Since the Trump administration's official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been ramping up his anti-Israel rhetoric, calling the country "a state of occupation and terrorism."
This is worse than ironic. The Jews are not "occupiers" in their ancient native homeland, where they have lived for more than 3,000 years. Turks, on the other hand, 3,000 years ago were most likely in Central Asia, nowhere near the area that is now Turkey. To add hypocrisy to injury, Erdogan also said about his own country, "Let it be known that there has never been any holocaust or genocide in this nation's past. There's no campaign of ethnic cleansing, massacres, persecution, or torture in this nation's history."
The cities in today's Turkey -- most of which are in Anatolia (Asia Minor) and the Armenian highlands -- were actually built by Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians; and Jews have lived there since antiquity. Turkic jihadists from Central Asia invaded and conquered the Christian Byzantine Empire in the eleventh century, thereby paving the way for the gradual Turkification and Islamization of Anatolia and Armenia. The Ottoman invasion of Constantinople (Istanbul) in the fifteenth century brought about the complete destruction of the Byzantine Empire.
Throughout those years, many Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians in the region converted to Islam to escape death, exile, or the exorbitant "protection" tax, the jizya, imposed on non-Muslims. As a result, only around 0.3% of Turkey's population remains Christian or Jewish at this time.
"The process of annihilation [of Greek Christian civilization in Anatolia] took centuries. Some people think that when Islam invaded, the Kafirs [non-Muslims] had the choice of conversion or death. No, absolutely not. Sharia law was put into place and the Christian dhimmis continued to have their 'protected' status as People of the Book who lived under the Sharia law. The dhimmi paid heavy taxes, could not testify in court, hold a position of authority over Muslims and was humiliated by social rules. A dhimmi had to step aside for the Muslim, offer him his seat, could not carry a weapon and defer to a Muslim in every way. In all matters of society the dhimmi had to yield to the Muslim. Over the centuries, the degradation, lack of rights and the dhimmi tax caused the Christian to convert. It is the Sharia that destroys the dhimmis.
"Today, Turkey is 99.7% Muslim. The Christian and Greek civilization of Anatolia is gone. It is annihilated.
"What is tragic is that it seems that no one knows or cares..."
Even today, expansionist Islamic raids against non-Muslim peoples have been and are accompanied by mass murder, rape, sex slavery, forced conversions, looting, plundering and deportations, by Islamic State, Boko Haram and others.
The goal of this jihad is to expand Islam and submit people worldwide to sharia [Islamic law] and Islamic supremacy. Once under Islamic rule -- such as during the Ottoman Empire -- Christians and Jews become dhimmis: third-class, "tolerated" citizens forced to pay a tax in exchange for "protection." No matter how much money they pay, however, dhimmis are never allowed the same religious rights or freedoms as Muslims.
This is something that Turkish school children are not taught. Instead, they learn in school about the "glorious" Ottomans, and how bestowing dhimmi status on non-Muslims was an example of Ottoman mercy, justice, and compassion -- not a tool for humiliating and enslaving them.
Far more recently, as Erdogan knows but aggressively denies, Turkish regimes committed their greatest attacks on Anatolian Christians: the 1914-1923 genocide against Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians (Syriacs/Chaldeans). Sadly, there has been no public protest in Turkey against the government's refusal to acknowledge the genocide, in which at least three million Christians were killed.
There are several reasons for this:
Turks are continually exposed to the denial of the genocide in school, the media, and in parliament. Millions of Turks have been brainwashed to believe that what took place was not genocide, but rather a legitimate act of self-defense against "treacherous" Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian elements.
Myths about Turkish nationhood
According to official myths, the Turks have never wronged or victimized any other people; it is they who have been wronged and victimized throughout history. As a result, according to these myths, any and all violent actions they may have committed were carried out in self-defense.
Turkey fears what it calls derogatorily as the Armenians' "Four T" Plan: Tanıtım, Tanınma, Tazminat ve Toprak (Propaganda, Recognition, Compensation, and Territory). The government worries that if the Armenians are successful in their efforts to obtain international recognition of the genocide, they will demand money and land. This concern is shared by those who inherited property seized from the victims of the genocide. Such Turks fear losing the wealth they amassed through the spoils of mass murder.
The political doctrine of Islam, which was largely responsible for the Christian genocide, still plays a role in Turkey's denial of it.
In his contribution to a recently released collection of essays on the topic -- "Genocide in the Ottoman Empire: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks, 1913-1923," edited by Professor George N. Shirinian -- historian Suren Manukyan writes that the planners of the Armenian genocide:
"... activated social forces by the policies they pursued, including the proclamation of jihad at the beginning of World War I, to mobilize religious fanaticism among the population of the empire.
"After the proclamation of jihad on November 14, 1914, the killing of Armenians was seen to bear legitimacy in religious terms. In many areas, clerics led the columns of Muslims and blessed them for punishing the unbelievers... One slogan was repeated everywhere: 'God, make their children orphans, make widows of their wives... and give their property to Muslims.' In addition to this prayer, legitimization of plunder, murder, and abduction took the following form: 'it is licit for Muslims to take the infidels' property, life and women.'"
Turkish regimes committed their greatest attacks on Anatolian Christians during the 1914-1923 genocide against Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians (Syriacs/Chaldeans). Sadly, there has been no public protest in Turkey against the government's refusal to acknowledge the genocide, in which at least three million Christians were killed. Pictured above: Armenian civilians, escorted by Ottoman soldiers, marched through Harput, April 1915. (Image source: American Red Cross/Wikimedia Commons)
The Ottoman Tanzimat reforms in the nineteenth century had "abolished" the dhimmi status accorded to non-Muslim subjects. Regardless of this official change, non-Muslims continued to face various forms of institutional discrimination. Similarly, when the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, non-Muslims no longer possessed the legal status as dhimmis, but their unofficial dhimmitude continued, if not intensified.
In 1934, there was an anti-Jewish pogrom in eastern Thrace; in 1941-1942, there was an attempt to enlist and enslave all non-Muslim males in the Turkish military -- including the elderly and mentally ill -- to force them to work under horrendous conditions in labor battalions; in 1942, a Wealth Tax was imposed to eliminate Christians and Jews from the economy; in 1955, there was an anti-Greek pogrom in Istanbul; and in 1964, Greeks were forcefully expelled from Turkey. All of the above contributed to the previous ethnic cleansing of Turkish Christians and Jews.
Not only has the Turkish government not recognized, apologized for or given reparations for any such incidents in its history, but there is little media coverage of the current intimidation of and violence against Christians, Jews, and Yazidis in Turkey.
In addition, fundamentalist Muslims in Turkey -- and elsewhere -- do not see jihad, forced conversions or other forms of persecution against non-Muslims as criminal. On the contrary, their religious scriptures openly command them "to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding," among many other openly violent teachings.
Hence, what the rest of the world would describe as "genocide," "massacre," "persecution," or "ethnic cleansing" is viewed by radical Muslims as a "righteous" way of spreading Islam and of liberating kafir (infidel) lands. Erdogan is clearly such a radical, which is why he takes pride in his country's criminal history, while chastising and rewriting that of other states, such as Israel.
The West's misunderstanding of all this knows no bounds.
Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim in Turkey, is a journalist currently based in Washington D.C.