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Posts Tagged ‘The Ottoman Empire’

Christian Genocide | Turks Tore The Pregnant Woman’s Womb, Took Off The Baby And Put It On Her Breast“

Posted by addisethiopia on April 24, 2017

I was a 6-year-old child when my mother entrusted me to the American orphanage and promised to take me back. There was an Armenian church outside the orphanage fence where Turks often appeared and tormented Armenian women and children. When those people looked inside our windows, we tremulously ran away. One of the orphans, Sako, once called us to watch what was going on beyond the fence. It was awful…

Turks tore the pregnant woman’s womb, took off the baby and put it on her breast. I fainted…When I opened my eyes, the orphans had surrounded me telling terrible stories with frightened looks. I closed my ears and screamed.” Her mother found her after the massacres, and they moved together to the village of Basargechar where she married Yeghishe Markosian and gave birth to 11 children. She died in 1990.

Denial is The Final Stage of Genocide

Within in a 2-year period 1.5 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were massacred by the Turkish. To this day it is illegal to talk about the Armenian Genocide in Turkey.

On April 25, 1915 through a series of brutal events, the Turkish government began their execution of the Armenians. The Turks burned, drowned, starved, crucified and slaughtered in the pursuit to eliminate christian Armenians.

There had always been trouble between the Christian Armenians and the Turks in the Ottoman Empire. The Armenians were taxed more for being Christian, and often not treated fairly. They turned to Russia for freedom and independence. It was during World War I, that the Armenians sided with Russia against Turkey, in response came the Genocide.

Today, April 24th marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Still a century later people refuse to acknowledge the massacres as a genocide including the Turks. Many spoke out, showing their support as the anniversary approached including Germany, the European Parliament, Pope Francis, François Hollande the French president and Vladimir Putin.

Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan spoke the following statement: “Recognition of the genocide is a triumph of human conscience and justice over intolerance and hatred.”

What happened to the Armenians during World War I inspired Hitler during World War II in his genocide of the Jewish people. Hitler spoke to the commanding generals at Obersalzberg on August 22, 1939 and declared:

I have issued the command – and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad – that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Christian Bale Historic Romance The Promise Is Targeted By Turkish Online Trolls Who Deny The Armenian Genocide

Lost Evidence Of Armenian Genocide Discovered In Jerusalem Archive

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Posted in Ethiopia, Faith, Infos | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Armenian Genocide Finally Gets Its Due With the Film ‘The Promise’ – ክርስቲያን ኢትዮጵያ ይህን ታሪክ ማወቅ፣ ፊልሙንም ማየት አለባት

Posted by addisethiopia on April 19, 2017

ጸረክርስቶስ ቱርኮች በ “ኢንቨስትመንት” መለክ ወደ አገራችን ጠጋ ጠጋ የሚሉት የክርስቲያን ደም ስለናፈቃቸው፣ የአባይ ወንዝ ጠረን ስለማረካቸው ነው። የሚቀጥለው ትልቁ ህልማቸው መጀመሪያ ግብጽን እንደገና መቆጣጠር መቻል ነውና። ብልሆቹ ኢትዮጵያውያን ይህን ሳያስተውሉት የቀሩ አይመስለኝም። በመንፈሰ ቆሻሶቹ ቱርኮችና አረቦ ፈንታ አርመን እና ግሪኮች ወደ አገራችን ቢገቡ ነው የሚሻለው!

An epic motion picture, it will introduce general audiences to a tragic chapter of history that has been shamefully denied for far too long.

Every year, on April 24, a solemn procession of men, women, and children commences in Yerevan, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Armenia. A sea of sad Armenian faces makes its way up to the hill of Tsitsernakaberd to the Armenian Genocide Memorial. It is here that every year the victims of one of the 20th century’s greatest crimes are quietly honored.

An ancient Christian country located just south of Russia and east of Turkey, Armenia has seen much suffering in its long history. However, of all the tragedies experienced by this small yet resilient nation, none compares to the enormity of the Armenian genocide of 1915. The genocide was committed by the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Possessed by a fanatical nationalism, the ruling Young Turk government accused its Christian Armenian subjects of sympathizing with the hated Russian enemy. What followed was the planned, systematic, and ruthless mass murder of as many as 1.5 million Armenian civilians.

Of all the sufferers of the war,” wrote American diplomat Lewis Einstein in The Nation in 1920, “none have endured more than the Armenians, victims less of its horrors than of the Turkish Government’s diabolical policy of murder.” To this day, Turkey continues to deny the historical reality of the genocide, despite overwhelming scholarly evidence. After over 100 years, the denial of this horrific crime has left the Armenian people in state of incomplete mourning.

Terry George’s forthcoming film The Promise captures the magnitude of this history in a way that no prior film on the genocide has done before. With its sweeping cinematography, powerful acting, and all-encompassing story, it is a truly epic work that effectively and humanely conveys the story of the tragedy.

Bringing The Tragedy To The Screen

Given Turkey’s continued stance of denial, making a film about the genocide has never been an easy task. Efforts to produce such a film in Hollywood were consistently blocked by the Turkish government. The most infamous instance of this was in the 1930s, when Ankara pressured MGM into abandoning plans for producing an adaptation of the novel The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, by Austrian-Jewish writer Franz Werfel. The novel was based on real events in which a small community of Armenians living in the mountains of Turkey’s present-day Hatay Province (on the Syrian border) defended themselves against deportation by Ottoman authorities.

Due to Werfel’s Jewish background, the novel was banned in Hitler’s Third Reich and subject to mass book burnings. The book eventually came to the attention of MGM’s Irving Thalberg, who bought the rights and decided to have it produced as a film. Pre-production began in 1934. Clark Gable was to be the star. However, due to pressure from the Turkish government (including anti-Semitic threats by Ankara against MGM as a “Jewish studio”), Louis B. Mayer canceled the project.

There are numerous reasons why a film like that has not been made by Hollywood over the past century,” said Eric Esrailian, a UCLA doctor who played a major role in the production of The Promise. “It is not as though people have avoided spending money producing other films for all these years. All elements—from studios to producers to actors to crew—have felt pressure or intimidation in one form or another.”

There were indeed films produced about the genocide. The earliest of these, Ravished Armenia (1919), starred a survivor of the genocide, Aurora Mardiganian, and was produced by MGM at a time when Turkey did not have the clout to stop such productions. The box office proceeds went to the aid of Armenian orphans through the Near East Relief. Unfortunately, the film was eventually lost and only recently turned up as a fragmentary copy in post-Soviet Armenia.

The films that followed, such as Henrik Malyan’s Nahapet (1977), Atom Egoyan’s Ararat (2002), Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s Lark Farm (2007), and Fatih Akin’s The Cut (2014), were unable to reach a mass American audience. Distributed by Warner Bros., Elia Kazan’s America America (1963) vividly depicted the persecution of Armenians and Greeks under Ottoman rule. However, its main focus was the protagonist’s quest to emigrate to the United States.

Given this history, Armenian-American philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian believed that the time had come .for a Hollywood film on the genocide. Kerkorian, who passed away in 2015, first conceived of the idea in 2010, but it acquired momentum in 2012 when Kerkorian set up Survival Pictures. He entrusted his close friend Eric Esrailian to the task of bringing the story of the genocide to a general American audience, and enlisted veteran producers Mike Medavoy and William Horberg.

We wanted to carefully find the right people—committed people with sincere intentions in their hearts—to come together,” said Esrailian. “Thankfully, we were successful, and the result has been everything we hoped for. In addition, we also grew together as a family of people, both in front of and behind the camera. The entire project is thanks to the courage and dedication of Kirk Kerkorian, and people around the world will be thanking him for generations to come.”

An All-Encompassing Epic

The Promise is an all-encompassing epic that captures every aspect of the Armenian genocide and of the historical time and place in which the tragedy was situated. Early proposals for films on the genocide tended to focus on specific subjects and stories, such as the heroic defense of Musa Dagh or the suffering of the Armenian composer Komitas. The Promise does not limit itself in this regard. Instead, it presents an entire composite picture of the history. All elements of the genocide are brought together into one concise narrative. Ara Sarafian, the director of the Gomidas Institute in London and the leading authority on the history of the genocide in the English language, noted that The Promise “encompasses specific events, as well as generic ones, that defined the destruction of the Armenians.” “The geography of the film, the locations, the movement of people, were all in good order,” he noted. “The cinematography is amazing, and the actors are really good. They hold the narrative together. However, most importantly, the key themes were historically accurate. The producers did not take license to go beyond the historical material at hand yet they managed to capture much of the enormity of the Armenian genocide.”

The film’s story centers on the aspiring doctor Mikael Pogosian (well-portrayed by Oscar Issac) who leaves his native village in southern Turkey to study medicine in Constantinople. Betrothed to a young woman in his village, Mikael falls in love with the beautiful Ana Khesarian (Charlotte Le Bon), a French-Armenian woman, in Constantinople. However, she is also involved with Associated Press reporter Chris Myers (Christian Bale). In the midst of this love story, all three of the characters personally experience the genocide unfolding before them in different ways. Overall, though, it is clearly Isaac’s character, Mikael, who emerges as the main protagonist of the film. He is almost like a hero in a work by one of the great Armenian national writers like Raffi or Khachatur Abovian, yet his experiences are based entirely on actual historical events.

The film’s main characters are fictional, but they are an amalgam of profiles,” said Esrailian. “We wanted to involve the viewer in the film’s story and to open the door to interest in historical events that have been denied and suppressed for decades. We also wanted to highlight the patterns of man’s inhumanity to man that are sadly being replicated in the world today.”

Director Terry George succeeds masterfully in concisely capturing the entire scope of the history of the genocide. The fictional village of Siroun (meaning “beautiful” in the Armenian language) in Southern Turkey, in an area that Armenians know by the name “Cilicia,” perfectly represents the pre-genocide Ottoman Armenian village life. It captures an idyllic time, highlighting the continuity of local Armenian life and customs before they were destroyed. The aspiring doctor Mikael represents the hope of the Armenian community for a better future in the Ottoman Empire.

Mikael’s journey to Constantinople (Istanbul) reveals yet aspect of Ottoman Armenian life before the genocide: the prosperous intellectual, political, and financial class of Armenians in the Ottoman capital. The film shows their prosperous homes, churches, and trading communities. Sporting the latest European fashions, yet part of the fabric of Ottoman cultural and social life, these Armenians lived between Europe and Asia in a city straddling both continents.

The film also alludes to the prosperous life of the historically significant Armenian diaspora community in France, as personified by Charlotte Le Bon’s character, Ana. However, Ana’s character is representative of even more. Just as Mikael represents the aspirations for Ottoman Armenians, so does Ana represent the affinities of the prosperous Armenian urban class for Europe. Although played by a French actress, Ana’s distinctive “Armenian” appearance also adds to the sense of idyllic, almost melancholy nostalgia of pre-war Ottoman Armenian life.

Another character, Mikael’s friend, the Turkish playboy Emre (Marwan Kenzari), represents the friendships that existed between Armenians and Muslims before the genocide and those Muslims who, later, went out of their way to save their Armenian friends and neighbors. “The inclusion of righteous Muslims as represented by Emre who saves his Armenian friend and is shot or the sub-governor (kaymakam) who helps Armenians escape was a historically important aspect of the film,” noted Sarafian.

However, it is against this backdrop of the pre-war Ottoman Empire that storm clouds begin to form. At a party overlooking the Bosphorous, a drunken Chris takes aim at Ottoman officials and their German guests for the entrance of German ships in Turkish waters leading up to the Ottoman entry in the war. When the Ottoman Empire does enter the war, the angry demonstrations in the streets against the Entente foreshadow pogroms against Armenians in Constantinople later in the film. Soon, arrests against Armenian elites begin in Constantinople, including the arrest of Komitas, which is also highlighted in the film. In a village in the interior of Turkey, Chris finds traces of a massacre against Armenians and photographs the carnage, recalling the work of Armin T. Wegner, a German medic who documented the genocide in photographs. Off in the distance, he sees a caravan of Armenians being marched to their death into the desert.

As the film progresses, the grim reality of the full scale of the genocide becomes even more apparent. Basic humanity is openly disregarded. Mikael is eventually arrested and, with other Armenians, forced into slave labor to build a railroad in the Amanus Mountains. In these scenes, Armenians are wantonly shot and beaten. A former Armenian clown from a Constantinople circus has become reduced to a sad shadow of his former self. Mikael escapes, but encounters cattle cars transporting Armenians to the so-called “resettlement zone” in the Syrian Desert. From these cattle cars spring forth hands of thousands of Armenians, men and women, young and old, who desperately relish the mere touch of rain water. It is a powerful, yet chilling image.

One of the film’s saddest and most difficult scenes depicts the massacre of the Armenian villagers from Siroun, causing Mikael to break down and sob. Such scenes are sensitively and tastefully done, but in the words of Sarafian, are “not ‘toned down’ to accommodate Western sensibilities.”

If nostalgia and suffering are major themes of the film, then so is courage. The film depicts the experience of American and European Christian missionaries in saving Armenian orphans and of righteous Muslims and Turks who protect Armenians. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau Sr. also appears in the film and engages in a tense discussion with Talaat Pasha, the architect of the genocide. The film also depicts perhaps the greatest act of bravery of all: the defense of Musa Dagh by a hundreds of Armenian men, women, and children. The final scenes illustrate the French rescue efforts to save these Armenians. The frantic escape of these refugees to the Mediterranean coast and onto the French ships is a story familiar to most Armenians who fled the genocide. Although a more hardened and mature Mikael contemplates revenge for everything he has experienced, Ana insists that “our survival will be our revenge.”

Although The Promise is a masterfully done film, it will undoubtedly face challenges. Even prior to its US release, Turkish nationalists have already taken to IMDb, Twitter, and Facebook to block and downgrade the film as much as possible.

Whether or not the filmmakers managed their blend to appeal to today’s easily distracted audiences is something that the box offices will show,” said Sarafian. “Undoubtedly, the final result will also depend on the success (or failure) of misinformation campaigns that the denialist lobby will organize. After all, the denial of the Armenian genocide, unlike the denial of the Holocaust, is unfortunately still fair game.”

Still, for many Armenians who have long awaited a Hollywood film on the genocide, this is it. The Promise is an epic motion picture that will introduce general audiences to a tragic chapter of history that has been shamefully denied for far too long. It is an accomplishment to which many Armenians will respond with a rousing “apres” (“well-done”).

Source

All Turkish Christians, Turkish Jews And Non Muslim Refugees Living In Turkey Need To Leave To Save Themselves From A Future Holocaust, Armenian Type Genocide To Be Repeated By Erdogan

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Of Course Germany Refused to Deny The Armenian Genocide

Posted by addisethiopia on June 2, 2016

The Turks always shout and threaten when someone wants to acknowledge the facts of history: that one and a half million Armenian Christians were the victims of Turkish Ottoman genocide in 1915. But did Sultan Erdogan really think that Germany – of all nations – would choose to be a Holocaust denier? 

Well, the German parliament has voted by a quite extraordinary majority to declare the Armenian genocide a genocide – which the whole world (except, of course, for the Turks) knows it to be. There were the usual menaces to Germany – a danger to cultural/trade/military “ties” – from the government in Ankara and flocks of vicious e-mails to German MPs, but the parliamentary resolution rubbed in the fact that Ottoman Turkey was an ally of Germany when it perpetrated the atrocities and that Germany itself did not do enough to stop the genocide.

Poor Angela Merkel – who still prays that Sultan Erdogan will stand by her Operation Bribery campaign and keep back the refugees from the EU for a whopping €3bn and an offer of visa free travel in the eurozone – chose to stay absent from the vote. So did her vice-chancellor and her sad foreign minister, who would not have voted for the motion anyway. The greatest irony – utterly ignored by all politicians and journalists – is that the refugees and migrants whom Europe is now so frightened of come, in many cases, from the very towns and deserts in which the Turks committed their acts of horror against the Armenians 101 years ago.

The skulls and bones of Armenians still lie in the sands south of the Turkish border which Isis now controls; and when al-Nusrah captured parts of Deir ez-Zor, they blew up the Armenian cathedral of the Syrian city, took the bones of genocide victims from the vaults and scattered them in the streets. Several German officials who witnessed the original genocide went on to use their ‘expertise’ during the Jewish Holocaust in the Nazi occupied Soviet Union. And Hitler, preparing to invade Poland in 1939, asked his generals: “Who…is today speaking of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Needless to say, we saw the usual weedy fence-sitting by the news agencies (especially by those with offices in Ankara and Istanbul) who emphasised the Turkish denial of the genocide and the “hotly disputed” nature of an international crime against humanity which – were those same agencies writing of the Jewish genocide – they would rightly never dare to ‘balance’ by quotations from deniers.

France and Russia and at least 18 other nations now accept the Armenian genocide as a fact of history, along with good old Pope Francis – the only major exception being the one whose name we would all guess: the US. An almost annual visit to Washington by a coterie of Turkish generals is usually enough to bring the White House to heel. Doesn’t America need those important air bases in south-eastern Turkey from which the US wages war against Isis (and from which, speak it not, Turkey now wages war against Kurds)?

But thank God, once more, for Germany. Here was one vote for which the country would be certain to snap obediently to attention.

Source

Turkish minister tells Germany to focus on Holocaust, not «slander»

What Is Sickman Erdogan Doing in Africa?

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Posted in Conspiracies, Infos | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Pope Francis Calls Armenian Deaths ‘First Genocide of 20th Century’

Posted by addisethiopia on April 13, 2015

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Some notes on the below video:

The St. George (Sourp Kevork) Armenian Apostolic Holy Orthodox Church of Addis Abeba was built in 1935, replacing a chapel that existed since 1923. According to the book, “Old tracks In the New Flower, a historical guide Addis Ababa”, the Archbishop Asanian came from the Constantinople (the present Istanbul) in person in 1928 to set the first stone this church, the construction of which was funded by the Armenian Mouradian in memory of his father, George. The founding ceremony was also attended by Empress Menen under a gilt, fringed umbrella, with Ras Tafari in a red cloak, and by the Ethiopian Echegue.

Before the construction of this church, Armenians traditionally often made use Ethiopian Orthodox churches for their weddings and funerals.

Armenians had an active community. A large slice of the economy was in their hands, bringing wealth both to themselves and their host country. The Djerrians, Garrbedians, Hagapians, Avakians, Pareginas, and others were famous in the city as educated and cultured families who owned shoe factories and cinemas, eyeglass and watch repair business, as well as many of the oldest buildings in Piazza where their shops were located. As importers, electricians, goldsmiths and technicians, the Armenians were useful productive citizens.

Armenian goldsmiths, traders and architects were invited to settle in Ethiopia more than 150 years ago by Emperor Johannes IV. Buoyed by the ties between Ethiopian and Armenian Orthodoxy, the community thrived.

After the Armenian Genocide in 1915, Haile Selassie, Ethiopia’s regent who later became Emperor, opened his arms to the Armenian people even wider, adopting 40 orphans as wards of court. In return, the Ethio-Armenians proved fiercely loyal.

One trader used his European connections to buy arms for Ethiopia’s resistance movement against the Italian occupation during World War II. Others ran an underground newspaper. Several gave their lives in service of their adopted homeland.

Pope Francis described the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by Turks as the “first genocide of the 20th century” on Sunday, touching off a diplomatic furor with Turkey and entering into a tense historical debate with wider implications for the Vatican’s relations with Islam.

Turkey, which has long rejected the term genocide to describe the killings, swiftly called its ambassador to the Vatican back to Ankara for consultations after the pope’s remarks. Turkey’s foreign ministry also summoned the Vatican’s envoy to Ankara, informing him that the government was “disappointed and saddened” by the pontiff’s comments, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.

The pope, speaking at a mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the 100 years since the killings, addressed the massacres in the context of the contemporary persecution of Christians in the Muslim world. That subject has become an increasingly pressing theme for Pope Francis—who, before becoming pontiff, had close ties to Buenos Aires’s overwhelmingly Christian Armenian community.

Even as he has continued to call for better relations between Catholicism and Islam, the pope has urged Muslim leaders to denounce the actions of extremists and pushed Christians of different churches to stand together in the face of anti-Christian violence.

The pope’s statement is a boost for Armenia’s decadeslong campaign to define the killings as genocide, as well as a setback for Turkey’s efforts to fend off the accusations of systematic killing.

Armenians—the vast majority of whom are Christians—say that as many as 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed during World War I in today’s eastern Turkey, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire.

A number of countries officially recognize the killings as genocide. But Turkey contests Armenian claims about the scale of losses; it argues that hundreds of thousands actually died in warfare and famine, and that many Turks were also killed by Armenians. Turkey argues that the question of genocide should be left to historians rather than politicians.

Pope Francis said Sunday that “it is necessary, and indeed a duty,” to “recall the centenary of that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter whose cruelty your forbears had to endure…Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”

Turkey accused the Vatican of using history for political aims: by singling out Armenians and not mentioning all lost lives in Anatolia during World War I. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the comments were “not fitting of the Pope.”

The Pope’s declaration, divorced from historical and legal facts, is unacceptable. Religious posts are not positions to stoke hatred and grudges on baseless claims,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a message from his official Twitter account.

It wasn’t the first time a pope has called the 1915 deaths genocide. Pope Francis, in referring to “the first genocide of the 20th century,” was quoting a 2001 common declaration by Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, who was also present at Sunday’s Mass, along with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

Pope Francis went further than the 2001 declaration, calling the killing of Armenians one of “three massive and unprecedented tragedies” in the 20th century. “The remaining two were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism,” he said. The latter reference was to the 1932-33 man-made famine in Ukraine, part of Joseph Stalin’s effort to collectivize Soviet agriculture, which killed as many as 7.5 million people.

The pope also spoke of the 1915 killings in connection to recent attacks on Christians, with an impassioned reference to “so many of our defenseless brothers and sisters who, on account of their faith in Christ or their ethnic origin, are publicly and ruthlessly put to death—decapitated, crucified, burned alive—or forced to leave their homeland.”

The pope has become increasingly vocal about the persecution of Christians around the world, especially in Muslim-majority countries. He has called on Muslim leaders to denounce the actions of Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. At a Good Friday ceremony on April 3, he deplored the world’s “complicit silence” about such persecution, including the previous day’s killings of nearly 150—many of them Christians—by a Somali insurgent group in Kenya.

The Good Friday ceremony prominently featured Christians from Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Egypt and China, countries in which Christians experience varying degrees of violence and official discrimination.

In a separate written message to Armenians released by the Vatican on Sunday, the pope appeared to suggest that other leaders should join him in adopting the language of genocide: “All who are heads of state and of international organizations are called to oppose such crimes with a firm sense of duty, without ceding to ambiguity or compromise.”

A group of 40 members of Congress introduced a resolution to formally recognize the Armenian genocide in March, a move likely to strain U.S.-Turkish relations. Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), lead sponsor of the resolution, praised the pope’s remarks, saying he hoped they would “inspire our President and Congress to demonstrate a like commitment to speaking the truth about the Armenian genocide and to renounce Turkey’s campaign of concealment and denial.”

President Barack Obama pledged during his 2008 campaign that he would formally recognize the genocide though he hasn’t followed through. In remarks last year, Mr. Obama called the killings “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century” without referring to them as genocide.

Obama and other leaders will now face significant pressure,” said Henri Barkey, a former State Department official who currently teaches international relations at Lehigh University. “Until now, Turkey always tried to prevent Western recognition. The pope’s sermon is a serious crack.”

Source

ARMENIAN GENOCIDE CENTENNIAL

THE WORST GENOCIDES OF THE 20th CENTURY

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Pope Francis Visit: Turkey’s Christians Face Tense Times

Posted by addisethiopia on November 27, 2014

  • “No country in the region – including Iran – is as homogenous in terms of Islam as Turkey”
  • The ethnic cleansing of these non-Muslim minorities was a huge brain drain”
  • Armenians were the other large Christian community. Hundreds of thousands were deported in 1915. They were either killed or died from starvation and disease. The label “genocide” is rejected by the Turkish state. From a population of two million Armenians, around 50,000 remain today
  • “Armenians fear expressing their religious identity here. Most of the believers hide their cross inside their shirt. They can’t open it and walk freely on the street because they could prompt a reaction”
  • New mosques are flourishing, while the world-famous Halki Orthodox theological school near Istanbul has remained closed since 1971 under Turkish nationalist pressure
  • “To be a Turk now means you have to be Muslim”
  • “The threatening feeling for non-Muslim minorities here is coming again.

It tells of a city where empires, cultures and religions collided. A building that bears mosaics of Jesus and the Virgin Mary beside calligraphy reading “Allah” and “the Prophet Mohamed”. There is no greater symbol of the clash of civilisations here than Hagia Sophia.

For almost 1,000 years it stood as the most important Orthodox cathedral in the world, the religious heart of the largely Christian Byzantine empire whose capital was then called Constantinople.

But in 1453 the city fell to the Ottomans, Hagia Sophia became a mosque and Christianity began its slow demise here.

As Turkey grew out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, that decline accelerated. When Pope Francis arrives here this week, he will visit a country whose population has fallen from 20% Christian 100 years ago to around 0.2% today.

‘Huge brain drain’

“No country in the region – including Iran – is as homogenous in terms of Islam as Turkey,” says historian Cengiz Aktar. “It’s a mono-colour country – it’s a Muslim country.”

After the Turkish Republic was born in 1923, it carried out a “population exchange” with Greece to create more ethnic and religious consistency. More than a million Greeks were forced out of Turkey to Greece while around 300,000 Muslims from Greece were relocated here.

The Greeks of Istanbul were initially saved but after a crippling wealth tax, anti-Greek pogroms in 1955 and mass expulsions in 1964, the Greek community was left in tatters. And so was the Orthodox Christianity they practised.

“The ethnic cleansing of these non-Muslim minorities was a huge brain drain,” says Mr Aktar, who has created a new exhibition on the loss of the Greeks here.

“It also meant the disappearance of the bourgeoisie because not only were they wealthy but they were artisans. Istanbul lost its entire Christian and Jewish heritage.”

Hidden crosses

It was not just the exodus of the Greeks that hit Christianity here.

Armenians were the other large Christian community. Hundreds of thousands were deported in 1915. They were either killed or died from starvation and disease. The label “genocide” is rejected by the Turkish state. From a population of two million Armenians, around 50,000 remain today.

Robert Koptas shows me around the office of his Armenian weekly newspaper, Agos. In 2007, the editor, Hrant Dink, was murdered outside by Turkish nationalists. Seven years on, Mr Koptas says the small Armenian community feels intimidated.

“Armenians fear expressing their religious identity here,” he says.

“Most of the believers hide their cross inside their shirt. They can’t open it and walk freely on the street because they could prompt a reaction. I don’t want to say all the Turkish population is against Christianity but nationalism is so high that people are afraid to express themselves.”

That is now the worry among the Christian minority here: that Turkish Muslim nationalism has grown under the Islamist-rooted government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister for 11 years before being elected president last August.

Dead missionaries

Mr Erdogan has made moves to support the Christians, such as passing a law to return confiscated state property to them and allowing Christian religious classes in schools. But he constantly stresses his Islamic identity, his support base is conservative Muslim and he whips up the nationalists here, the mood hardening against Christians.

Catholics, the smallest Christian minority in Turkey, have felt the impact.

A spate of murders of Catholic missionaries and priests a few years ago left the community in shock. At the Catholic basilica in Istanbul, there is Mass for the few.

“To be a Turk now means you have to be Muslim,” says Father Iulian Pista, who serves here.

“In the past, being a pious Muslim was looked down upon. Now Friday prayers are encouraged. Society here is becoming Islamised. Recently, I’ve seen youngsters defecate and urinate in my church. They shout ‘Allahu akbar’ [English: God is great]. I also believe God is great but the way they say it is threatening.”

Islam was sidelined from the constitutionally secular Turkish republic founded in 1923. But as a nation state was formed here, the religion became part of Turkish national identity, something that has sharply accelerated under Mr Erdogan’s leadership.

Old fears

New mosques are flourishing, while the world-famous Halki Orthodox theological school near Istanbul has remained closed since 1971 under Turkish nationalist pressure. One of the remaining Greeks of Turkey, Fotis Benlisoy, says the community feels squeezed: “The threatening feeling for non-Muslim minorities here is coming again.

“There are many reasons: language and policies of the government, the president and prime minister using more conservative references to Sunni identity, pejorative words for non-Muslim communities coming from members of the cabinet, so much circulating about Turkey’s relations with Isis [the Islamic State militant group based in Syria and Iraq] – all of this is making us think we might need an escape strategy.”

At the magnificent Panaghia Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul, the morning liturgy is led by Bartholomew I, “ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople”, a position still based here.

It is a reminder of this country’s heritage – and of a Christian faithful that is small but defiant. As modern Turkey builds its identity, the question still remains: can it embrace true religious freedom – or will nationalism stand in the way?

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