Armenian National Assembly (NA) Vice President Eduard Sharmazanov, who is on an official visit to Berlin, has today visited Humboldt University of Berlin to take part in the international conference entitled “Genocide of the Christian Peoples in the Ottoman and Kemalist Turkey.” Sharmazanov, who was accompanied by the Armenian Ambassador to Germany Ashot Smbatyan, made the following address at the conference:
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Genocide of Christian minorities in Ottoman Empire and Kemalist Turkey is considered to be one of the greatest disasters of the XX century, that has taken lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Greeks. It is a great honour for me to be here and address you as the Vice President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia and as a descendent of both nations who survived the Greek and Armenian Genocide.
Before highlighting the milestones of the massacre I would like to find the roots of this terrible tragedy. I would argue that this crime was not a chaotic phenomenon caused by and limited to the World War I. It dates back to the Christian massacres in the days of Sultan Abdul Hamid at the end of the XIX century and steps into the XX century with the 1909 slaughter of 30,000 Armenians in the city of Adana.
Moreover, during the 1911 Summit in Thessaloniki the Young Turks adopted a resolution according to which the Christian population of the Empire, as an “untrustworthy element hindering the progress of the country”, was condemned to extermination and assimilation. The abovementioned indicates that far before the start of the World War I the Turks had developed a genocidal policy aiming to ‘turkify’ all Christian population living in their territories, including the Pontic Greeks.
The oppression against the Greek population started before World War I with forced displacement and atrocities on the western coastline of Asia Minor. These were controlled and managed by Mehmed Talaat Pasha, the Minister of Interior, and Doctor Nazim Bey, one of the most influential members of the Young Turkish Government.
In October 1915 Enver Pasha, the Ottoman Minister of War, declared in the presence of a German military attache "we shall solve the Greek question the same way as we have solved the Armenian question”.
It is worth mentioning that although the World War I ended, the atrocities against the Greek population continued. During the period of 1919 to 1922 the Pontic Greeks suffered greatly from the broader genocidal policy of Kemalist Turkey.
The New York Times article published in 1921 clearly states that nearly 700,000 Greeks were killed, deported or died of famine since the beginning of the Greco-Turkish War. This new wave of violence against Greeks reached its climax in September 1922 when the troops of Mustafa Kemal invaded the city of Smyrna. The city was set on fire, the Greek and Armenian quarters were totally destroyed. This tragedy took not only the lives of hundreds of thousands of Armenians and Greeks but also destructed their cultural and historical monuments.
Winston Churchill described the atrocities of Smyrna in the following way, “Kemal turned the city into ashes and totally exterminated its Christian population’. The short story ‘On the Quai at Smyrna’ written by Ernest Hemingway, also alludes to this tragedy.
Hence, this crime was acknowledged and recognised by many prominent figures of the time. Since then only a few states have raised their voices to condemn the actions against those innocent Christians. Amongst them is the Republic of Armenia.
I am proud to inform you that on the 24th of March 2015, the National Assembly of my country officially adopted a declaration recognizing the Greek and Assyrian genocides in the Ottoman and Kemalist Turkey. I hope that other countries will follow our example and condemn this horrific crime against humanity. Unfortunately, Turkey continues its policy of denial.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let us not forget, that impunity leads to new crimes. Nowadays, the Middle East faces the same threats as Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians a century ago.
Right now, the followers of Talaat and Kemal are committing another genocide not very far from the territory of the former Ottoman Empire. We witness another genocide, while the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian genocides still remain unrecognized. From my perspective, the denial of a crime equals the act of committing the crime. And so does the silence.
Therefore, I call on people of every ethnic and religious background to unite for the recognition and condemnation of the genocide and against the Turkish policy of denial. I believe that this is the only way to prevent this shameful period of the human history from repeating itself.
As Anatole France said, to accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. And I have a dream today. I have a dream that the Genocide denial will soon end, because only then will genocides themselves come to an end.
I believe that the elucidation of the events taken place in Ottoman and Kemalist Turkey, their recognition and condemnation will, eventually, light the fire to dispel the darkness. Thus, I believe in the victory of light. And so, I hope, do you.
Thank you for your attention!”