Please find below:
(1) AHMP's full response to the Irish Times;
(2) Article that was responded to by Irish Times correspondent Kevin Myers; and
(3) AHMP’s response, as published by The Irish Times
American Hellenic Media Project
P.O. Box 1150
New York, N.Y. 10028-0008
To the Editor of The Irish Times:
Kevin Myers becomes a minister of hate and genocide denial when he presents as fact the revisionist view—advocated verbatim by top-notch spindoctors and PR firms at great financial expense to the Turkish Government—that the myriad accounts by peoples across different time periods of Ottoman brutality and exterminationist policies towards that empire’s Greek, Armenian and other Christian populations are simply founded upon "ignorance" (An Irishman's Diary, Wednesday, June 24th).
Myers’ wholesale denial of the relegation of an entire peoples to a subhuman status, the giaours (meaning ‘Christian infidel dogs’, as Greeks and Armenians were commonly referred to by the Ottomans), by arguing that "many Greeks - the Phanariots - were in fact prospering enormously" is as disingenuous as heralding Nazi-era Germany as a model of tolerance because it too allowed a Jewish elite to escape the horrors of the Holocaust and, at times, even prosper.
Perhaps most disturbing are Myers’ clearly misleading statements about the Greek Revolution of 1821, an ancient and highly accomplished people’s bid for independence from arguably the most brutal and culturally retarding occupation a European peoples had ever endured.
In this regard, Myers arrogantly dismisses Byron as being "ignorant" and a "fool"—summarily discounting a struggle so epic that Byron, Shelley, Eugene Delacroix, Hiram Powers, Thomas Jefferson and countless others of the West’s greatest artists, intellectuals and politicians immortalized it in poems, paintings, essays, musical compositions, statues and relief programs. Myer’s absurd claim—that this was simply an "‘uprising’ largely consist[ing] of the massacre of Turkish civilians" with an aim that "was not freedom for Greece, or anywhere else for that matter, but the establishment of Greek Phanariot mastery over the Ottoman Empire"—can be debunked by even a cursory examination of contemporary historical accounts of the period. Blaming the group victimized by what has come to be known as the four-century-long "Turkish Night", and concealing material facts of the period, does more than simply reveal an irresponsible disregard for historical truth but betrays an ugly ethnic bias more suited to a lunatic misograecist fringe than to a serious journalist.
Even more troubling is his obfuscation of the scope of the Turks’ genocidal reaction to the Greek Revolution when he implies that "the Ottoman response" was limited to "the hanging of the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, along with some of his bishops".
Any sober and responsible examination of what Hellenes and other Orthodox Christians consider to be their own Dark Ages bears out the stark reality that most Christian populations fated to endure Turkish domination survived through a nightmarish existence decent-minded people would not wish upon their worst enemies. The historical record is indeed pregnant with accounts of entire populations that were wiped out in regional genocides with a personalized brutality that would make modern warfare look antiseptic by comparison (save genocides such as Rwanda’s where the perpetrators still used the old-fashioned methods of hacking, raping and torturing their victims to death).
"The Massacre of Chios: Greek families awaiting death or slavery"—painted by French master Eugene Delacroix and often described as the Guernica of the 19th century—portrayed the fact of an entire Aegean island’s extermination. Were this horror simply an exception to Ottoman tolerance, it would indeed be unfair to condemn the whole of the Turkish occupation as barbarous. Yet the staggering truth is that the Chios Genocide (for that is what it would have been called had that word been in use) was simply one of a long list of similar atrocities Greeks, Armenians and other Christians have had to endure under Turkish rule.
Since the three-day slaughter of Constantinople’s Greek population after its 1453 conquest by Mehmet the Conqueror, a visitor willing to do her homework will find that practically every region in Greece holds histories rife with the apocalyptic carnage of entire populations at the hands of their Turkish conquerors. While the rest of Europe was undergoing an unprecedented renaissance of Greek knowledge and ideals, fueled in large part by Byzantine scholars and artists fleeing Ottoman conquest, the Greeks themselves were frozen for four centuries in a feudalistic dark age under Turkish rule.
By most accounts Greek children were forced to secretly study their own culture, religion and language at night under pain of death for both teachers and students if discovered. The Orthodox population was often forced to convert to Islam to escape death or extreme forms of persecution and discrimination. The Christians had to pay a "head tax", the penalty for evasion being decapitation, and a jannisary tax, under which Greek children were forcibly taken from their families to be converted to Islam and trained as fanatic holy warriors used to kill other Christians.
Greek communities that had populated Asia Minor, the Black Sea region, North Africa and the Balkans since ancient times have now all but disappeared. Indigenous Hellenic peoples in Greece, Cyprus, Albania, the Black Sea area and elsewhere are now but a fraction of what their numbers would have been had they not been annihilated or forced to convert. This has led many to aptly characterize this darkest and most tragic period in Greek history as a "slow-motion genocide".
The dark irony is that this pattern of de-Hellenization that started under the Ottoman Turks has been continuing into our own time. Over two million Greeks were ethnically cleansed from their ancient homeland in Asia Minor during the first three decades of this century. The genocide of 350,000 Pontian Greeks from the Black Sea region came first. Then, after Greece lost its irredentist war with Turkey in 1922, millions more were forcibly expelled amidst mass slaughters and death marches.
The government-sponsored pogroms of the 1950’s, during which scores of Greeks in Istanbul were lynched, killed and raped, and hundreds of their properties destroyed, reduced the remaining population there from 200,000 to less than 2,000 today. Despite international legal protections, the indigenous Greek population on the Aegean islands of Imbros and Tenedos have also been forced out of lands they had inhabited for millennia. When Cyprus was invaded by Turkey in 1974, the same pattern of killings, atrocities and ethnic cleansing all but eliminated that island’s Hellenic population from the occupied north.
Kevin Myers asserts of the Turkish victory over the Allies at Gallipoli, that "[f]ortunately for us all, Ottoman forces were successful; the right side won, and the allies were expelled." Yet genocide scholars have marked this "fortunate" victory as the clarion call that ushered in the Armenian Genocide, as the Turkish leadership understood that it was now able to effect its exterminationist policies against its Armenian and Pontian Greek minorities without fear of foreign intervention.
In addition Myers’ claim that the Turks were "[driven] into the arms of Germany" during WWI by the British seizure of two warships is naive. Turkey’ s close ties to Germany were clearly evident even before the start of the war and Britain’s seizure of the ships was effected only after it became clear that any more wooing by Britain for an alliance with Turkey would prove ineffective and would place the Allies at a strategic disadvantage.
Moreover, Turkey’s subsequent behavior clearly negates Myers’ preposterous assertion that it is as a result of "Byron's poisonous legacy" that Turkey has been alienated from the West. The reality is that Turkey has consistently held true to its Ottoman legacy of gravitating towards authoritarian repression internally and imperialistic expansionism abroad.
Though officially neutral on paper during WWII, Turkey was effectively allied with Germany and, according to a report recently released by US Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat, Turkish assistance to Germany was "as crucial to the Nazi war effort as Switzerland" and constituted a "substantial contribution to the economic foundations of the Nazi war effort" while Turkey sent Germany chromite, including 100 percent of Germany's 1943 requirement, for hardening steel to make armor. Moreover, it is Turkey’s continued lack of genuine allegiance to fundamental Western ideals of democracy, not "ignorance" or "Byronesque romanticism", that in large part resulted in the EU’s recent exclusion of Turkey as the EU responded to Turkey’s abysmal human rights record and its policies of aggression against Cyprus and Greece.
Finally, that an empire which incorporated millions and spanned across thousands of miles and hundreds of years would indeed have a multifaceted, complex and morally diverse history should be rather obvious. Yet the Irish Times’ correspondent seems to believe that this "complexity" somehow negates fundamental realities of the Ottoman and Turkish past. That Armenian resistance groups did battle with Turks during and after WWI, that Germans were killed by Jews in concentration camps and ethnically cleansed by the millions from eastern Europe at the close of WWII, that Native American tribes committed heinous massacres of Anglo settlers, that Tutsi militants exterminated tens of thousands of Hutus after 1994, that IRA terrorists bomb and kill British civilians, that the first anti-Semitic pogrom of 1930’s Germany was triggered by a Jewish terrorist’s assassination of a German diplomat, that scores of Turkish Cypriots had been killed in clashes with Greek Cypriots and that the Turkish Cypriot community suffered widespread discrimination, that West Africans themselves had slaves and sold fellow Africans to white slave traders en mass, that Khmer Rouge adherents suffered widespread killings when the North Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1979, and that Greek rebels no doubt slaughtered Turkish civilians during the bloody reprisals and counter-reprisals that characterized the Greek War of Independence are but a few examples of the gray that has indeed pervaded the human experience. Yet this mature understanding of History with all of its inconsistencies and moral ambiguities, should not serve as a vehicle to deny or minimize the horrors of the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the destruction of America's Native American peoples and cultures, the genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsis, British imperialism into northern Ireland, Kristallnacht, the invasion and ethnic cleansing of Cyprus’ Greek population, the slavery of black Africans, the Cambodian democide, or the Turkish Night.
The danger of rationalizations of denial such as those proffered by Mr. Myers are twofold. First, by denying the fact of genocide, slavery or any other severe persecution of a people we not only become accomplices by destroying the victims’ memory and denying them their human dignity but we also assure that the ground for such future tragedies is laid fertile once more.
Second, by obscuring the past we run the risk of misunderstanding the present and thus rob ourselves of the necessary tools to chart a course for our future. Myers himself falls into this trap by plainly misreading the history of the Balkans and Middle East, in fact turning it on its head. He blames the "massacre[s], ethnic cleansing and vast population transfers" of the area on "the Ottomans[’ lost] stewardship of those imperial territories" but fails to recognize that it is the institutionalized inhumanity and cultural regression of the Ottoman past that best explains why great civilizations such as those of the Byzantines, Arabs and Persians had suddenly been reduced to repressive backwaters after their Turkish conquest.
These survivors of the Ottoman holocaust took away more from their condition than just Turkish coffee. In addition to all the neuroses, fears and other dysfunctions that drive victims of serious abuse or cruelty to often emulate their perpetrators, the Ottomans’ subject peoples also took away with them their masters’ culture of brutality. By denying this past we run the risk of making all the same mistakes again: by obliging the Turks their present imperial aspirations as regional hegemons by encouraging their increased intervention in Balkan affairs—such as their instigation of Albanian and Bosnian Muslim militancy—and by facilitating their expansionism in Cyprus, Iraq, Syria and Greece, we run the risk of perpetuating the cycle of brutality and authoritarian rule that still plagues the former dominions of the Ottoman Empire.
Very truly yours,
P. D. Spyropoulos, Esq. Director
Please find below the full text of the article responded to.
For "fair use" and educational purposes only.
The Irish Times
Wednesday, June 24, 1998
An Irishman's Diary
"The mountain looks on Marathon, And Marathon looks on the sea; And musing there an hour alone, I dreamed that Greece might still be free." Few words in the English language have such a lasting impact on popular opinion. Their composer, Byron, of course knew next to nothing about Greek nationalism, or of the complex nature of the relationship between Turk and Greek in the Ottoman Empire, in which many Greeks - the Phanariots - were in fact prospering enormously.
Ignorance didn't stop the poor fool meddling in business which wasn't his, and dying, and thereby adding an enduring lustre to the Greek nationalist argument in a dispute in which no outsider sensibly enters. Byron, freedom: those words have entered the popular perception of what the Greek uprising of 1820 was about, obscuring the truth that the Greek "uprising" largely consisted of the massacre of Turkish civilians.
No doubt the Ottoman response - the hanging of the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, along with some of his bishops, on Easter eve, was a little excessive. But the place is called Byzantium, and only fools like Byron think they understand it, or "freedom". The aim of many of the Greek revolutionaries, for example, was not freedom for Greece, or anywhere else for that matter, but the establishment of Greek Phanariot mastery over the Ottoman Empire.
A complex empire
Yet ignorance and Byronesque romanticism have combined to colour prejudices in western Europe towards the Ottoman Empire, which came to be caricatured as sick, diseased, incapable and venal: unlike, for example, the manly, vigorous and civilising empires of western Europe.
All rubbish of course. The Ottomans ran one of the most complex empires in the world with a great deal of imagination and legal sophistication and - a word not often used about the Ottomans - fairness. People of any nationality - Jews, Armenians, Kurds, Orthodox - could advance in the Ottoman Empire, provided they were loyal. We know since the Ottomans lost their stewardship of those imperial territories, nobody has been able to impose peaceful, democratic government on them successfully. Massacre, ethnic cleansing and vast population transfers occurred, not merely through the Aegean islands, but in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kurdistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria as well. The post- imperial history of those countries makes the Ottoman achievement all the most astonishing.
That achievement was brought to ruins - as was so much else - by the Great War, Turkey's reluctant involvement in which was in large part due to Byron's poisonous legacy. A reflex anti-Turkishness had entered the political culture of western Europe, and an aim which had been a keystone to policy in the area -keeping Russian hands off Constantinople - was abandoned by the British and the French. This was political idiocy of high and almost suicidal degree, the consequences of which the world has been living with since.
The only consolation is, it could have been far worse. Had the allied Gallipoli expedition been successful and Russia then been given Constantinople, we might have the glorious prospect of the Soviet Union, operating out of that lovely warmwater port, becoming a Mediterranean sea-power. The world would have been unthinkably different, and unthinkably more terrible too.
Act of stupidity
What drove the Turks into the arms of Germany was an act of such casual stupidity that it should have doomed the reputation of its author down the ages. It was the seizure by the British of two war-ships, Sultan Osman and Reshadieh, paid for by popular subscription in Turkey, which were building in British shipyards when war broke out. The man who pressed for the requisitioning of the ships was the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, who within five years was to give the world the Black and Tans. His piracy also had an Anglo-Irish dimension - Sultan Osman was renamed Agincourt and Reshadieh was commissioned as Erin.
How elegant that a warship called the Erin could have been a cause for thousands of Irish soldiers to find themselves serving in the invasion forces which landed in Gallipoli in 1915, and wasting their young lives in the wrong cause; for it would have been a calamity of grotesque proportions had that invasion been successful and Russian had been given dominion of Constantinople and the Bosphorus. Fortunately for us all, Ottoman forces were successful; the right side won, and the allies were expelled, at a total cost of half a million casualties. It is tragedy too terrible to contemplate.
The Australians have manufactured a heritage-history out of the Gallipoli affair; and we have largely forgotten it. Has any Leaving or Inter Cert ever mentioned it? But the Turks have an altogether more terrible memory of the campaign, which consumed lives and the loyalty of the most energetic of their young men, crippling their country for a generation or more.
It is a side to the Great War we seldom hear about - in part because of the magnanimity of Ataturk towards the memory of dead invaders in the years after the war. He could, in fairness, have lamented more loudly about the injustice done to his fellow countrymen. What we do not know about the suffering of unfortunate Turks might be rectified at 7.30 tomorrow night at the New National Museum, Collins Barracks, when Professor Mete Tuncoku will speak of the appalling consequences for Turkey of a campaign which once joined us in conflict from the two extremes of Europe, and which today should unite us.
The Irish Times
July 14, 1998, CITY EDITION
SECTION: EDITORIAL PAGE; LETTERS TO THE EDITOR; Pg. 17
LENGTH: 258 words
HEADLINE: The Ottoman Empire
Sir, - Kevin Myers plainly misreads the history of the Balkans and Middle East, in fact turns it on its head, when he blames the "massacres, ethnic cleansing and vast population transfers" of the area on "the Ottoman's lost stewardship of those imperial territories" (An Irishman's Diary, June 24th).
Myers fails to recognise that it is the institutionalised inhumanity and cultural regression of the Ottoman past that best explains why great civilizations such as those of the Byzantines, Arabs and Persians had suddenly been reduced to repressive backwaters after their Turkish conquest.
These survivors of the Ottoman holocaust took away more from their condition than just Turkish coffee. In addition to all the neuroses, fears and other dysfunctions that drive victims of serious abuse or cruelty to often emulate their perpetrators, the Ottoman's subject peoples also took away with them their masters' culture of brutality.
By denying this past, we run the risk of making all the same mistakes again. By obliging the Turks in their present imperial aspirations as regional hegemons, by encouraging their increased intervention in Balkan affairs, such as their instigation of Albanian and Bosnian Muslim militancy, and by facilitating their expansionism in Cyprus, Iraq, Syria and Greece, we run the risk of perpetuating the cycle of brutality and authoritarian rule that still plagues the former dominions of the Ottoman Empire. - Yours, etc., P. D. Spyropoulos,
Director, American Hellenic Media Project, New York, USA.