Tamer Cillingir, a Turkish writer and activist who now lives in Switzerland, identifies himself as an Islamized Pontic Greek . After a long research, Mr. Tsilingir wrote in Turkish the book (" The truth of Pontus") " Pontos Gerçeği: 1914-1923 Yılları Arasında Karadeniz'de Yaşananlar, published by Ragıp Zarakolu" where it refers to the genocide suffered by the Greek population by the neo-Turks. He describes to us the events of that time, the lies that the Turkish state continues to tell and at the same time connects them with today, since it is a wound that has not healed. Mr. Chilingirdescribes to us how the remaining Greeks of Pontus were Turkified after the massacres, the displacement and the exchanges of populations.
We met him in Athens as part of the International Conference on the Crime of Genocide held in Athens on December 6-9 by the Pampontian Federation on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Pontic genocide, in which he participated as one of the speakers.
Mr. Tsilingir, originally from Matsuka Livera, whose grandparents he says converted to Islam, has been fighting for years against the Turkish state's authoritarianism, which has resulted in his imprisonment, torture and life sentence. However, he managed to go abroad, knowing of course that he will never return to Turkey.
I was born in an area that belonged to Greek populations and even though we had become Muslims , we had been converted to Islam, Greek culture still had a great influence on me, " he said, adding that "there are many who do not know their past and origin. successively taken care of by all the Turkish governments ".
How do you know you are Greek?
"How do you know you are Greek?" he returns the question to me, but without letting me answer, after all his own answer was more convincing.
"Although I had found information about my Greek origin, I also did a DNA test in an American company and the result showed that the percentage of DNA like the one recorded in Central Asia, was zero. That is, I was not a Turk. However, it showed that I am 86% Greek and another 14% of my DNA is Italian. But the most important thing is not the genes, but the culture and the ancient type of Hellenism on me. That is why I consider myself a Greek ".
Mr. Tsiligir, both during the interview and during his speech, gave a picture of Pontus before the Genocide. If you compare then with today, he says, then you will understand how advanced this society was. "In the 19th century, the arts flourished and the level of education was very high," he says, and we wonder how many brilliant minds were lost in the death marches or in the cold executions.
In 1912 in Samsun there was an Opera House, a hospital with modern surgery for the time. Men and women played sports, played cricket, golf, things unheard of even in Istanbul. Schools for deaf children. As early as the end of the 19th century, women held a high position in society. They could study, not housekeeping but mathematics, even economics. Such schools existed in other areas of the eastern Pontus. He tells us about the journalist and national witness Nikos Kapetanidis , who was hanged by the Greek butcher, Topal Osman.
Kapetanidis could have escaped, he tells us, but he preferred to face Topal Osman face to face. However, in 1921 the Independence Court (courts of the neo-Turks who convicted people with summary proceedings) sentenced him to be hanged at the age of 32.
Mr. Tsilingir, referring to the Greek education that flourished in the region, comments that indeed the Greek church was actively involved in education, but Kapetanidis was pushing for a more neutral and secular education.
In any case, the atrocities of the neo-Turks were beyond imagination and led by the father of the Turkish nation, Mustafa Kemal, they managed to eliminate the Greek culture in the region for thousands of years.
Mr. Tamer Chilingir points out that the story that children are taught in Turkey hides the truth and is distorted. Everyone knew that Kemal went to Samsun - both the Ottoman Empire and the British. In fact, Kemal Ataturk immediately met with the leaders of the various criminal gangs, including Topal Osman, the great persecutor of the Greeks, from whom he asked to exterminate the Greek element.
The persecutions against the Greeks lasted. From 1914 to 1923 a large number of Romans were killed, Mr. Tsiligir continues
They were locked up in the churches and burned . They gathered intellectuals, athletes, the best and killed them. Others were trapped in caves and then set on fire to be drowned out by the fumes. The mass murders, the rapes had no end. The Independence Tribunals indiscriminately handed out death sentences and people were hanged. By 1923, 353,000 Greeks of Pontus had lost their lives. It is estimated that another 50,000 were lost on the road to death . There is difficulty in accessing the Ottoman archives but also those of the newly formed Turkish Republic. However, we manage to extract some evidence and based on these we can draw some conclusions ".
As he explains, the Pontic Christians were considered traitors of the nation and in the archives he presented during his speech, there are some telegram texts that are very important, since in them it is clear that an attempt is made to prove exactly that, that the Pontians were enemies. of the nation. Some telegrams mention 132 men and five women, all Orthodox, who were handed over to the Independent Courts and sentenced to death by hanging on October 4, 1919. Along with them, the Greek Orthodox were also sentenced to 32 Muslim women and men who were how they supported the struggle of the Pontians.
We must also mention their Muslim brothers who supported them," he said
At this point Chilingir describes the beginning of the final end of Hellenism in Pontus. Turkification.
"With the population exchange agreement, 1,250.00 Greeks left the area, those who remained converted to Islam and of course their names were Turkified. The traces of their identity were lost . They were violently Turkified. The names of the towns and villages were changed to Turkish. The same thing happened with the music, they kept the melody, but they changed the lyrics. The same as the jokes, the stories ... All other languages except Turkish were banned.
These people could not be narrators of their past to their children or grandchildren because of the terrorism they experienced. Some children who did not know Turkish in schools because they did not understand Turkish were severely punished and in fact there are records and torture. There were also spies watching. The families of these children stopped speaking the Pontic dialect. This was followed by the 1928 campaign "Citizen Speak Turkish" . This is the reason why I do not speak the Pontic dialect. "Meanwhile, Samsun and Trabzon, two of the most important commercial ports in the Black Sea, were wiped out and the area fell."
All these practices of leveling and eliminating the Christian element seem to have never stopped.
"Only a few years ago it became known that the Turkish state had Islamized Christians on file, and not only, with a code number that testified to its first identity. The number one for the Greeks, the number 2 for the Armenians and the number 3 for the Jews ".
I ask him how it was in the course of the years that these Islamized Greeks followed.
"They tried to prove that they were the best Turks, they always tried to prove themselves. It was clearly a survival mechanism and the Turkish state is afraid of them 100 years later. He does not trust these Islamized populations, the Islamized Greeks. He is afraid that one day they will learn the truth and will rise up. There are hundreds of villages where some Pontic are still heard . What they hide from us is recorded. In 1980 some practical, hidden archives were released in ancient Turkish,from meetings of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. These record statements of MPs from the Pontus region who speak about the Genocide. For example, Hamid Bey says that nothing will eliminate shame. Selahattin Bey, comments, "most nation brags about such murders." Ziya Khurshid says in 1923 that the flame of Pontian Hellenism has not yet been extinguished. Andrianoupolis MP Seref Bey states: "We will be accountable to humanity for what we have done". "I have to tell you that Sheriff Bey was killed."
Tamer Chilingir returns to today and makes a revelation. As he claims, in the last 10-15 years something special is happening with a new generation, mainly of educated children.
"Some identify as Muslims, some have been baptized Christians, others declare themselves atheists, but all three of these social groups are beginning to identify as Greeks and rediscover a Greek identity. I believe that all the material that exists must be utilized to lead us to the truth one day. It has nothing to do with my own origin or identity, above all I am a human being. I ask for restoration and justice for all those who went through assimilation and this painful integration ".
Tamer Ciligir fearlessly states that Turkey was built through the Genocide of Christian populations and calls on her not only to apologize but also to seek reparations.
"But the international community must also push in this direction," he concludes.
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