Greek education minister Nikos Filis is facing an uproar of criticism from politicians, activists and numerous organizations of Pontian Greeks following an interview on Greek television where he denied that the massacres of Pontian Greeks in the beginning of the 1900s constituted a genocide.
Thea Halo, author of the best-selling book “Not Even My Name” about her own mother’s escape from Turkey during the massacres of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Greeks that numerous nations and scholars have all recognized as the Pontian Genocide.
Thea Halo’s open letter to the members of the Greek parliament, which includes a call for the education minister’s resignation, follows:
Concerning the remarks of Greece’s Education Minister, Mr. Filis, who recently denied the genocide of the Pontic Greeks, I wonder if there are other ethnic groups who deny such tragic events that devastated their own people. Or perhaps Greeks who deny the genocide of Pontic Greeks don’t think of the Pontians as their own people. That may be part of the problem along with appeasement of Turkey and a hero complex that subscribes to the belief that Greeks should never be viewed as ultimate victims.
Certainly, Nikos Filis has a right to his opinions as a private citizen. But he should have no right to display his ignorance of history as Greece’s Minister of Education, nor be entrusted with the education of Greek children when hundreds of the world’s leading genocide scholars differ with him enough to have issued a resolution affirming the genocide of both Pontian and other Asia Minor Greeks and Assyrians in Ottoman Turkey from 1914-1923. The 2007 IAGS (International Association of Genocide Scholars) Resolution can be viewed here.
As the daughter of a survivor of one of those Pontians who was sent on a death march out of Turkey, Sano Themia Halo, (aka, the Yia Yia of all Pontians) and as a descendant of a family I will never know, nor even see in a photograph, I find Mr. Filis’ remarks particularly offensive and disrespectful to the memory of the 353,000 Pontians who were murdered outright and/or perished under the cruelest of conditions, the 700,000 other Asia Minor Greeks who were also murdered, and more than a million remaining Greeks who were forcibly exiled from the home and country our people had occupied for 3,000 years. I’m afraid Mr. Filis’ designation of “ethnic cleansing,” even with an admission of violence and death, falls far short of the devastation these innocents suffered.
Inasmuch, Mr. Filis should be removed as Minister of Education, immediately. He can then have ample time to spout his opinions over a game of checkers in his local cafe. It will also give him more time to read up and educate himself on these tragic historic events, including the many eye-witness accounts from missionaries, diplomats, and relief workers who affirm an Ottoman and Kemalist agenda of annihilation of these historic Christians and their communities.