriate vehicle for achieving this end.
Arguments advocating the collective guilt of Asia Minor's indigenous Greek population and the fact that the mass slaughters of populations and other horrors perpetrated under Ataturk's command were effected during a time of war, should make any decent-minded person recoil in horror: both the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust were perpetrated under cover of war, and these very same arguments have been used by apologists of these and other horrors to alternatively justify or excuse them.
If most Greeks would not stand for the erection of a statue venerating Papadopoulos or the colonels of junta-era Greece, then why should they countenance the erection of a statue venerating a dictator who was directly responsible for the death and repression of exponentially more people, and who was responsible for one of the most repressive regimes in the world?
While some accounts indicate that the Ataturk statue may be placed in the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki, one wonders whether the Turkish government would allow a statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis to be erected in the Greek Embassy in Ankara; of Metropolitan Chrysostomos, who was seized by Kemal's troops while conducting religious services in Smyrna's cathedral and was dismembered in the streets, in Izmir; or of Abdullah Ocalan in Diyarbakir.
Appended below is a reminder of the vital symbolic importance of the Ataturk cult to Turkey's self-image, and to this image's projection abroad. The Turkish newspaper Hurryiet reported an, as of yet unconfirmed, account of a $65 million Hollywood blockbuster film about Ataturk, starring Nick Nolte and Ben Kingsley, to be financed by three Turkish businessman and to be filmed in Turkey.3
Particularly given the influx of Asia Minor refugees to Macedonia and Thessaloniki after the 1922 holocaust, one commentator reacted in disbelief upon hearing the news of the Ataturk monument: "a statue of a killer amidst the descendants of his victims".
The reason why the Turkish government and Turkish apologists are so eager for Greeks to erect such a statue in Greece is because it would not only serve as an enormous propaganda coup in furtherance of the Turkish state's doctrine of denial and a validation of its militocracy, but would also signal a policy of Greece's subordination to Turkish military ascendancy and regional authority.
P. D. Spyropoulos
American Hellenic Media Project
P.O. Box 1150
New York, N.Y. 10028-0008
1 "Yes, confirming that the publisher of the Athens News, Yannis Horn, has commissioned statues for both Kemal Ataturk to be set up in Thessaloniki, his birthplace, and for Venizelos in his own birthplace at Mouries, Crete.
Horn's latest donation (this week) was fifteen million drachmas. On Thursday Yannis Horn was visited at his home by Turkish ambassador Ali Tuygan and thanked for his donation, according to the Athens News."
2 The Athens news can be contacted via e-mail at AthNews@dolnet.gr and at:
3 C. Lada Str.
Athens 10237, Greece
A helpful website with some e-mail contact information for the Greek Government is http://www.webexpert.net/VASILIOS/LINKS1.htm#GOVERMENT. Some further e-mail contacts are:
PRIME MINISTER CONSTANTINE SIMITIS
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS
MINISTRY OF CULTURE
MINISTRY OF MACEDONIA-THRACE
MINISTRY OF THE AEGEAN
MINISTRY OF PRESS AND MASS MEDIA
ASSOCIATION OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES OF GREATER THESSALONIKI AREA
DIMOS KALAMARIAS ON-LINE
MUNICIPALITY OF THESSALONIKI
PREFECTURE OF THESSALONIKI
3 "An agreement to produce a film "The Blond Wolf " , depicting the life of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey has been signed in Hollywood. Adnan Polat, Kemal Ulusoy and Arif Keskin are three idealist businessmen who signed the agreement with CityCapital. The film will cover Ataturk's life from the occupation of Istanbul (1918) to the attempt on his life in 1926.
Gray Frederickson , nine time Oscar nominee, who has worked with Francis Coppola on Godfather II and III, and with many stars such as Brando, Redford, Burton, Eastwood will produce this film. Featured will be Nick Nolte as Ataturk ,Jacqueline Bisset, Sir Richard Attenborogh and Ben Kingsley.
To be filmed in Turkey and Hollywood, the cost of $62 million will be 85% financed in the US.
Ulusoy said that support from Mose Dayan's daughter, members of Knesset and other Jewish friends of Turkey were secured in overcoming Armenian and Greek opposition to making this film." (Hurriyet, "Agreement to Produce 'The Blond Wolf Signed'", July 23, 1999).
NOTE: Ataturk Film Update; a reply from Ben Kingsley's agent in response to AHMP's query:
August 6, 1999
Dear Mr. Spyropoulos -
I've never heard of such a film, nor has Ben Kingsley ever read any script of such a film. He's certainly never agreed to be in this or any film on the subject. Thank you -
Read an eye-popping article written by Yiannis Horn, founder and former publisher of Athens News, and sponsor of the Ataturk statue
NOTE: Yiannis Horn passed away on October 15, 1999 at the age of 88.