The bully is running wild

Erdogan pictured at a meeting with provincial heads of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, August 13, 2020 (Photo: Presidency of the Republic of Turkey)

The name of the entity has changed from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey. The names of the leaders have changed from Abdul Hamid II to Talaat Pasha to Kemal Atatürk to Erdogan. What hasn’t changed is that what they have has been founded on the blood of others and is sustained by an aggressive and oppressive attitude towards their neighbors.

Turkey (and its predecessor) has earned a reputation as a nation with one of the worst human rights records of a major nation in the last 125 years. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Ottoman Turks focused their evil intentions on the Balkan Christians and then committed genocide against the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontic Greeks. By the start of the “new” Turkish Republic in 1922, a land once indigenous to millions of Christians was reduced to the emptiness from atrocities. This enormous crime has remained unpunished as Turkey lives in its silo of denial. The Turkish Republic of Kemal was the result of infighting and unfulfilled promises by victorious yet ambivalent allies after World War I. This left the Armenians of Cilicia, who were urged to return by the French, and the Pontic Greeks at the mercy of marauding “Kemalists” intent on purging Anatolia of the remaining Christians. For the Armenians, it was a continuation of the Genocide that started in 1915. For the Pontic Greeks, most of the carnage took place after the World War as the cleansing began in the north. The western Greeks, the descendants of the earlier Byzantines, were abandoned by the Allies and left to deal with the Turkish nationalists. The Greek tragedy culminated with the destruction and slaughter at Smyrna (today’s Izmir) where the city was burned and thousands of Greeks and Armenians perished.

In one of the strongest examples of the hypocrisy of war, the defeated genocidal Turks were allowed to continue their murderous rampages and create the Turkish Republic. What is hailed as the “war of liberation” by Turks created a republic on the blood of thousands of Christians, their territory and personal wealth. It has been documented that the theft of the communal and personal wealth of the Christian victims became the financial basis for the new republic.

The “redistribution” of money and property is another layer of the crime. In the east, the Turkish nationalists, ignoring the official Turkish government’s signature on the Treaty of Sèvres, attacked the Armenian republic committing additional atrocities. The Allies, anxious to move on and ignore the victims of their deceit and Turkish aggression, created the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 to make peace with the Republic of Turkey. It ignored the victims of multiple genocides.

For the Turks, destroying what’s left of the Armenians is a hobby.

History has taught us that when you placate aggression, it only strengthens resolve. The world learned this lesson in the 1930s prior to WWII when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain consistently backed down to Hitler’s abuse. We all know how that worked out. Turkey is a great example of continued abuse of human rights and the sovereignty of other nations. This behavior did not stop with the birth of “modern” Turkey…like father like son. The forced assimilation and assault on the Kurds began in the 1930s. The former allies of the Turks were now just another ethnic group who refused to fall under their forced label of “mountain Turks.” Massacres in Dersim and institutional discrimination where the Kurdish language and culture were excluded from the educational system slowly degenerated to open warfare against the armed Kurdish guerrillas (PKK) but in reality against any Kurds with ethnic and nationalistic interests. When the Kurds put down their weapons and joined the political electoral process in Turkey with such popular parties as the HDP (the party of MP Garo Paylan), they were welcomed with massive incarceration of their leadership and elected officials. Large parts of Diyarbekir (Sur district) were destroyed in their hunt for “terrorists.” One of the casualties was the newly renovated Surp Giragos Armenian Church which was desecrated during the de facto martial law confiscation. For the Turks, destroying what’s left of the Armenians is a hobby. The Christians have always been a favorite target. The Greeks were open targets in Turkey in 1955. Even the disgraceful Treaty of Lausanne (Articles 37- 40) guaranteed the rights of “non-Muslim” minorities equal religious and civil rights. Despite this agreement, the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic seminaries have been closed since the 70s causing significant shortages of clergymen. In addition the Turkish government has constantly manipulated the Patriarchate to divide the Armenian community and minimize their impact.

If Turkey was judged on the atrocities and violations of its modern era past, it would consume human rights tribunals for months.

If Turkey was judged on the atrocities and violations of its modern era past, it would consume human rights tribunals for months. Turkey of the past would commit atrocities under the cover of war or dependency within its domestic borders. The strategy would then be to cover up the crimes in the presence of a forgetful and forgiving world. Today, Turkey—emboldened by the tepid responses of its peers—has embarked on a new strategy that threatens world peace. In a remarkable plan of irresponsible behavior by a modern nation, Turkey, under Erdogan, is attempting to implement a neo-Ottoman strategy of influence from North Africa through the Middle East. They have opened countless fronts in the last seven years, any of which represent the possibility of regional wars that could plunge the world into chaos. Erdogan is very predictable. He tests the environment to gauge responses. The careful allocation of the Aegean Islands between mainland Greece and Turkey was agreed to in the Treaty of Lausanne and governed in international law by the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) created by the United Nations in 1982. Turkey has unilaterally declared that Greece and Cyprus have limited rights to the energy exploration guaranteed by the EEZ. This provocation has the potential for military conflicts. Turkey hopes that a compromise-driven Europe will back off under Turkish threats—a net gain for Turkey beyond the legal allocation. Intimidation works when the other party relents. All the primary parties are NATO members. Greece and Cyprus are EU members, and this has the potential of moving into another EU proxy conflict which will draw the interests of the United States and Russia.

In North Africa, a civil war has been raging in Libya since the demise of former leader Gadaffi. The Government of National Accord (GNA) is one faction in the west while the majority of the territory is controlled by a group led by General Haftar. Civil wars have become a breeding ground for proxy conflicts as the Syrian civil war has proven. At times, it is unclear who the sides are and what they are fighting for. This is not a recent phenomenon. What is unique is that Turkey has supported the GNA with troops and equipment, while Haftar is backed by Russia, French and other interests. Everyone wants to back a winner that will serve their interests, but Turkey wants more than some oil or political influence. They view Arab North Africa as former Turkish territory where their sphere of influence must be restored. This is a significant destabilizing factor for the region with major powers involved in the outcome. This could become another Syria.

Speaking of Syria, the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish north (itself a violation of sovereignty) has been laced with atrocities as Turkish troops and their “rebel” allies pillage and destroy the Kurdish villages. The Turkish criminal intent is to alter the demographics by replacing the Kurdish population with Turkmen, Turkish or “friendly” Arab villagers. The same strategy is part of the “rebuilding” of Sur in the southwest of Turkey where they bring in non-Kurds to dilute the political and national perceived threat. Is this any different than deporting populations? These are the allies of the US in the ISIS struggle. The Kurds in Iraq, once on friendly terms with the Turks, have grown tired of the constant incursions in their northern border by the Turkish military in their constant hunt for “terrorists.” Recently, two Iraqi Kurd border officials were killed by the Turkish military on sovereign Iraq Kurd territory.

With the chaos in Lebanon, you can count on the Turks pumping money in to influence the recovery. In Lebanon, where Armenians are loyal and respected citizens, they are subjected to threatening and vile demonstrations by Turks and their sympathizers. Coincidence? No chance. Turkey will commit funds to the reconstruction and economic recovery that will further divide this fractured society. Are the Arabs that naive not to believe that the Muslim Erdogan to them is also the Turk Erdogan? At the end of the day, the Syrians, Iraqis, Saudis, Lebanese, Jordanians and others are former Ottoman subjects.

The collaboration of “two states one nation” with Azerbaijan is ominous. Azerbaijan threatens Armenia with a nuclear disaster, and Turkey says nothing. This is Russia’s backyard. Yes the EU and the US are establishing relationships, but Russia will not allow Turkey to bridge into the Caucasus region and have access to the south side of Russia and its Turkic/Muslim populations. What kind of a NATO member threatens other members and buys a missile defense system (S-400) from the country that created the need for NATO? Irresponsible at the least…duplicitous in reality. The examples are plentiful. The intent is clear.

The major powers in this world have a responsibility to maintain stability. They must send Turkey a message before the wildfire becomes a catastrophe. There are economic levers (sanctions). There are diplomatic actions (ending the absurd EU bid and membership in NATO). Their outrageous rampage of violating the sovereignty and human rights of others must stop. Ask the Armenians, the Assyrians, the Greeks and now the Kurds what happens when you ignore their crimes. They are repeated in new venues. The west must realize that Turkey needs them as much or perhaps more than they believe. Turkey draws its strength from the reluctance of others to respond. While the victims of past crimes wait for justice, let’s not create new victims.

Stepan Piligian

Stepan Piligian

Stepan was raised in the Armenian community of Indian Orchard, MA at the St. Gregory Parish. A former member of the AYF Central Executive and the Eastern Prelacy Executive Council, he also served many years as a delegate to the Eastern Diocesan Assembly. Currently , he serves as a member of the board and executive committee of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR). He also serves on the board of the Armenian Heritage Foundation. Stepan is a retired executive in the computer storage industry and resides in the Boston area with his wife Susan. He has spent many years as a volunteer teacher of Armenian history and contemporary issues to the young generation and adults at schools, camps and churches. His interests include the Armenian diaspora, Armenia, sports and reading.


  1. Quite so.
    Don’t be afraid to voice reality!
    During the 1990’s I visited the Republic’s museum in Ankara. Everything was written in turkish only…Almost everything except for the phrase about voicing reality which I used above. By Kemal Ataturk.
    So dear Armenians, Greeks and Kurds don’t be afraid to voice reality!

  2. “In one of the strongest examples of the hypocrisy of war, the defeated genocidal Turks were allowed to continue their murderous rampages and create the Turkish Republic.”

    Yes, that’s right; but, again, it was the Christian Allied powers who allowed the defeated, genocidal Muslim Ottoman Empire to continue slaughtering its Christian Armenian, Greek and Assyrian inhabitants; and then allowed it to create a new country, by the name of “Turkey.”

    I’m curious to know if Sultan Erdogan happens to know that his idol, Kemal Ataturk (a Sephardic Jew), had attended the Jewish elementary school, Semsi Effendi, run by Simon Zvi?

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