Erdogan Finally Admits Turkey Practiced Ethnic Cleansing

In a daring statement, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted for the first time that the expulsion from Turkey of tens of thousands of ethnic Greeks in the last century was a “fascist” act, Reuters reported.

Some commentators viewed Erdogan’s remarks as a reference to the expulsion of 1.5 million ethnic Greeks from Turkey to Greece in 1923. The large-scale population exchange between the two countries also included the transfer of more than 500,000 ethnic Turks from Greece to Turkey.

Other observers thought that Erdogan was referring to the pillaging of thousands of Greek shops and houses by Turkish mobs in Istanbul on Sept. 6-7, 1955, following the spread of false reports that Ataturk’s house in Thessaloniki, Greece had been burned down.

Beyond the expulsion of Greeks, Erdogan made an indirect reference to the tragic fate of other ethnic groups, such as Armenians, in Turkey. “For years, those of different identities have been kicked out of our country. … This was not done with common sense. This was done with a fascist approach,” Erdogan said on May 23, during the annual congress of the Justice and Development Party, held in the western province of Duzce.

“For many years,” Erdogan continued, “various facts took place in this country to the detriment of ethnic minorities who lived here. They were ethnically cleansed because they had a different ethnic cultural identity. The time has arrived for us to question ourselves about why this happened and what we have learned from all of this. There has been no analysis of this right up until now. In reality, this behavior is the result of a fascist conception. We have also fallen into this grave error.”

The Turkish prime minister’s candid remarks were harshly criticized by opposition parties. Onur Oymen, vice president of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said that associating Turkey’s history with terms like fascism based on hearsay was not right. He also said that no Turkish citizen had ever been expelled because of his or her ethnic background. Oktay Vural of the opposition MHP party added: “Erdogan’s words are an insult to the Turkish nation.”

In sharp contrast, liberal Turkish commentators praised Erdogan for his conciliatory remarks: “For the first time you have a prime minister who wants to admit that mistakes were made in the treatment of religious minorities. This is historic,” wrote journalist Sami Kohen in Milliyet. “But whether this rhetoric will be followed with deeds remains to be seen.”

Hurriyet Daily News added: “Erdogan’s speech was historic; it was the first time that a high official accepted there have been unlawful and undemocratic practices against minorities in the past. This sentiment was echoed by Professor Halil Berktay in Vatan newspaper: ‘That statement was the most courageous thing ever said by Erdogan.’ Baskin Oran, another academic well-known for his liberal views, told Star newspaper that he was ‘proud of a prime minister who denounces ethnic and religious cleansing.’”

CNN-Turk news director Ridvan Akar was more skeptical about Erdogan’s true intentions. He wrote in Vatan: “Minority rights as well as those of religious foundations are a structural problem within the Turkish state. Of course, Erdogan has taken a step forward with this declaration. But the sincerity of his words will depend on facts to back them up, such as the restitution of rights to those who have been expelled, the return of confiscated properties, or compensation.”

The prime minister’s statement is encouraging, if it is an indication that Turkey’s leaders have finally decided to face the ugly chapters of their country’s past.

However, it would be wrong to draw overly optimistic conclusions from this single statement. Erdogan has made similar comments about the Kurds in Turkey, only to have their hopes dashed by taking unexpected repressive measures against them.

The fact is that Erdogan is not the master of his political domain. The “fascists” he attacks are not buried in an Ottoman historical grave, but are alive and well in Turkish society and occupy the highest echelons of the military and judiciary.

Yet, Erdogan is politically shrewd enough to realize that his condemnation of fascism will resonate at home and in the West, and win him accolades and support against his powerful domestic opponents.

Erdogan’s battle against the ghosts of the Turkish past is in fact a fight for his political survival against those in today’s Turkey who view him and his Islamic party with deep suspicion, and are determined to counter his every move, ultimately seeking his downfall from power.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Erdoghan announcement although of course welcome, the Armenians, and the Armenian Government in particular, must be careful not to confuse this Erdoghan announcement addressed mainly to his domestic and European audiences with anything remotely close to a genuine apology and atonement for the crime of Genocide committed by the Ottoman and its successor Turkish states against the Armenians and other Christian/minority peoples of the Ottoman Empire.
    As Harout Sassounian correctly points out, Erdoghan is involved in a political life and death struggle with the Deep State who are the real masters of Turkey today. However as far as the Armenian Genocide and the overall Pan-Turkist anti Armenian policy of the Republic of Turkey is concerned the various factions are as united and are speaking with one voice as the Abdul Hamid and Young Turk regimes were. Make no mistake as we have been there before, in 1908-15.
    Turkey has no incentive to change this racist Turkish nationalist anti Armenian policy, as Nazi Germany could not be persuaded to do away with its brand of racism. Likewise it is highly naive for anyone to believe that Armenia will be able to deal with Turkey in its current form – in the same way that it would be inconceivable to believe that a (God forbid!) surviving Nazi German state could deal fairly with a crushed polish state to its east or that such imaginary states could or would have any relations based on fairness and equality; quite the contrary the “relation” would have been one of complete dominance and aggression on the one side and submission and meekness on the other – exactly as they are between Turkey and Armenia today.
    It follows therefore that “the international community” has a duty to dismantle and destroy the xenophobically racist nationalist Republic of Turkey and completely de-Nazify it before its immediate neighbours – Armenia in particular, Cyprus, Greece and the Kurds, etc. – and even Europe in the long term could feel safe. The real terrorist time-bomb is slowly ticking in Ankara and unless the great powers defuse and destroy it no one should feel safe or satisfied.
    Armenia must be doubly careful and vigilant not only because she has already experienced the fall-outs from Ottoman-Turkish in-fighting between its various faction repeatedly (Turkish “democratisation” from above and under foreign/European pressure) but because it is facing the pan-Turkist plague from both Turkey as well as Azerbaijan who pursue a unified policy of wiping out the Republic of Armenia and a hardly viable Armenian statehood on a minor strip of land that, despite all the odds, has survived centuries of Turco-Tatarist organised massacres, repression, deportations and eventual genocide and permanent extermination campaigns in the last one hundred years.

  2. Nazarian article reads enemies mind;
    This article every Armenian must read
    From West to East
    We were simple and kind
    Armenian honesty not in every nation… found
    We should not believe every thing has been said
    We can be thrown out like dust on the breezy waves.
    See President Obama how he changed
    See how Syrians became their friends
    Their films are invading Arabs Hearts
    Although Syrians poets have published unbelievable articles
    Against northern enemies in the past!

  3. Erdogan’s remarks have been possible precisely for the opposite reason, the deep state, Atatürk,  are being thrown into the dustbin of history. In the current state of affairs, they are like the envelope dearer than the content.

  4. I am announcing the secret agenda of the Republic of Turkey.

    In order to achieve the one of the last steps of the PanTurkist Empire all over the world, Turks understood the importance of addressing to the hearts of Arabs.  Since this last step can not be performed by tanks and helicopters, by using the advantage of the Ottoman heritage , Turks are manipulating decent and naive Arabs and make them think that Turks are ordinary people who fall in love, who work to make a living and etc. The film industry secretly funded by the evil of the evils Turkish governments is the perfect tool to accomplish this task namely invading Arabs’ Hearts.

    Even though the people in the world believe that Turks are human just like themselves, this is not the case at all. Turks literally do not sleep, do not eat and of course do not possess any of the human attributes we humans have. Their master plan is wiping Armenia off the map together with the human civilization. Believe it or not, the only thought in the minds of the today’s Turks is the destruction of the Armenian nation.

    Someone needs to stop Turks for the good of mankind.


  5. I know I’m not supposed to believe that there is anything honest behind Erdogan’s statements but it’s something.  Maybe some turks will listen to what he said and start being a little bit more open about learning the truth about what their people did to every minority that ever lived in Turkey.  I really hope this is a real step forward, but my hope is fleeting.

  6. I am astonished that all of you are so anxious for US to condemn Turkey. I wish they will pull and push – US and Turkey for another ten years, and loose more credibility.

    Today’s Urban Turk is a kinder gentler species of the former. Look to their faces, which one of them look like the Mongol/Tatar/Uzbec/Dajig conglomeration. All the women Armenian, Kurdish, Circasian, Assiryan and others kidnapped and forcibly confined, to obey to the whims of their captives, has made them a gentler less violent species. Somehow, one day the reality will dawn on them. It will be very hard for the masses to accept the lies of their government, and riots will brake up. I am waiting for that day.  

    Empires have come and gone, they are passing too. We have to be vigilant and take advantage when the opportunity comes, to get not only Nakhichevan and the 3 vilayets, but some part at the black sea which according recent history is ours.

    Do you think I am dreaming? not at all. With BRAIN and science manoeuvring we CAN DO.     

  7. Yeah  ..Anahit  jan, in spanish there  is a saying  that  goes:-(Uno tambien puede vivir sonaiando)i.e.,One can also live by dreaming…
    You forget they are  supported
    , sorry  the  have BEEN  supported  close  to a century  now…
    They  know  how to manipulate  those supporters(you mention)  and thus can forge  ahead  with  their schemes,that  of Pan Turkism…
    Stop dreaming  please,unless  your friend-brother  can develop  some”science maneuvring ” as you say and give  it to  them!!!!
    Meanwhile ask  all Armenians  to set aside  their un-coperativeness,respect  ea  other  -though  of different  belief- and ABOVE ALL DUMP  ENVY amongst  us…a  very bad  trait,not only  for wealth  but  one’sbeing  more capable  in his  her  work etc.,also mental merits…
    best  to  you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.