Gatestone Institute | Vasileios Meichanetsidis | Jan. 12, 2020
A recent statement by a Turkish mayor belonging to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was particularly noteworthy in the wake of the US Senate’s December 12 resolution to “commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.”
Mayor Hayrettin Güngör of Kahramanmaraş was caught on camera telling a woman from Trabzon, “We made you Muslim.”
He seems to have been referring to the fact that Trabzon, as other provinces in the Black Sea region, used to be a Greek Orthodox Christian city, which is now Muslim — in spite of the thousands of people in the area who still speak the Pontic Greek dialect.
After an angry public response to the statement, Güngör phoned the mayor of Trabzon to apologize. As offensive as his claim may have been, however, he was actually revealing a tragic truth: that many Turkish citizens are descendants of forcibly Islamized Christians.
Prior to the Turkish invasion of Asia Minor in the 11th century — and the fall of Constantinople (Istanbul) to Ottoman Turks in the 15th century — the lands that comprise contemporary Turkey were part of the Greek-speaking Christian Byzantine Empire.
When the Ottoman Turks captured the Greek Empire of Trebizond (today’s Trabzon) in 1461, there were virtually no Muslims in the region. In the decades and centuries following the Ottoman conquest, many Christians converted to Islam. The local Muslim derebeys (valley lords) and the Ottoman state and army, via periodic acts of violence, special taxation (jizya), social segregation, systematic mistreatment and humiliation inexorably pushed the Christian population to Islamization for the sake of survival.