The conventional portrayal of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, has been built on the political canard that the secularist principles of the Republic of Turkey were a deliberate turn away from the Islamic theocracy of the Ottoman Empire. The reality is quite different. In fact, Turkey’s founding moment involved the genocide of two-and-a-half million Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christians in Ottoman Anatolia and Asia Minor–in short, most of the remaining Orthodox Christian population that had survived from Byzantine Christian times.
In some ways, Ankara’s policies against Turkey’s Christian citizens have added a modern veneer and sophisticated brutality to Ottoman norms and practices. Pogroms, persecution, and discrimination have been visited on Turkey’s Christians. The Turkish press revealed only weeks ago that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was the target of an assassination conspiracy (the second such plot against his life in four years), and the constant threats and interference in the affairs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox community have led to the near extinction of that ancient Christian community. In the words of an anonymous Church hierarch in Turkey fearful for the life of his flock, Christians in Turkey are an endangered species. The siege of Constantinople continues today, 560 years after the fall on May 29th, 1453.