Overview

The Greek Genocide (or Ottoman Greek Genocide) refers to the systematic extermination of the native Greek subjects of the Ottoman Empire before, during and after World War I (1914-1923). It was instigated by two successive governments of the Ottoman Empire; the Committee of Union and Progress Party (C.U.P), and the Turkish Nationalist Movement of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.  It included massacres, forced deportations and death marches, summary expulsions, boycotts, rape, forced conversion to Islam, conscription into labor battalions, arbitrary executions, and destruction of Christian Orthodox cultural, historical and religious monuments. According to various sources, approximately 1 million Ottoman Greeks perished during this period.

The New York Times: January 13, 1915.

The first phase of the Greek Genocide commenced in the Spring of 1914 in Eastern Thrace and western Anatolia when Turks were ordered to boycott Greek businesses. Hundreds of thousands of Greeks from these regions were also deported. With the outbreak of the Great War in July of 1914, all Ottoman Greek men aged between 21-45 were conscripted into forced labor (or concentration) camps. Most of these men were to perish under appalling conditions after being forced to work around the clock with little food or water. These camps also served as a means of breaking up and disarming Greek communities, thus bringing about their eventual destruction. 

In 1915, under the guidance of German military personnel, the C.U.P ordered the deportation of Greek communities from the Dardanelles and Gallipolli regions under the pretext of military necessity. These Greeks were not permitted to take anything with them. Goods in their shops were later sold by Ottoman authorities. Entire communities living along the western coastline of Asia Minor were deported to the interior or to Muslim villages where they were forced to choose between Islam or death. Homes in villages that were not burnt were seized by freebooters of neighboring communities. In some instances, Greeks were forced to sign declarations saying they were leaving of their own free will. In most cases, before deportations took place, Ottoman gendarmes (police) and çetes (armed irregulars) seized money and valuables from communities, committed massacres and burnt churches and schools. In the region of Pontus, Greek communities were deported during the peak of winter when fatalities could be at their highest. Stories of lethal injections, bodies being towed out to sea and dumped, as well as mass killings of Greeks in churches were also witnessed and documented.

The New York Times: 10 July 1921.

According to the Chairman of the Greek Relief Committee Frank W. Jackson, by 1917 some 700,000-800,000 Greeks were deported mainly from the coastal regions to the interior of Turkey. The death toll from these deportations was high. With the Ottoman Empire's defeat in WW1, prominent leaders of the C.U.P Party were given death sentences in Ottoman Courts-Martial for their role in organizing the massacre of Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians during the war. But the post-war formation of the Turkish Nationalist movement under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk interrupted the proceedings to bring these perpetrators to justice. Instead, the Kemalist Nationalists continued the C.U.P policy of massacring and deporting Greeks which culminated in the burning of the city of Smyrna (today Izmir) to the ground and the expulsion of all remaining Greeks from Turkey. All able-bodied Greek males were refused exit from Turkey and were sent to the interior where most perished in slave labor camps or were massacred.

 

Remembrance days:

April 6 (Eastern Thrace region)
May 19 (Pontus region)
September 14 (Asia Minor as a whole).

 

The following map depicts massacres of Greeks during the Greek Genocide. It does not include deaths resulting from deportations and labor battalions (concentration camps). This mapping project was created by the Greek Genocide Resource Center in April 2017 and is an ongoing project. 

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Feridunoğlu Osman Ağa (1883-1923) otherwise known simply as Topal Osman, was a brigand and Kemalist Military Commander responsible for the mass murder of a vast number of Greeks during the Greek Genocide. While serving for the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) in the Balkans as a volunteer1 he received an injury to his foot which resulted in him being referred to as Topal Osman (Topal meaning lame).  In WW1 he would round up deserters, some of whom he enlisted in his band.

Topal Osman roamed the Black Sea region with his band of ‘cut-throats’ and was responsible for numerous massacres and deportations of Greeks and Armenians. He had a fanatical loyalty to Mustafa Kemal who awarded him a colonelcy2 and also served as his bodyguard. He was appointed mayor of Giresun in 1919 as a reward for his murderous deeds. Mustafa Kemal's biographer Andrew Mango, referred to Topal Osman as 'a sadistic ethnic cleanser of Armenians and Greeks'.3

On the 23rd of March 1923, he strangled Trabzon Deputy Ali Sukru Bey to death because the Deputy criticized Mustafa Kemal. He was shot dead in Ankara on the 1st of April 1923 after an exchange of gunfire with the Military Police who had been sent to capture him. His body was hanged in front of the Turkish Parliament and later buried in Giresun. A statue of him was erected in Giresun which still stands today.

The Central Council of Pontus received eye-witness accounts of the following atrocities committed by Osman Ağa and published them in a report dated October 17, 19214:

In July of 1921, after having murdered the greatest part of the notables and robbed them of their fortunes, Osman Ağa deported the male population of Tirebolu (Gr: Tripolis) near Giresun, and Bulancak (Gr: Pulantzaki) to Harput, Mamouret-oul-Azis and Alpistan, while he shared the beautiful women with his fellow partisans. The victims were conveyed into the mountains by the chettes. Women and children who were left unprovided for and completely nude, perished from hunger. Of the 2,500 Greeks in Tirebolu, only 200 women and children remained, and of the 14,000 Greeks of Giresun only 4,000 women and children survived. The Greeks of Fatsa and Ünye were also invaded by Osman Ağa and suffered the same atrocities.

In the little village of Tzakaly four hours from Samsun, Osman Ağa ordered the women and children (the men having previously been deported) to be locked up in some houses of the village and there they were burnt alive.

In the village of Kavak he committed the same crimes; only a single old man of 80 was saved.

At Havza he drove together the women and children on the banks of the river, where they were massacred and thrown into the river. All the Greek villages of the district were laid to ashes. Eighteen brides and girls of the above village were picked out by Osman Ağa for their beauty in order to be distributed to his fellow criminals, who after having satisfied their carnal appetites for several days, shut them up in a house and burnt them alive.

At Merzifon, Osman Ağa and his companions, after having completely bereaved all the Christians, put fire to the Greek and Armenian quarters. The scenes which took place in the course of the fire were heart appalling. All the exits were barricaded and the unfortunate people trying to escape were either mercilessly killed or thrown back into the fire without distinction of whether they were women, children or old men. In the course of 5 hours, 1800 houses along with their inhabitants were burnt down. It was impossible to describe the orgies committed against virgins and children. While they were performing these cruelties, they shouted at their victims; "Where are the English, the Americans and your Christ to save you?"


Other atrocities committed by Osman Ağa:  

While on his way through the village of Kirli having lodged and fed at the expense of the people there, he demanded the daughter in law of Anastasse Agha, a notable of that village who refused. Osman Ağa then ordered Anastasse Agha to be butchered together with his four children and four other men.5

In June 1920 at the village of Enayet near Giresun, a family of 5 Greeks were murdered by Osman Ağa and his followers, and several women and young girls carried off. Houses were robbed and cattle stolen.6

In July 1920, Osman Ağa massacred 15 Christians in the village of Karali and Kourouk. Because of the violation of a Muslim woman by a man named Panayoti, 50 Greeks of this name were arrested and beaten and 2 tortured and killed. His followers then extorted large sums from the Christians while he himself threatened to massacre all Christians unless the San Remo decision was modified.7

In July 1920 Osman Ağa arrested and beat the Bishop of Sivas.8

On 20th of August 1920, Osman Ağa continued to extort money from the Christians and many of the richest had been reduced to poverty. On the night of the 13/14th of August, Osman arrested the whole male population of Giresun in order to expel them; his followers subsequently entering and pillaging their houses.9

On the 8th of September 1920, a newspaper report described how Osman Ağa carried out a ghastly series of atrocities in Giresun whereby he shut up all the males, and every evening led out five to be executed. The remaining Christians bought their liberty with a ransom of £300,000.10

 

The Daily Telegraph, Launceston, 8 September 1920.


In March 1921, Osman Ağa compelled the inhabitants of the village of Sivas to feed him and his 500 band of men for 3 weeks. At Ezboter 2 Greeks and an Armenian were arrested and after having their bare feet shod with horse shoes, they were massacred. He also ordered the massacres of women and children of the villages of Koul-Hisar , Messoudie and Kirik.11

In 1921 on passing through Amasya and Çorum, Osman Ağa instructed his men to massacre every Christian man or woman whom they encountered.12

A report on the 9th of July 1921, described horrible details of the persecution of Christians when the notorious murderous chief Osman Ağa arrived there on the second day of Bayram (a Turkish religious holiday) and murdered 10 Greeks, then surrounded the stores of the American Tobacco Company and arrested all the Greek clerks numbering some 800, and had them transported to an unknown destination. The Greek quarter was then surrounded and 1,500 other Greeks were arrested and deported to the interior.13

On the 20th of December 1921, a band of 100 Turcolazes from Rize enlisted by the Mayor of Giresun Osman Ağa, landed at Ordu and were received by the authorities of the town. The following day they surrounded the streets and proceeded to pillage the shops of Christians, taking with them 2 Greeks. The merchant Michel Macrides of Giresun was decapitated in a small boat by order of Osman Ağa and his body thrown into the sea. Several other notables were also deported causing a severe sense of terror among the other Christians.14

On the 25th of February 1922, 20 Greek villages were destroyed by fire in the region of Giresun by the order of Osman Ağa, Major of Giresun and Kemalist military commander, and on the 1st of March the villages of Beislan, Pozat, Topekeny and Kiavourhiki were also burned down, the inhabitants consisting only of women and children who were previously imprisoned in the houses, having completely perished in the flames.15

Today, Topal Osman Ağa is considered a hero by many in Turkey. In 2007, the city of Giresun erected a monument in his honor.   


References

1.  Mango A, Ataturk. John Murray, London 1999, 551.
2.  Turkish Affairs. Kemal's Bold Stroke, The Maitland Weekly Mercury. 4 Apr 1923, p5.
3.  Mango A, ibid, 383.
4.  Black Book the Tragedy of Pontus 1914-1922. A few short notes on the Turkish cruelties perpetrated against the Greeks
of the Pontus during the months of June, July and August 1921. The Central Council of Pontus. Athens 1922, pp 20-21.
5.  Yeghiayan, V (comp.) 2007, British Reports on Ethnic Cleansing in Anatolia: 1919-1922, Center for Armenian Remembrance, USA. pXXXI
6.  ibid, p 154
7.  ibid, p 157
8.  ibid, p 252
9.  ibid, p 170
10. Ghastly Atrocities,The Daily Telegraph, Launceston. 8 Sep 1920, p5.
11. Yeghiayan V, ibid, 252
12. British Reports on Ethnic Cleansing in Anatolia, 1919-1922: The Armenian Greek Section p 257
13. 700,000 Greeks Victims of Turks, The New York Times. 10 July 1921, p4.
14. Yeghiayan V, ibid, 190.
15. UK Parliament Hansard, 3 April 1922.

 

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Rafet Pasha, otherwise known as Rafet Bey or Refet Bele, was a member of the Committee of Union and Progress.

On 26 November 1916, Rafet Bey informed Dr. Ernst von Kwiatkowski, the Austro-Hungarian Consul in Samsun: "We must at last do with the Greeks as we did with the Armenians...".  Two days later on 28 November 1916, Rafet Bey returned and advised Kwiatkowski:  "We must now finish with the Greeks. I sent today battalions to the outskirts to kill every Greek they pass on the road."

Reports gathered by the Greek Legation at Constantinople in 1917, hold Rafet Pasha responsible for the arson and deportations in Samsun during 1916 and early 1917. In the reports, he is described as being “fanatic, passionate and to a high degree a hater of Greeks.” The report goes on to say that he had “become the scourge of the country and the tyrant of Christians.”

The London Morning Post's special correspondent stationed in Constantinople on 5 December 1918 wrote:

"Rafet Pasha, the late Governor of Bitlis, was sent to Samsoun with express orders to become a scourge to the Greeks. He did the work thoroughly. Over a hundred and fifty thousand were deported in this district and in Trebizond."

 

Subcategories

The perpetrators of the Greek Genocide were responsible for planning and executing the destruction of Greek communities during the genocide. They include members of the Committee of Union and Progress Party, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his nationalist supporters (Kemalists) as well as German military personnel. 

An analysis of some of the regions affected and other documentary evidence.

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