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The Center for the Study of Turkish Genocides and Crimes Against Humanity



January 23, 1998 No. 03/98


The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) is pleased to announce the establishment of the Center for the Study of Turkish Genocides and Crimes Against Humanity. The Center will operate under the auspices of the AHIF. The Center's first Director will be Professor Alexander Kyrou.

Professor Kyrou holds a Ph.D. from Indiana University in Eastern European History. He is currently Assistant Professor of History at the Dominican College in Orangeburg, New York. Previously he has been a Visiting Lecturer and Visiting Professor in the Departments of History and Political Science at Indiana University/Purdue University, Fort Wayne. He is a specialist in Byzantine history and civilization, the Ottoman Empire, Balkan History, Eastern European history and politics, Yugoslavia, and the Greek American experience. He is a former Hannah Seeger Davis Visiting Research Fellow at Princeton University and a Research Scholar at the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in Philadelphia.

Professor Kyrou is the author of several articles about the Greek Diaspora, Bulgaria, and the Bulgarian American community, U.S. foreign policy in Southeastern Europe, and Eastern European pedagogy. He is the author of two books The Greek American Experience: A Guide to Sources and Reflections on an Ethnic Presence: Critical Essays on Greek American Culture.

The Center will engage in the study of certain events in late nineteenth century and twentieth century Turkish history that have earned infamy as genocides and crimes against humanity. These include:

*** The Armenian Genocide of 1915-22. During these years some 1.5 million Armenians perished at the hands of the Turkish military. A further 500,000 were deported from their ancestral homelands. This was truly the twentieth century's first instance of genocidal extermination and ethnic cleansing. These actions followed the 1894-96 Turkish persecution in which 300,000 Armenians were massacred.

***The destruction of Smyrna in 1922, including the slaughter of the Greek and Armenian inhabitants of Smyrna, and the subsequent forced removal of all Greeks from Asia Minor and the Black Sea area of Pontus. In a message to the ceremony commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of this atrocity, Congressman Benjamin Gilman, (R-NY), Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, decried the destruction of Smyrna as "one of the darkest days of this century's history."

*** Kurds: Turkey has systematically persecuted its Kurdish minority, denying it basic human rights and carrying out actions akin to genocide and ethnic cleansing. In December 1997, the European Union cited Turkey's abuses against the Kurds among its reasons for not considering Turkey ready for EU membership.

*** Cyprus: the 1974 illegal invasion of Cyprus constitutes a crime against humanity. During that invasion several thousand Greek Cypriots were killed and over 1,600 Cypriot citizens and five Americans were known to be in the hands of the Turkish military at the conclusion of hostilities. Their fate has never been determined although it is assumed that they were killed by the Turkish forces. During the subsequent illegal Turkish occupation of 37.7% of Cyprus, Christian churches have been desecrated and religious objects stolen and illegally resold. The European Convention on Human Rights has found Turkey guilty of multiple violations.

The Center's activities will parallel those of other institutions interested in issues of genocide and the Holocaust such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, CA. The Center will undertake research into each of these genocides, crimes against humanity, and human rights abuses. It will produce publications and seek to identify the individuals responsible. It will seek manuscripts for publication.

Eugene T. Rossides, President of AHIF, stated: "As demonstrated by the current tragedy of the Kurds in Turkey, the establishment of this Center is long overdue. The United States has a long and distinguished record of placing the principles of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution center of our foreign policy. Our national tradition is to uphold individual human rights and to succor the downtrodden. The American sacrifices in the struggles against fascism, communism, and racism attest to our nation's high moral values.

The Center's work will also be relevant to current and future American policy in the region. Through its continuing occupation of Cyprus, its brutal repression of the Kurds, its persistent confrontation with Armenia, its routine use of torture, its refusal to respect international law, and its failure to uphold the norms of democratic government, the military-dominated government of Turkey has shown that Turkey falls sadly short of Western standards of democracy. I am confident that, by highlighting these standards, the new Center will breathe fresh life into America's proudest foreign policy traditions.

"I am delighted that Professor Kyrou has agreed to serve as the Center's first Director. He is an outstanding young academic who brings a wealth of knowledge and deep historical perspective to this challenging assignment."