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TURKEY : THE BLIGHT OF ASIA
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THE GREEK RETREAT (1922)
FOR years the Greek army had been holding a long line without sufficient food and clothing. Many of these troops had been sent by the Allies to fight for them in Russia where they had suffered severe losses. They were reduced to a state of extreme demoralization. They were fleeing from an implacable enemy from whom they could expect no mercy, if captured. They covered, such of them as got away, the distance from the front to the coast in record time. The entire Moslem population through which they passed was hostile and well-armed. That they found time to do much massacring or that they were in a state of mind to stop by the way for the purpose of attacking women seems hardly credible. That they did burn and lay waste the land may be taken for granted. The Greeks have claimed military necessity for this, and it would appear that they could plead such necessity if ever it can be pleaded. They certainly had more reason for laying bare the country between themselves and the advancing Khemalists than had our own Sherman on his "March to the Sea."
There is one thing, which any one who has ever traveled through Turkish-ruled lands will see at a glance. Whatever nuclei of civilization existed in the Ottoman Empire outside of Constantinople were Greek, Armenian or something besides Turkish. The non-Mussulmans built the good houses and the better parts of the towns. Many of the Christian houses and towns had already been destroyed by the followers of Talaat and Enver, leaving little of any permanent value in the path of the Greek army.
A Turkish villager’s house usually consists of one room without any furniture. At one side is piled, often as high as the wall, a supply of thick quilts. When he goes to bed he takes down one or more of these and sleeps on the floor, or, in the better houses, on a bench that runs around the wall. When he eats he sits on the floor with his heels under him. He cooks in the fireplace. His culinary outfit consists of one earthen pot, a large washbasin out of which the family eats their pilaff, one big spoon for each member of the household and a small one for stirring the coffee. A briki, or long-handled coffee pot, is an important part of his installation.
Many who have dined with rich denatured Turks at Constantinople or with some pasha will deny the accuracy of this picture, but it is in the main correct and describes the houses that compose ninety-nine out of a hundred Turkish villages wherever found. It is for this reason that the Turk may be able to carry on for a long time without business, manufactures, imports or any of the accessories of civilization. His crude agriculture will suffice for his primitive wants. If the region which he occupies really belongs to him, then he may say that he has a right to the kind of civilization, or lack of it, that suits him best and for which he is most adapted. Whether the Christian world should have looked on and aided him while exterminating the non-Mussulman population of Asia Minor is another question.
The difficulties of the Greek retreat are well illustrated by an incident narrated to me by the Reverend Dana Getchell who came into my office from the interior a few days before the arrival of the Khemalists. He said that when he had gone to bed in the evening in his small hotel everything had been quiet, but that he had been awakened in the morning by the sound of tumult in the streets, and looking from the window, he saw the whole Christian population rushing toward the railroad station, carrying such of their belongings as they had been able to snatch. On inquiring what the trouble was he was informed that the Turks were coming. He went to the station himself and saw a long train of cars on to which a small detachment of Greek soldiers was attempting to embark the frightened people. While this operation was being conducted the Mussulman villagers came out from their houses, all armed, and began to fire upon the soldiers and the train. A battle ensued in which the officer commanding the detachment and several of his soldiers were killed. But the soldiers stood their ground well and succeeded finally in getting away with the larger part of the Christians.
This specific incident throws light upon the Greek retreat as it shows that the Moslems were, in general, in possession of concealed weapons and that they did not hesitate to use them.
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