The persecution of minorities in the Middle East has been a fact of life. Our regular commenter Eliyahu m’Tsiyon has produced evidence (in a critique of a book by Walt and Mearsheimer) that the Turks wanted to decimate the Greek minority in the same way as the Arab states wished to ‘ethnically cleanse’ their Jews and ‘throw Israel into the sea’. As often happened in history, the western powers stood by and let the slaughter happen (with thanks: Eliyahu):
Izmir (Smyrna) as it is today: free of Greeks
There was a precedent for throwing a hated ethnic group into the sea: In
1922 Turkish nationalist forces led by Kemal Ataturk drove the Greek
population of Smyrna into the sea. Smyrna had been a Greek-speaking city
for more than 2,000 years. It remained predominantly Greek in
population even after the Ottoman Empire conquered Smyrna from the
Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire hundreds of years before 1922. Smyrna
also had a Turkish-Muslim minority, a Jewish quarter, an Armenian
quarter, and many Europeans and Americans who had come for purposes of
trade or were there for religious/missionary purposes.
There were also
Levantines, people with mixed European and Greek or Armenian ancestry.
These Levantines too were mainly involved in trade and services for the
European and American communities. In 1922 the Turkish nationalist army
of Ataturk drove the Greeks out of the city, while it massacred the
surviving Armenians in the city and set fire to Greek and Armenian
Meanwhile, the fleets of the major Western powers sat at
anchor in the harbor of Smyrna. They had orders not to interfere with
the slaughter perpetrated by the Kemalist forces and were reluctant to
help the refugees. Greece sent a motley assortment of boats to take out
the refugees, including surviving Armenians. Since the expulsion of the
Greeks and the massacre of the Armenians, the city has been officially
called Izmir. This is a historical precedent for what those Arabs may
have been thinking who called for driving the Jews into the sea, as Walt-Mearsheimer admit they said.
Ernest Hemingway, “On the Quay at Smyrna,” in In Our Time [starting with the 1930 edition of the anthology In Our Time;
New York, Scribner’s]. This is a fictionalized account of the events at
Smyrna that rings true. Hemingway was a reporter in Anatolia and the
Balkans in that period. See his description of a Kemalist official in this post.
George Horton, The Blight of Asia — Horton was the US consul in Smyrna in 1922, that is, he was an eyewitness.
Marjorie Housepian, The Smyrna Affair