A book by two leading Israeli scholars extensively covers the history of the genocide of Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Christians in Turkey during the early 20th century.
The book, titled “The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of Its Christian Minorities, 1894–1924,” covers the period between 1894 and 1924, when three waves of violence swept across Asia Minor, targeting the region’s Christian minorities, who had previously accounted for 20 percent of the population.
By 1924, the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks had been reduced to 2 percent. Most historians have treated these waves as distinct, isolated events and successive Turkish governments presented them as an unfortunate sequence of accidents and have denied that it was a genocide.
But “The Thirty-Year Genocide” is the first account to show that the three were actually part of a single, continuing and intentional effort to wipe out Anatolia’s Christian population.
The years in question, the most violent in the recent history of the region, began during the reign of the Ottoman sultan Abdulhamid II, continued under the Young Turks and ended during the first years of the Turkish Republic founded by Ataturk.
Yet despite the dramatic swing from the Islamizing autocracy of the sultan to the secularizing republicanism of the post–World War I period, the nation’s annihilationist policies were remarkably constant, with continual recourse to premeditated mass killing, homicidal deportation, forced conversion, mass rape and brutal abduction.
And one thing more was a constant: the rallying cry of jihad. While not justified under the teachings of Islam, the killing of 2 million Christians was effected through the calculated exhortation of the Turks to create a pure Muslim nation.
Benny Morris, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, has published books about the history of the Zionist–Arab conflict. He has also written about the conflict in the New York Review of Books, New York Times, New Republic and The Guardian.
Dror Ze’evi, Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, has published several books on Ottoman and Middle Eastern history.
About the book, Robert Fisk wrote in The Independent: “Again and again, I was brought up short by the sheer, terrible, shocking accounts of violence in Morris’s and Zeevi’s work… Is it possible for a people to be so inured to cruelty that they changed, that their acts of sadism could alter their humanity?”
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