Some of the policies and actions that differentiate the Republic of Turkey from other nations are not only its proud and aggressive denial of the many crimes it has committed over the decades, but also its physical and verbal attacks – internationally – against the descendants of the survivors of these crimes.
These attacks include vandalism against genocide memorials outside Turkey, diplomatic pressure on governments that recognize the genocide, as well as those that erect monuments to commemorate the victims and carry out other commemorative activities.
The greatest crime of the Turkish nation was the genocide committed between 1913 and 1923 against Assyrian, Armenian and Greek Christians in Ottoman Turkey. Around 3.5 million Christians were killed in this jihad genocide”, which targeted them because of their religion and ethnicity in an attempt to create “Turkey for the Turks”.
In 2007, the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) recognized the genocide as such and called on “the Turkish government to recognize the genocides perpetrated against these populations, to present an official apology and to take rapid and meaningful steps towards restitution”.
Many genocide survivors fled or were deported to European and other countries. Their descendants have since campaigned for international recognition of their suffering. In response, Turkish governments and Turkish nationalists attempted to silence their efforts.
On August 27, a monument in Jette, a commune in the Brussels Region in Belgium, commemorates the victims of the Assyrian genocide was vandalized and defaced with derogatory remarks. A Jette municipal official I contacted said “they opened an investigation into the incident but could not identify the perpetrators on security cameras.”
This is not the first time that a genocide memorial has been desecrated in Belgium. A memorial to the victims of the Armenian genocide of 1915 located in Ixelles, a Brussels commune, was vandalized in April Last year.
The monument was degraded with an insult that appeared to say “F*** Paylan” (referring to Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish parliament) and three crescent moons, a reference to the Ottoman flag and Turkish-Islamic nationalism.
A statement from the Committee of Armenians of Belgium appeals of public condemnation: “In the name of living together and the fight against all forms of racism, the Committee calls on public figures and associations to recognize that this is incitement to hatred. We call in particular on associations of communities of Turkish origin to condemn this act.”
Genocide memorials in France have also been subject to Turkish aggression: for example, an Armenian genocide memorial center outside Lyon was defaced in 2020 with pro-Turkish slogans including “Grey Wolves” and “RTE” (a reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan).
Following this incident, the French Minister of the Interior, Gérard Darmanin, announcement on Twitter that the Turkish group Gray Wolves was banned in France. “He incites discrimination and hatred and is involved in violent actions,” he wrote. THE Gray Wolves are a violent, fascist Turkish supremacist group aiming to establish a Turkish empire from the Balkans to Central Asia.
Further afield, Australia has witnessed Turkish attacks on genocide victims. In 2015, a monument to the victims of the Assyrian genocide in Sydney has been degraded with Nazi imagery and abuse towards Jews, Armenians and Assyrians. Australian media reported that this was the third time the memorial had been vandalized since it was erected in 2010.
Greece was also targeted by Turks for commemorating the Turkish genocide against ethnic Greeks in Anatolia. Around 350,000 Pontic Greeks, who lived in the towns along the Black Sea (Pontus), were among the victims of the vast war of 1913-1923. Greek genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire and Turkish nationalists. Many descendants of genocide survivors now live in Greece. The Greek government commemorates this genocide every year to which Turkey traditionally responds with anger and condemnation.
In 2006, for example, after inaugurating a memorial in the Greek city of Thessaloniki dedicated to the victims of the Pontic Greek genocide, the Turkish Foreign Ministry declared on its official website, that they were “saddened” by its opening and that “allegations of the so-called “Pontic genocide” have no historical or scientific basis and are intended only to distort historical facts.
In 2022, on the 103rd anniversary of the genocide of the Pontic Greeks, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou issued a statement in which she called on the international community to recognize the systematic extermination of the Pontic Greeks by the Turks. She said, in part:
The international community has a clear obligation to safeguard historical knowledge by recognizing this unacceptable crime. Today’s anniversary in particular, which comes at a time when authoritarian revisionism poses a direct threat to global stability, serves as a deterrent so that we never face such atrocities again.
Turkey, in response, castigated, with its Foreign Office issuing a statement saying:
We categorically reject the illusory statements made by the Greek authorities under the pretext of the anniversary of the unfounded “Pontic” claims, which completely distort history. It is clear that the efforts of those who try to draw enmity from history and mislead younger generations will not serve peace and stability.
Turkey’s efforts to erase the memory of its Christian genocide have also reached Israel.
In March 2023, a square dedicated to the Armenian genocide was inaugurated in the Israeli city of Haifa. The Armenian National Committee of Jerusalem said that the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv “exerted strong pressure” on city officials to renounce the name of the square and the inauguration event.
The Turkish ambassador to Israel also protested the name of the square. The initiative “carries a strong potential for deterioration of those ties that the people and governments of Israel and Turkey wish to improve.” wrote Sakir Özkan Torunlar in a letter to Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem. Torunlar, in his letter, required that the mayor reversed the decision to commemorate the genocide by giving a name to the square, and falsely claimed that “such an act of genocide had never been committed in the history of the Turkish nation.”
As Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, Remarksdenial is the last stage of genocide:
It is one of the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. Genocide perpetrators dig mass graves, burn bodies, attempt to hide evidence and intimidate witnesses. They deny having committed crimes and often blame the victims for the events. They block investigations into crimes and continue to rule until they are forcibly removed from power, then flee into exile. They remain there with complete impunity, like Pol Pot or Idi Amin, unless they are captured and a tribunal is established to try them. The response to denial is punishment from an international court or national courts. There, the evidence is heard and the guilty are punished. Tribunals like the Yugoslav or Rwandan tribunals, the tribunal responsible for trying the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia or the International Criminal Court may not deter the worst killers. But with the political will to arrest and prosecute them, some could be brought to justice. And such tribunals could deter future potential genocidaires who will never again be able to share Hitler’s expectation of impunity when he sneered: “Who, after all, remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Despite killing, expelling or persecuting hundreds of thousands of its own citizens during the genocide, the Turkish government escaped accountability. Additionally, Turkey has accelerated its efforts to prevent other governments from recognizing the genocide. When the Swedish parliament recognized During the 2010 Armenian genocide, for example, Turkey condemned the resolution and recalled its ambassador to Sweden.
Since Turkey enjoys total impunity, it continues to commit similar crimes. For example, Turkey has helped its ally, Azerbaijan, in its famine of 120,000 Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh over the past nine months. On September 19, Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkey, launched a new military assault against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, killing children, destroying homes and terrorizing starving families. The Azerbaijani invasion resulted in the forced displacement of Armenians from their homeland, where they have lived for millennia.
The Turkish army also Occupied Northern Cyprus since 1974 and part of northern Syria since 2016. The Turkish army regularly violates Greek airspace And territorial waters, increasing tensions in the Aegean Sea. The Turkish army regularly bombs Iraq in the name of the “fight against PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) terrorism” while terrorizing Yazidis, AssyriansAnd Kurds in Iraq. In Turkey, human rights violations are numerous, such as torture against prisoners And arbitrary arrests of political dissidents. All the crimes Turkey commits today occur alongside its denial of the Christian genocide of 1913-1923.
A denied genocide is a continued genocide. If a government can so easily massacre 3.5 million people, it has reason to assume it can get away with everything else. But no matter what kind of pressure Turkey exerts on governments to make them forget its massacres of Christians, the civilized world must stand with the victims and hold the Turkish government accountable for its past and present crimes.