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1912-1913 Balkan Tragedy

1912-1913 Balkan Tragedy

1912-1913 Balkan Tragedy:The Untold Story of Death & Forced Exile of Ottoman Muslims

1912-1913 Balkan Tragedy:The Untold Story of Death & Forced Exile of Ottoman Muslims

October 8 marks the 100th Anniversary of the start of the First Balkan War in 1912 which brought with it an enormous and brutal ethnic cleansing campaign to its climax, mostly against Turks and other Muslims of the Balkans and mostly by the governments of Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia. Little known among all this carnage is the enthusiastic volunteer help given by the Armenian Military Academy in Bulgaria since 1906.

Map by McCarthy: Death and forced exile of more than 1.5 million Muslims in Ottoman Europe as a consequence of the Balkan Wars.
What followed was systematic extermination of Turks who refused to leave their home, farm, or shop or attempted to defend them. It was either death or forced exile for Turks and other Muslims which brought an abrupt end to much of Ottoman Empire’s presence in Europe.

Today, many Turks in Turkey and around the globe as well as many Turkish Americans, myself included, find their family histories profoundly affected by these ferocious wars. I can be considered to be a by-product of those wars of annihilation where 1.5 Turks and other Muslims met their tragic ends at the hands of Balkan Christians or forced to flee with little more than the shirts on their backs.

Two Turks about to be executed by Bulgarian army for defending their homes and families.

My father, a one-year old baby, with a faint note pinned on his baby shirt identifying him as „Akif’s son Ratip. Born in KIRLIKOVA. 1911,“ survived this otherwise total extermination of his village exactly 100 years ago, most probably this week, perhaps even today. Under still unknown circumstances, this baby, my father the sole survivor, was found by some good Samaritan , hastily „labeled“, and whisked to Istanbul along with countless other lost and/or orphaned Turkish children on „the last train“ from Selanik.

A rendering of 1877 Turco-Russian war used here because it provides an approximate visual aid for the „last train“ from Selanik for Turks desperately trying to escape from certain death in the 1912 Balkan tragedy.

1912-1913 Balkan Tragedy:The Untold Story of Death & Forced Exile of Ottoman Muslims

Similarly, my maternal grandparents escaped to Bursa from Uskup (Scopia) with only half the family intact, the other half never heard from again. (You never saw such photos in the New York Times or Boston Globe of 1912 or WWI because here, the victims are Muslims, mostly Turks.)

As if one needs more evidence for such a thorough devastation and annihilation, Prof. Justin McCarthy provides some anyway, in his book „Death & Exile“, page 140, where „KIRLIKOVA“ is listed as one of the villages as having been „the scene of murders…“ most of which took place shortly after the Bulgarian occupation. Apparently, the British Ambassador to Sofia goes to the area on horseback to see the devastation for himself and files a report to London saying the news of Turks being massacred in DRAMA, CHATALCA, DOXAT, and KIRLIKOVA is true.

There is much more, of course, but this space is neither proper nor sufficient to tell all. We need to write the tragic history of the Balkan Turks and other Muslims to let the world know. These refugees, victims of Balkan Christian violence, were met with yet another cycle of violence, equally brutal, by the Anatolian Christians, mostly Ottoman-Greeks in the western Anatolia and Ottoman-Armenians in eastern Anatolia. Without knowing these underlying facts coupled with Armenian terrorism, treason and revolts, it may be easy even tempting to yield to the persistent Turco-phobia and Islamo-phobia pumped by the Armenian and Greek lobbies and call the events of WWI genocide. The anti-Turkish propaganda has been so prevalent, lies so enduring, that even some of our own Turkish writers and intellectuals cannot resist to join this shameful bandwagon, i.e. the alleged Armenian gemocide.

Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) published the above annotated map displaying the geography of atrocities committed during the Balkan Wars, including the death and forced exile of approximately 1.5 million Turks and other Muslims from Ottoman Europe, thus commemorating the silent memory of these faceless, nameless, voiceless victims. Millions of Turks today are the descendants of those who found refuge in Turkey. Prepared by Justin McCarthy, Professor of History at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, the map is a powerful visual tool to better understand the devastating effects of the Balkan Wars on Ottoman Muslim communities.

The TCA message included this quote from Professor McCarthy: „During the Balkan Wars many groups suffered, but those who suffered most were the Muslims, especially the Turks. 27% of the Muslims of the conquered areas of Ottoman Europe, mostly Turks, died as a result of these wars-the worst civilian mortality witnessed in any modern European war…I hope that this map will demonstrate the disastrous fate of these peoples during this time.“

Lincoln McCurdy, President of TCA, was equally eloquent: „TCA is very proud to have supported this publication and we thank Professor McCarthy for his meticulous investigation into the forgotten history of these Ottoman Muslim communities… The founders of modern Turkey urged the ravaged survivors of the Balkan Wars, who settled in Anatolia, to look forward, rather than back. This publication is a constructive effort to move away from the double-standards inherent in historical accounts that overlook Ottoman Muslim losses during this period when the Ottoman Empire was on the verge of collapse…“

1912-1913 Balkan Tragedy:The Untold Story of Death & Forced Exile of Ottoman Muslims

Barefooted Turkish women and children fleeing from certain death at the hands of Balkan Christians – note, men are already killed.

Turks killed by Armenian in Eastern Anatolia after 1912

1912-1913 Balkan Tragedy:The Untold Story of Death & Forced Exile of Ottoman Muslims

Against this backdrop–of an untold story of gigantic dimensions, an ignored tragedy comparable to none, an history unwritten due to anti-Turkish bias–I congratulate and thank both Lincoln McCurdy, president of TCA and Professor Justin McCarthy for the annotated map above, raising public awareness on the Balkan Tragedy of Turks and other Muslims on this 100th Anniversary of the start of the first Balkan War.

Warm Personal Regards,

Ergün KIRLIKOVALI
President,
Assembly of Turkish American Associations
Washington DC, USA