Although Turks think of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk fondly as the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians remember him as one of the main perpetrators of genocide against Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire, that led to the systematic extermination of around 3.5 million people.
With about a million Greeks exterminated on policies made by Atatürk and his predecessors, more than 1.2 million Greeks were forcibly removed from Turkey in 1923-1924 as a result of the the Treaty of Lausanne, decimating thousands of years of Greek life in Asia Minor, Pontus and Eastern Thrace.
Atatürk (Father Turk) was an Albanian Jew born in Thessaloniki in 1881. His father died when he was young and his mother worked in a brothel. He rose through the Ottoman military ranks, coming to prominence during World War I and the Greco-Turkish War that followed.
In the midst of the Greco-Turkish war, endless accounts by foreign diplomats, Christian missionaries, survivor testimonies, journalists and many others chronicled the massacres perpetrated by Atatürk’s followers, known as the Kemalists, against the Christian minority in a mad drive to create a “Turkey for the Turks.”
One such account was by Mark Hopkins Ward, an American physician working at the American Hospital in Western Armenia, today’s Eastern Turkey, in the town of Kharpert (Խարբերդ). Ward wrote that “The Kemalists pursued with vigor their considered and systematic campaign for the extermination of the Greek minority in Asia Minor, which was attended with the same incredible brutality as marked the Turkish massacre of 1,000,000 Armenians in the early part of the Great War [World War I].”
Dr. Ernst von Kwiatkowski, an Austro-Hungarian consul in Pontus, informed the Austrian Foreign Minister István Burián on November 30, 1916 that an Ottoman administrator told him “We must now finish with the Greeks. I sent today battalions to the outskirts to kill every Greek they meet on the road” and that “We must at last do with the Greeks as we did with the Armenians.”
Alfred E. Brady of Texas and a member of the American Smyrna Disaster Committee, stated in 1922 “Although the majority of Greek and Armenian civilian men in Asia Minor have been deported into Angora, into what is tantamount to slavery, and the majority of women and children exiled, the Turks’ campaign of massacre and terror continues, as the last surviving Christian communities are wiped out one by one.”
These are just some of the many quotes describing the Greek Genocide perpetrated by Ottoman and Kemalist forces. A full catalogue can be read here.
On August 13, 1923 in the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, Atatürk declared: “At last we’ve uprooted the Greeks.”
There is little doubt that a genocide took place, with Atatürk at the helm, and there is a full academic consensus that these events occurred, despite what a tiny minority of so-called scholars have claimed.
Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül also said that the issue of converting Hagia Sophia “is a matter of sovereignty for Turkey. Of course, it is a common wish for all of us to see that its chains broken and opened for [Islamic] prayer.”Erdoğan in another interview also said that “Greece is now saying [to Turkey] that Hagia Sophia must never be converted into a mosque. Are you the one who governs Turkey or is it us that govern it? Turkey will never bother seeking permission from you to make this happen. There has been a burning sensation [to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque] within the dynamics of this country.”