The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of Its Christian Minorities 1894-1924

A new book entitled The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of Its Christian Minorities 1894-1924, is sure to enrage Erdogan and most Turks that have been schooled to believe that the atrocities committed by their ancestors, which continue to plague their mentality and foster similar attitudes for anyone opposing their “ethnic purity”  

The new volume highlights how between 1894 and 1924, three waves of violence swept across Anatolia, 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. 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 two million Christians was effected through the calculated exhortation of the Turks to create a pure Muslim nation.

Revelatory and impeccably researched, Benny Morris and Dror Ze’evi’s account is certain to transform how we see one of modern history’s most horrific events.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk gets a bashing by the authors. “There are accounts of him saying in 1922 that, ‘Our aim is to get rid of the Christians’ – he said this in a number of conversations,” said the authors. “He gave orders, and men in his later government were responsible.”

The book recounts three decades of horrific slaughter but refrains from extending the historical record to Turkish misdeeds during and after WWII (deportations, confiscations, etc), the pogroms in Constantinople in 1955, the deportations of 1964-1965, the invasion, occupation of Cyprus and slaughter of civilians and POWs, not to mention the atrocities and ethnic cleansing being carried out today in northern Syria.

However, the book presents how such practices can be ingrained and become the norm driven by a fanaticism fed by purposeful ignorance and religiosity, and how the Turkish regime is retooling such practices of the past towards its contemporary goals.