Landmark events of the past should be remembered or even commemorated if they bear direct significance to the present and serve as an indicator to future calamities. For the scholars of Greco-Turkish relations today is a landmark event. On this day 19th of May in 1919, two parallel events took place in Asia Minor, cradle of ancient Christian civilizations – Greek and Armenian. On the one hand on the west of the Asia Minor peninsula an event that would potentially lead to democratic change in the collapsing Ottoman Empire: a Greek contingent lands in Smyrna, a hotbed of Greek culture, in accordance with the implementation of the Treaty of Sevres. Justifiably, Greece was assigned by the Allies to administer the district of Smyrna. Alas, Greek rule over that part of the Western Minor Asian coast was to prove short-lived: within three years it would collapse in the most brutal way: the burning of the Greek-Armenian shipping and merchant town by irregular Turkish troopers (see for example: Marjorie Housepian Dobkin: Smyrna 1922 The Destruction of a City, 1971 and Rene Puaux: La Morte de Smyrne, Paris, 1922 www.greek-genocide.net).
On the other hand, the same day, 19th May 1919, Mustafa Kemal, a German-trained Ottoman officer, landed in Trabzon (Trapezounta), regrouped dispersed vestiges of the routed Ottoman Army and embarked on his project to purge Asia Minor of Greek – and other Christian minority – presence. By the autumn of 1922 he managed to throw the Greeks into the sea. The burning of Smyrna in September sealed his total victory. The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) assigned him the spoils of war (though divested him from any title or right over Cyprus).
Relatively recent efforts to institutionalize the 19th of May as European Day of Commemoration of the Victims of Kemalism have not produced the expected results. The most notable of such a campaign is by Greek intellectual Michalis Charalambidis, member of the Executive Committee of the International League for the Rights & Liberation of Peoples (LIDLIP). Charalambidis details his efforts for international recognition of the Greek Genocide in his remarkable book The Pontian Question in the United Nations ‘dedicated to the victims of the Pontian Holocaust’, published in two editions 2004/2009 by LIDLIP, Geneva.
Today, 19 May 2016, almost a century later, the Greek people of Cyprus, forming as ever the overwhelming majority of the island’s inhabitants, are struggling to prevent the creeping Turkification/Islamization of their island through a spurious ‘settlement’ that would mortgage future generations of Greeks to the whims of the neo-Ottomans in power in Ankara, Kemalist or Islamist their policy objectives are the same: domination in the eastern Mediterranean and beyond. Ill-conceived British and American Eastern Mediterranean policies in the past four decades introduced the despicable idea of ‘political equality between the two communities’ in the Cyprus-related UN resolutions nurturing Turkish Islamist expansionism. Make no mistake: this is the end result of consistently and systematically playing up the 18 per cent Turkish Cypriot minority by the West.
A latter-day reminder, if one is needed is offered by Milorad Dodik, President of the Serbian Republic within the Bosnia-Herzegovina Federation. In his recent visit to Cyprus invited by the EDEK Socialist Party leader, he told President Anastasiades indirectly ‘beware you are entering a political minefield field strewn by Ankara’. Dodik made an equivocal statement about Turkey’s covert interference in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a statement that leaves no room for doubt: ‘Turkey’s support for one side only [i.e. the Ottoman time Islamised Bosnian Serbs] is a factor that contributes to the difficulty of making agreements in the country’. Dodik’s experienced remarks ought to sound alarms in the Greek leadership both in Lefkosia and in Athens. For who will pay the price? Who will suffer if Cyprus is turned into a covert Turkish protectorate?