Then Came the Chance the Turks Have Been Waiting For: To Get Rid of Christians Once and for All

In the late 1800s, Christians made up 20 percent of Turkey’s population. By the late 1920s, they were down to just 2 percent. New research reveals the scope of the genocide committed by three successive regimes

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Benny Morris
Dror Ze’evi
Benny Morris
Dror Ze’evi

In May 1919, six months after the end of World War I, a Greek Navy fleet made its way to the city of Izmir in western Anatolia, escorted by British warships. The preceding October, the Ottoman rulers had signed an armistice agreement in Moudros harbor on the Aegean island of Lemnos, an accord that clearly reflected the Allied victory. By its terms, the Ottomans ceded control over large chunks of their empire to Britain, France and Italy, which in turn gave the Greeks the go-ahead to take control of the western coast of Anatolia, an area that prior to the war was populated mainly by Greek Christians. After landing in Izmir, the Greek forces made their way into the country’s interior. At the height of their expansion, in August 1921, they reached the outskirts of Ankara, the capital city of General Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, leader of the Turkish national movement. From that point on, the forces under Atatürk’s command began to push the invaders back in the direction of the Aegean Sea, and on September 9, 1922, their victory was completed. The invading Greek army retreated to its ships and sailed back to Greece; Atatürk’s First Cavalry Division entered Izmir (Smyrna, to the Greeks) at a light canter, with swords drawn.

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