British Reactions to Asia Minor
Deportations in 1922

By Stavros Terry Stavridis

This brief article will outline how the eyewitness accounts of two American Near East Relief workers Dr Mark Ward and Mr. F. Yowell, concerning the deportations and massacres of Christians in Asia Minor had mobilized organizations and individuals into action in Britain. They tried to influence the British Government to do something to assist the Christian populations in Asia Minor through the columns of the major British newspapers. However there were groups and individuals who supported and sympathized with the Turkish view.

A letter addressed by Mr. M.H Ispahani, the Secretary of the London Moslem League, to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs appeared in the columns of the Manchester Guardian on May 17,1922 titled “The atrocities in Asia Minor. Moslem and Turk Cruelty. More Horrors if Greeks remain.” Ispahani saw no difference between Christians or Moslems and deplored the cruel treatment meted out by Turkish gendarmes on Christians. He blamed the Allies for allowing the Greeks to go to Asia Minor and also the Greek Government for instigating a rising among the Pontine Greeks. He states that the Greeks, Armenians and Turks lived harmoniously together for many centuries and received “equal and humane treatment” from the Turks. However revolutionaries and agent provocateurs sent from Greece and Russia to Turkey went there with the intention of stirring up the Christians to rebel against the Turkish Government. He cites the suffering and dislocation of Moslem populations in the Smyrna hinterland in 1919 and the Balkan wars of 1912-13. In trying to appear evenhanded Ispahani stated that “my committee do not make these remarks in the slightest degree to exculpate their co-religionists from justifiable condemnation; they only desire to point out the abuses which in their opinion have brought about the present deplorable situation.” The London Moslem League believed that only solution for peace in the Near East was the complete withdrawal of the Greek Army from Asia Minor and the ending of Allied occupation of Constantinople. They wanted “the restoration and prestige of the [Sultan] Caliph to his position” as the spiritual leader of the Moslems.

Another letter written by M.E Durham published in the Manchester Guardian on May 20 was supportive of the suffering of Moslems and somewhat critical of the Christians. Durham’s position could be best understood within the context of the Balkan Wars in 1912-13. This individual claims to have witnessed “the exodus of unfortunate Moslems” in 1913-14 who fled territory that had come under Serbian, Montenegrin and Greek control. The letter concluded that “Civilization will no wise be assisted by giving Near Eastern Christians jurisdiction over Moslems. Extermination will go on faster in ‘Christian’ hands. Especially if these “Christians” are led to believe they will get European support.” This letter was strongly anti-Greek in tone.

There were individual politicians, prominent citizens, academics and church eaders who were very concerned in the sufferings of the Asia Minor Christians. Again the columns of the British press provided the forum for the expression of such views. Some of these individuals were philhellenes and pro-Venizelist. A letter signed by R.F.Morton, Valentine Chirol, Ernest A. Gardiner, Professor of Archaeology of the University of London, John Stavridis and Harold Spender appeared in the Manchester Guardian on June 17. Their letter mentions Dr Mark Ward having told them of the deportation and massacres of Pontian Greeks by the Kemalists. They supported the action of the “[British] Government for organising an International Commission of Enquiry and we hope that it will not arrive too late. We ourselves, having heard the evidence of this unimpeachable witness, feel compelled to speak now. He makes an appeal to the conscience of the civilized world, which we shall neglect at our peril. For these things are still going on. More massacres may take place before the Commission arrives.” As British citizens they wanted to let their Government know of their concerns in the suffering of the Christian population in Asia Minor.

Another important published letter appearing both in the Manchester Guardian and London Times on July 5 had been signed by some prominent British politicians, religious leaders and citizens. Some of the signatories to this letter were Lords Aberdeen, Buckmaster and Crewe, British MP’s -TP O’Connor, Arthur Henderson, Sir Samuel Hoare, Lord Robert Cecil, J. H. Thomas, Aneurin Williams, religious leaders-Very Rev. J. H. Hertz, Chief Rabbi, The Bishops of Durham, Oxford, London and Manchester and citizens-Sir Valentine Chirol, GP Gooch, Sir Gilbert Murray and Harold Spender. This letter was addressed to the French Premier Poincare appealing to him to do something for the Christians of Asia Minor. They mentioned that the evidence presented by American relief workers on the deportation and massacres was already known by the French Government. Mention was also made of the Turco-French agreement of October 1921 which had done nothing to stop the horrors perpetrated on the Christians. The underlying message of this letter was to see an improvement in Anglo-French relations and also some semblance of unity between these two powers in trying to assist the Christians of Asia Minor.

All these organizations, politicians and private citizens were pro-active in their endeavors to assist the Asia Minor Christians. Their heroic efforts were undermined by the lack of unity and resolve on the part of Britain and France to use military force against the Kemalists.

© 2005 Not to be reproduced or distributed without the consent of the author.

About the Author

Stavros Terry Stavridis was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1949 of Greek parents. He migrated to Australia with his parents in September 1952. Stavros has a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in Political Science/Economic History and B.A (Hons) in European History from Deakin University and M.A in Greek/Australian History from RMIT University. His MA thesis is titled "The Greek-Turkish War 1919-23: an Australian Press Perspective."

Stavros has nearly 20 years of teaching experience, lecturing at University and TAFE (Technical and Further Education, the equivalent of Community College in the US) levels. He has presented papers at international conferences in Australia and USA and has also given public lectures both in Australia and on the West Coast of the US. Many of his articles have appeared in the Greek-American press. He currently works as a historical researcher at the National Center for Hellenic Studies and Research, Latrobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

Stavros' research interests are the Asia Minor campaign and disaster, Middle Eastern history, the Assyrian and Armenian genocides, Greece in the Balkan Wars 1912-13 and the First World War and history in general.

Readers interested in the works of Stavridies may read more of his fine articles posted on HCS at the URL

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