RECOGNISING GENOCIDE PART 4
Significant massacres of civilians took place in the Yalova peninsula region. On 16 October 1920 for example, the Greek army captured Orhangazi after resistance by Turkish militias. The next day there was a massacre in the nearby Turkish village of Çakırlı. According to accounts, the males of the village were locked in the local mosque by the Greek army, where they were burned alive and/or shot. Two days later on 18 October 1920 the nearby Turkish village of Üreğil was burnt. On 16 April, the some 1,000 Turkish inhabitants of Orhangazi were deported to Gemlik by the Greek army while the town was burned down. The next day, there was a massacre in the village of Gedelek, because the population could not pay the amount of 4,000 Lira as protection money.
Just as the incidences that comprise the Genocide were widely reported by the western press, so too were the Greek massacres of Muslim civilians. In May 1921, a Inter-Allied commission, consisting of British, French, and Italian officers, and the representative of the International Red Cross, Maurice Gehri, was set up to investigate claims of massacres. In 13 May 1921 the commission started its proceedings by visiting the burned villages of Çertekici, Çengiler and Gedik. There they listened to accounts of massacre, robbery and rape and reported that the Turkish refugees from the destroyed villages lived in very crowded conditions, most of them sleeping in the courtyards of mosques and graveyards. In the following days, the commission would investigate the destruction of numerous other villages, accompanied with stories of arbitrary executions, rape and robbery, mostly by members of the Greek army, but also by local Greeks and Armenians.
The Inter-Allied commission prepared two separate collaborative reports on their investigations in the Yalova Peninsula. These reports found that Greek forces committed systematic atrocities against the Turkish inhabitants, including the "burning and looting of Turkish villages", the "explosion of violence of Greeks and Armenians against the Turks", and "a systematic plan of destruction and extinction of the Moslem population". A section of the report read as follows:
“A distinct and regular method appears to have been followed in the destruction of villages, group by group, for the last two months... there is a systematic plan of destruction of Turkish villages and extinction of the Muslim population. This plan is being carried out by Greek and Armenian bands, which appear to operate under Greek instructions and sometimes even with the assistance of detachments of regular troops.”
The Inter-Allied commission also stated that the destruction of villages and the disappearance of the Muslim population might have as its objective to create in this region a political situation favourable to the Greek Government.
When confronted by this information, most Greeks become indignant. Being a noble and high people, it appears impossible that such crimes could have been committed. After all, we are the victims are we not? They either deny its authenticity or seek to excuse massacres by stating that they took place in the context of a bloody war, by an army and a people seeking revenge for centuries of ill-treatment and Genocide and that any rate, any atrocities that were committed by the Greeks pale in comparison to the organized genocide of the Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks of Asia Minor, which largely took place prior to the Greek Army’s occupation of Smyrna after 1919 and which, certainly in the case of the Armenians and the Assyrians, had nothing to do with any conflict with Greece.
Taner Akcam is right in stating that Genocide should be differentiated from war casualties and that Turkey cannot shrink from its liability with regard to the Genocide by citing other massacres by way of excuse. However, the urge to commit harm is not restricted to one race alone. It lurks within all people and can be manipulated with disastrous results, as was proved in Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Bosnia and the Ottoman Empire. The campaign for recognition of the Genocide of the Christian peoples of Anatolia is but one of many righteous steps that need to be undertaken so that brutality, in all its forms can be condemned and arrested. It is in this context that we need to take the first step, mindful always that we need to be true to the memories of the innocent victims who lost their lives at the hands of the intolerant. Once we hold out our hand, recognizing our own imperfections but resolving never to repeat them, we can only hope that it will be clasped by those who finally understand that there is nothing to be lost but everything to be gained in repentance.