- Apollon Bairaktaridis
19th of May – The Memorial Day of the Pontic Greek Genocide
Joe Biden’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide made headlines in international newspapers. While the Turkish state condemned that event as a historic instrumentalization for political affairs, Armenians all over the world felt justified that the acts that were executed against their ancestors are now at least recognized as crimes. But Biden’s recognitions strengthened the hope for other descendants of the people that lived also in Asia Minor under Ottoman authorities and experienced atrocities similar to the Armenians.
May 19 th marks the Memorial Day of one of these minorities: The Pontic Greeks. An estimated number of 353.000 people lost their life while facing inhumane conditions. The systematic killing occurred during World War l and its aftermath, in a period that lasted 8 years (1914-1922).
During the Great War, Greece and the Ottoman Empire found themselves supporting different sides as Greece was an ally of the British Empire and the Ottoman an ally of the German Empire. In the aftermath of World War l, another clash between those powers occurred in the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), which resulted in a defeat for Greece.
In this context the Turkish National Movement noted that different minorities in a diverse Asia Minor region could be recognized as a threat to their interests. The possibility that they could be inspired to pursue their own national liberation was a key concern for Ottoman authorities. Forced deportations, death marches, massacres and summary executions were the acts that suited Turks as a solution totheir problem. Although ca. 353.000 Pontic Greek lost their life the official numberswere much higher including also the other Greeks of Asia Minor.
Chancellor of Germany Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg reported in 1917 about the upcoming tragedy that the indications are that the Turks plan to eliminate the Greek element as enemies of the state, as they did earlier with the Armenians. According to the US ambassador in the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau (father to future United States Secretary of the Treasury under President Franklin Roosevelt) the acts against the Greek Minority were quite similar to the acts against the Armenian Minority. According to the New York Times, Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the word genocide in the early 1940s for the suffering of the Jewish Minorities in Europe, stated that Genocide was no new phenomenon… and the massacres of Greeks and Armenians by the Turks qualified as such.
In December 2007, the genocide was officially recognized by the IAGS (International Association of Genocide Scholars). The genocide is not only recognized by Greece and Cyprus, but also from other states. On March 11 th , 2010 Sweden followed by recognizing it next to the other genocides of other minorities such as the Assyrians/ Syriacs/Chaldeans and Armenians. In 2013, it was the turn of the government of New South Wales in Australia. The last recognitions followed in the year 2015 by Armenia, Austria and the Netherlands.
If Joe Biden will follow his course as he did with the Armenian Genocide is something that only the future can reveal to us. A decision like that would probably provoke alsosimilar actions by the United Nations, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, institutions which have not recognized these events as a genocide yet.