Byzantine Empire & Ottoman Empire
The Western Roman Empire fell on September 4, 476 AD, but the Eastern Roman Empire continued nearly another 1,000 years.
Its capital city was Constantinople, founded by Emperor Constantine in 330 AD, regarded for centuries as the largest and greatest city on earth.
Constantinople was located where the East and West met, being situated where the Black Sea empties into the Mediterranean Sea, and trade routes from the Far East and Central Asia connected to Europe.
The Eastern Roman Empire was also called the Byzantine Empire, after the area's original Greek colony called Byzantium, founded in 657 BC by Byzas.
The Byzantine Empire had many notable emperors, such as:
Theodosius the Great, 379-395;
Justinian & Theodora, 527-565, built the Hagia Sophia Cathedral;
Basil I, 867-886;
Basil II, 976-1025;
Alexios I Komnenos, 1081-1118, requested help from the West -- the First Crusade;
Constantine XI, 1449-1453, last emperor.
Unfortunately, just as the Western Roman Empire fell, in part, do to the loss of virtue, the Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire was plagued with religious disputes, civil wars, revolts, court intrigues, assassinations, and coups.
In fact, the word "Byzantine" came to have the definition of "devious, clandestine, stealthy, secretive, surreptitious, labyrinthine power struggle."
Rivalry between political parties blinded both sides from recognizing a greater threat.
Demetrius, in challenging his brother Constantine XI's claim to the throne, brought tens of thousands of Muslim warriors across the Bosporus to the walls of Constantinople, not realizing they had an agenda of their own to take over the entire country.
Constantinople was conquered by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II on May 29, 1453, and the Byzantine Empire soon collapsed.
In the fall of Constantinople, untold thousands of Christians were raped, killed, enslaved or deported.
The world's largest Christian church for nearly a millennium, the Hagia Sophia, was converted into a mosque.
The Hagia Sophia had Islamic minarets erected around it, and the church's four acres of Bible-themed gold mosaics were covered with white wash and Qur'an verses.
The Turkish government has never offered to give ownership of the church back to Orthodox Christians.
The Ottoman Empire was one of the largest empires in the world for over 6 centuries.
Towards its end, internal and external factors weakened it, resulting in it being referred to as the "sick man of Europe."
Then oil was discovered in Iran in 1908 by the British, who formed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now BP.
The Turkish Oil Company was formed in 1911, with oil being drilled in Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra.
Kaiser Wilhelm industrialized Germany, and needed oil, so he arranged an alliance with Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
Oil pulled the Middle East into World War I.
Sadly, during this period a tragic genocide of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and other minorities took place.
After the war, the victorious European powers, primarily Britain and France, exerted control over former German and Ottoman territories.
France attempted to take control of Turkey, but the Turks rallied and maintained their independence.
The Ottoman Turkish Empire, founded in 1299, was replaced by the Republic of Turkey in 1922.
Constantinople was renamed in 1930 to Istanbul, derived from the Greek "eis-ten-polin" meaning "to the city."
The courageous leader who kept Turkey independent of European control was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
He helped found the Republic of Turkey and served as its first President.
Ataturk successfully reinvented Turkey into a prosperous, modern, secular state, leading it from 1924 to 1938.
Ataturk distanced his country from its former fundamentalist intolerant past.
This policy was also pursued by Shah Reza Pahlavi in his country of Iran, and by Gamal Nasser in Egypt.
Arabia went in the other direction.
Mostly mountains of worthless sand, Arabia ruled by Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, who helped Britain defeat the Turkish Ottoman Empire in World War I.
After the war, Britain installed his son Faisal as King of Iraq, and his son Abdullah as King of Jordan.
When Hussein bin Ali waffled on a treaty, the British allowed the fundamentalist wahhabi Arab Abdulaziz ibn Saud to take over Arabia.
In 1938, Standard Oil Company discovered oil in Saudi Arabia, causing it to become the wealthiest country in the Middle East, the main exporter of both oil and fundamental Islamic wahhabism.
Ataturk is considered the father of modern Turkey. "Ata" is the Turkish word for "father."
He abolished the position of the Sultan, stating:
"He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government ...
Even before accepting the religion of the Arabs, the Turks were a great nation."
Ataturk ended the Islamic Caliphate, thus preventing Muslim religious leaders from controlling government affairs.
In an effort to cut ties, he replaced Arabic Islamic names with Turkish names.
He introduced the western use of last names.
Ataturk abolished use of Arabic and Persian script, replacing it with the Latin alphabet.
He abolished turbans and fezes (the red felt cap with a black tassel) and required men to wear western pants and suits.
Ataturk banned beards on men, and even required Muslim prayer leaders to be beardless.
He replaced Arabic muezzin’s call to prayer and made praying a private affair.
He abolished sharia courts, and made Friday a workday, instituting the Western idea of the “weekend” being Saturday and Sunday.
Ataturk outlawed polygamy and elevated the status of women, appointing the first female judges, and insisting on education of girls.
He abolished women wearing of scarves,veils, chadors or burqas - the full-length body dress worn by Muslim women, and requiring women to wear skirts.
Women were allowed to vote in 1930.
"If henceforward the women do not share in the social life of the nation, we shall never attain to our full development. We shall remain irremediably backward, incapable of treating on equal terms with the civilizations of the West."
Instead of a caliphate, students were taught republican ideals of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu.
Ataturk empowered the military to be custodians of maintaining a secular government, with responsibility to remove political leaders who drifted toward Islamic fundamentalism:
"Mohammedanism was based on Arab nationalism above all nationalities ...
The purpose of the religion founded by Muhammad, over all nations, was to drag (them into) Arab national politics ... (It) might have suited tribes in the desert. It is no good for a modern, progressive state."
Similarly, Egypt's President Gamal Nasser told a political gathering in 1958:
"I met with the head of the Muslim Brotherhood and he sat with me and made his requests.
What did he request? The first thing he asked for was to make wearing the hijab mandatory in Egypt and demand that every woman walking in the street wear a tarha (scarf), (audience laughter) Every woman walking! (someone in audience shouted 'let him wear it!') ...
And I told him, if I make that a law they will say that we have returned to the days of Al-Hakimbi Amr Allah, who forbade people from walking at day and only allowed walking at night ..."
"My opinion is that every person in his own house decides for himself the rules, And he replied 'No, as the leader, you are responsible.'
I told him, 'Sir, you have a daughter in the School of Medicine and she is not wearing a tarha. Why didn’t you make her wear a tarha? If you (audience applauded) ...
If you are unable to make one girl - who is your daughter - wear the tarha, you want me to put a tarha on 10 million woman myself? (sustained laughter).
Pro-western views were also embraced in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Syria; and Afghanistan.
Iran was pro-American, with Shah Reza Pahlavi of Iran (1919-1980), being friends with U.S. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.
Iran had a secular government till it was betrayed by Jimmy Carter, who helped ushered in the Ayatollah.
ISTANBUL'S GREAT RIOT & POGROM
Ataturk’s effort to transform Turkey suffered a temporary set back after his death.
Turkish leaders spiraled into being more nationalistic and fundamentalist.
Turkey passed laws barring Greeks from 30 different trades and professions. In 1942, a capital gains tax was passed to reduce the number of Greek businesses.
Politicians began speaking openly against the 100,000 Greek Christians still living in Constantinople, now Istanbul.
In 1950, Adnan Menderes became Prime Minister of Turkey.
Menderes gave a speech supporting the return of the Caliphate.
He re-opened thousands of mosques which had been closed, brought back the Islamic call to prayer in the Arabic language, and encouraged Muslims to follow Islam more fundamentally.
Menderes orchestrated a provocation whereby a Turkish University Student was to place explosive charges in the Turkish Consulate and in the birthplace of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Thessaloniki, Greece.
The plan was to blow it up on September 3, 1955 and blame it on the Greek Christian minority.
Though the bomb never went off, the newspapers ran with the story anyway - a version of fake news blaming the Greeks.
Mobs were incited to violence and retaliation.
Menderes arranged for government trucks to block off the streets to the Greek neighborhoods, then provided shovels, pickaxes, crowbars, ramming rods and gas, to the 300,000 rioters.
Similar to Antifa organized riots, in just a few hours, Istanbul's Greek Christian neighborhoods were pillaged.
Thousands of shops, houses, churches and graves were destroyed.
It was like the "Kristall Nacht" of November 9, 1938, when Nazis in Germany and Austria smashed and vandalized Jewish stores and neighborhoods in the "Istanbul Pogram" of September 6, 1955.
For nine hours, mobs erupted in a mad frenzy, laying waste to Greek homes, businesses and churches.
Greek women and young boys were targeted for public rape.
Turkish author Aziz Nesin witnessed Greek Christian men beaten and circumcised in the streets by marauders.
Sixteen Greek Orthodox clerics were killed.
Historian Spero Vryonis, Jr., author of The Mechanism of Catastrophe, recorded that rioters desecrated cemeteries and overturn tombstones. A British journalist witnessed one graveyard where "the contents of every coffin spilled into the streets."
Over a dozen Greek and Orthodox clerics were killed.
1,000 Greek homes;
4,348 Greek-owned businesses;
73 of the 81Greek Orthodox Churches in the city; and
Armenian and Jewish shops were also destroyed.
Like modern riots, Turkish police were ordered to "stand down," and passively watch the rioters, who were given space wreak mayhem.
The World Council of Churches estimated the damage at over 150 million dollars.
The mob chanted "Massacre the Greek traitors" and "Down with Europe."
In one church arson attack, Father Chrysanthos Mandas, was burned alive.
Greek cemeteries were desecrated with relics of saints burned or thrown to dogs.
Noel Barber, a journalist for the London Daily Mail, wrote on September 14, 1955:
"The church of Yedikule was utterly smashed, and one priest was dragged from bed, the hair torn from his head and the beard literally torn from his chin.
Another old Greek priest (Fr. Mantas) in a house belonging to the church and who was too ill to be moved was left in bed, the house was set on fire and he was burned alive.
At the church of Yenikoy, a lovely spot on the edge of the Bosporus, a priest of 75 was taken out into the street, stripped of every stitch of clothing, tied behind a car and dragged through the streets. They tried to tear the hair of another priest, but failing that, they scalped him, as they did many others."
Another eyewitness was Ian Fleming, a reporter for the London Sunday Times, who later became well-known for writing the James Bond detective stories.
Ian Fleming was covering the INTERPOL (International Police) Conference in Istanbul.
Ian Fleming's column "The Great Riot of Istanbul," printed September 11, 1955, described how "hatred ran through the streets like lava."
(Phillip Mansel, Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 1453-1944, Harmondworth, U.K., Penquin, 1995, p. 425).
Fleming reference the Istanbul riot as as background information in his James Bond spy novel, From Russia, with Love (1957).
The riots were reported in the Illustrated London News, TIME Magazine and Reader's Digest, which described Istanbul as "a city gone mad."
After the 1955 Istanbul Pogrom, over 100,000 more Greeks departed.
The discrimination continued and in 1958,Turkish nationalist students campaigned for a boycott on all Greek businesses.
In 1964, the Turkish government deported 50,000 more Greeks.
The New York Times printed, Nov. 26, 1979:
"According to the most recent statistics, the Christian population in Turkey was diminished from 4,500,000 at the beginning of this century to just about 150,000. Of those, the Greeks are no more than 7,000. Yet, in 1923 they were as many as 1 to 2 million."
When the dust settled, citizens of Turkey came to realize that Adnan Menderes was responsible.
He was tried and executed in 1961 for his part in overseeing these atrocities.
In August of 1995, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (NY) introduced U.S. Senate Resolution 160 calling on President Bill Clinton to proclaim September 6 as a Day of Memory for the victims of the 1955 Istanbul Pogrom. (104th Congress, U.S. House of Representatives, Library of Congress, 1995-07-08):
"Whereas, in September 1955, there existed a Greek minority population of 100,000 in Istanbul, Turkey;
Whereas, on the night of September 6-7, 1955, a pogrom against the Greek community began in Istanbul;
Whereas anti-Greek rioters attacked, pillaged, gutted and destroyed more than 2,000 Greek homes, 4,200 Greek shops and stores, 73 Greek Orthodox churches, 52 Greek schools, eight Greek cemeteries, all three major Greek newspaper plants, and dozens of Greek factories, hotels, restaurants, and warehouses in Istanbul;
Whereas 15 Greeks were killed in the pogrom or died subsequently, and 32 were seriously injured;
Whereas as many as 200 women were raped by rioters;
Whereas the United States Consul General in Istanbul reported that police stood idly by or cheered on the rioting mobs;
Whereas the State Department received confirmation of `elaborate advanced planning for widespread destruction of the property of the indigenous Greek community,' involving careful preparations by many individuals;
Whereas American journalist Frederick Sondern, Jr., writing at the time for Readers Digest, described the events of that night as...one of the wildest eruptions of mob fury and hysteria in modern times ...';
Whereas homes of Greek officers stationed at NATO headquarters in the Turkish city of Izmir were also attacked and destroyed;
Whereas rioters attacked and burned down the Greek Consulate in Izmir and the Greek Pavilion at the Izmir International festival;
Whereas Turkish authorities failed at the time to convict a single rioter, out of thousands, for any crime committed during the pogrom;
Whereas five years later, after a military coup in Turkey, the former Prime Minister and acting Foreign Minister at the time of the pogrom were charged with, and convicted of, numerous criminal actions, including the instigation of the anti-Greek riots;
Whereas the pogrom marked the beginning of the end of the Greek community's presence in Istanbul, numbering about 2,000 in 1995; and
Whereas September 6, 1995 will mark the 40th Anniversary of the pogrom:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that the President should--
(1) take all appropriate steps to observe and commemorate the loss of life and property, and the numerous injuries and offenses, which took place during the pogrom by proclaiming September 6, 1995 as a day of remembrance for the victims of these attacks; and
(2) urge all Americans to honor the victims of the pogrom in the appropriate manner."
Turkey once again continued as a secular, tolerant state.
Recent developments, though, are raising concern.
From 2003 to 2014, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was Prime Minister of Turkey.
In 2014, he became President.
Though democratically elected, The Economist reported (2/4/16):
“Mr Erdogan made a telling remark ... ‘Democracy is like a train,’ he said, ‘you get off once you have reached your destination.’”
Fears of intolerance have left, as of 2006, only 5,000 Greek Christians, mostly elderly, in Istanbul, the former ancient capital of the Christian world.
London's Daily and Sunday Express reported April 22, 2016, "Islamist Turkey seizes ALL Christian churches in city and declares them 'state property'"
The New York Times reported April 23, 2016, "Turkey's Seizure of Churches and Lands Alarms Armenians."
The American Center for Law and Justice reported:
"The government of Turkey – led by an Islamic party – has begun increased crackdowns on Christians, and Pastor Andrew Brunson, if convicted, may face years in prison based on extremely serious – and false – charges."
Bloomberg reported (7/18/18) on Pastor Andrew Brunson, "Turkey Keeps U.S. Pastor Jailed, Straining Ties With Washington."
Rather than following the example of Adnan Menderes, perhaps, in the future, leadership will once again follow the more successful and tolerant example of Ataturk, the Father of Modern Turkey.