This year’s Thursday, May 19, marked the 100th anniversary of the Pontian Greek genocide by the Turks, that took place between 1916-1923, the most tragic page of Pontian Greek history.
“Will the outrageous terrorising, the cruel torturing, the driving of women into the harems, the debauchery of innocent girls, the sale of many of them at eighty cents each, the murdering of hundreds of thousands and the deportation to, and and starvation in, the deserts of other hundreds of thousands, the destruction of hundreds of villages and cities, will the wilful execution of this whole devilish scheme to annihilate the Armenian, Greek and Syrian Christians of Turkey — will all this go unpunished?” – Henry Morgenthau, United States ambassador to Turkey, 1918
The Pontiac genocide was a mass slaughter that is but one chapter in the murderous campaign by the Ottoman Empire against Christians. In Pontus alone, it is estimated that some 350,000 Greeks were killed who were totally deprived of the Black Sea region, their native land.
Here is an overview of the Pontian genocide from the Pontian Greek Society of Chicago:
With the commencement of World War I in 1914, Turkey called for general mobilization. Since the Christian men were not allowed to bare arms, they were sent to labor battalions in the interior of Turkey, which were essentially “battalions of death.” Forced labor in the treacherous mountains and ravines, hunger, and exposure to severe weather conditions killed most of those forced to serve in these labor battalions. Some of those who survived were able to escape to join those Greeks in the mountains who took up arms to protect themselves and their families. After eliminating a significant part of the male population, the Young Turk leaders and later Kemal Ataturk, proceeded to eliminate the rest of the Greek population including the elderly, women, and children. Their plan was to deport the Greek population to the interior and expose them to severe weather conditions, hunger, and illness. Censorship was used quite effectively to avoid headlines in the foreign press. After executing many prominent Greeks in the western Pontus, the Turks proceeded to deport a large part of the Greek population to the interior, Kurdistan, and as far as Syria…
By 1923, out of an approximate 700,000 Pontian Greeks who lived in Turkey at the beginning of World War I, as many as 350,000 were killed, and almost all the rest had been uprooted during the subsequent forced population exchange between Greece and Turkey. This was the end of one of the ancient Greek civilizations in Asia Minor. As a consequence of the deliberate and systematic policy of Turkification of the Ottoman Empire, it is estimated that more than 2.75 million Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks were slaughtered outright or were victims of the “white death” of disease and starvation — a result of the routine process of deportations, slave labor, and death marches.
“A vicious campaign of horror, the Pontian genocide”, writes this year’s HALC article, of which each generation must learn, so that the memory of those who perished lives eternal.
“Today, Friday, 20th of May 2016, the Ministry of National Defense, is welcoming with honors of the Head of the State the holy icon of Panagia Soumela ,symbol of Orthodoxy and the Greeks of Asia Minor and Pontos” Defense Minister Panos Kammenos stated
In 1922, when Greeks of Asia Minor and Pontus were driven from the lands of their ancestors, the monks hid the icon of Panagia Soumela that is believed to have been painted by Evangelist Luke. According to Orthodox Church tradition, the miraculous icon of Panagia Soumela was earlier found at the end of the fourth century A.D. in a cave at Mt. Mela, where it had miraculously, by Christian tradition, been transferred by angels.
The Minister of Defense thanked the Presidnt of Panagia Soumela Foundation President Giorgos Tanimanidis for “a religious relic of inestimable value.”
This year, on Saturday, May 21, 2016, the great Celebration Event will start in Dionysiou Areopagitou Street at 11am and will culminate at 8:30pm in the Temple of Olympian Zeus, to honor the Greeks of Pontus continuing the tradition and culture with the involvement of future generations to maintain their Pontian roots and heritage
Kammenos said that on that day, like every year, the Presidential Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, will don the traditional Pontian uniforms to honor the heroes of the Pontian Greek genocide
Source: Greek media coverage, and the HALC blog