Black September | archives, opinions, guest columnists
The dark anniversary of September 6 commemorated the anti-Greek and anti-Christian pogroms that were directed against the Greek Orthodox community in Constantinople in 1955. That night, the Turkish government organized riots against the Christian Greeks in order to assert its claims on the island. from Cyprus. Last April, the Greeks of Cyprus, who made up 80% of the population of Cyprus, rose up against
British rule and started the fight for ‘Enosis’ (Union) with Greece. The British responded not only by imposing policies of repression against the Greeks, but actively encouraged Turkey to present claims on Cyprus despite the fact that Ankara renounced its claims to Cyprus in 1923 at the Peace Conference of Lausanne.
The British are actively encouraging Turkey to organize demonstrations against the Greek liberation of Cyprus. This led the Turkish government to bring in criminal elements from Anatolia to wage a campaign of violence against the Greek community. The government of Prime Minister Adnan Menderes had already incited the Turkish population by commemorating and celebrating the Turkish “victory” over the Greeks in September 1922 when the armies of Mustafa Kemal conquered the Christian city of Smyrna and began a merciless massacre of the Greeks and Armenian Christian inhabitants of the city.
In Thessaloniki, Turkish agents provocateurs bombed the museum which had been established on the site where the murderer Mustafa Kemal was born in 1881. The house where the Turkish dictator was born was ceded to the Turkish consulate by the mayor of Thessaloniki in 1937 in a gesture of “friendship”. During the period of Turkish history when Mustafa Kemal’s ideas had supplanted Islam as the official ideology, Kemal looked like some kind of pagan god rather than just a national hero.
The Turks bombed Kemal’s house in Thessaloniki in order to incite the Turkish population to Constantinople.
Turkish authorities tampered with photographs of the house even before the bombing in order to be ready to incite pogroms. The pogroms started around 6 p.m. and Greek homes and businesses were marked with crosses to indicate that these were sites to attack. Greek private property as well as churches, monasteries and cemeteries were destroyed. Churches and monasteries have been unspeakably desecrated and the Balukli cemetery where the Ecumenical Patriarchs are buried has been vandalized, as have the bones of the Patriarchs themselves.
Dozens of Greeks were murdered in cold blood. A 90-year-old priest named Chrysanthos Mannas was sprayed with gasoline and burned alive. Women have been raped and men have been mercilessly beaten. Bishops and priests have been the targets of humiliation and abuse. A bishop died from injuries he sustained as a result of a beating he suffered.
The photographs of the horrors were taken by Demetrios Kaloumenos, the patriarchal photographer who later published them in a book called The Crucifixion of Christianity. The late scholar Spyros Vryonis dedicated his masterpiece The Mechanism of Catastrophe to Mr. Kaloumenos. This latest book was published in 2005 and bills itself as the ultimate book on pogroms in the English language and was the product of fourteen years of research and work.
The significance of the pogroms today can be seen in the overall history of Hellenism which preceded these events and by events as they unfold today.
In September 1922, the genocides of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks which had started in 1914 came to an end. The Western powers had their warships in the port of Smyrna but refused to intervene.
By 1955, the same policies of appeasement by the West were in place. The British, as has been said, dealt a double blow against the
Greeks from Constantinople and Cyprus. The British created conflict in Cyprus by encouraging expansionist and aggressive Turkish claims to the island, and encouraged Turkish policies which resulted in the destruction of the Greek Orthodox community in Constantinople.
Today, Greece and Cyprus find themselves isolated again while NATO and Europe remain indifferent to Turkey’s expansionist demands against these two Hellenic republics.
While the policies of the British created the climate in which pogroms could occur, the Americans protected evil from the Turks afterwards. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sent identical letters to Greek and Turkish Prime Minister Alexander Papagos
Prime Minister Menderes (the organizer of the pogroms) asked them to settle their “differences”. No condemnation of the Turks was passed and pressure was exerted on Greece to drop the issue. NATO not only refused to condemn Turkey, but showed no support for the Greek army officers who served with NATO in Smyrna and were attacked by the Turks.
September 6 was a very dark day in Hellenic and Orthodox Christian history. Unfortunately, important lessons have not been learned by everyone.
Greece is still heavily dependent on the hostile NATO alliance. Turkey underwent a transformation and returned to its Ottoman roots by returning to Islam. The conversion of Aghia Sophia into a mosque symbolizes this return.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate, which lost a large part of its flock after the pogroms and would lose even more after 1964, today cooperates with the State Department against the Russian Orthodox Church. Cooperate with State Department officials whose predecessors refused to condemn or criticize the ethnic cleansing of Greek Orthodox in Constantinople and the islands of Imbros and Tenedos after 1955.