Nobody had ever heard of Izmir, but I found out that it was the third largest city in Turkey, one of the most famous international ports in the world, and before 1928 was known by its Greek name of Smyrna. Western Turkey had been firmly Greek in language and culture for centuries after Alexander the Great had defeated the Persians there in 334 BC. Smyrna was, in fact, the Biblical city mentioned in the book of Revelation as the home of one of the seven churches of western Turkey.
To the Church in Smyrna: Revelation 2: 8-11:
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear for what you are about to suffer. Behold the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.”
According to Strabo (64 BC-24 AD), a Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian living in the time of the Roman Emperor Augustus (27 BC-14 AD), Smyrna was the finest city in Asia, with beautiful streets, a public library, and a statue of Homer. The Smyriots believed Homer, the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the first great literature of Europe, was born in Smyrna and lived much of his life there. The Roman Emperor Tiberius so loved Smyrna that he had a statue of himself built there. The Apostle Paul ministered in Smyrna as well as Ephesus. The cities of Nicaea and Chalcedon in northwestern Turkey were the sites of important church councils and creeds in the Fifth Century, and Constantinople was the center of Christian advance beginning in the Fourth Century. It remained important until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1454.
I was disappointed to find that some political trouble prevented us from staying overnight in Smyrna. One of my most vivid memories, however, is the awesome blue beauty of the Aegean Sea, departing Izmir for Athens.
After the death of Muhammad in Arabia in 632, Islam spread like wildfire across the Middle East and North Africa. They persuaded by the sword and made Holy War against all who would not submit to Islam and accept Muhammad as the Prophet of Allah. Allah, as described in the Koran, bears a superficial resemblance to Jehovah, the god of Judeo-Christian Scripture. According to Dr. B. Warner and the Center for the Study of Political Islam, 31 percent of the text of the three doctrinal standards of Islam—the Koran, Hadith, and Sira—are about Jihad. Only three percent of these texts are geared to spiritual improvement. The rest are geared to planning, supporting, and making war against all non-Muslims. According to Muhammad, Jihad is second in importance only to the Shahada, the Muslim confession of faith in Allah and his Messenger, Muhammad,. Jihad is obligatory for all able to participate in some way. Jihad offers three choices for Christians and Jews: 1) to become a Muslims, 2) accept a form of humiliating second class citizenship with no rights under Islamic Law (Sharia), or 3) death. For other “infidels” it is submission to Islam or death.
The second choice for Jews, Christians, and a few others was called Dhimmitude and included high taxes on “Dhimmi” earnings. This was an invention that Muhammad had instituted after the battle of Khaybar Oasis in 629, about 93 miles north of Medina. The Jews there were prosperous goldsmiths and date growers. Muhammad agreed to let them continue to live at the oasis, if they gave half their annual produce to the Muslims. They agreed to this, and it became a profitable precedent for the Muslims, called the Jizya tax. The Dhimmis, however, could only practice and speak of their religion in their own homes, never in public. (Sounds like the modern liberal version of religious freedom.) They also had to live with a number of humiliating restrictions in dress, transportation, and homes and had to show deference to any Muslim. Their property and lives were subject to confiscation by a Muslim at any time. They had no rights, and the Muslims could disregard past agreements at any time.
The Seljuk Turks, who had already embraced Islam, began arriving on the Anatolian Peninsula in about 1050 and were followed by wave after wave of Muslim Turkish tribes. One of the last to arrive were the Osmali Turks in 1227, who established the Ottoman Empire. The Turks are said to have emigrated from Turkistan in central Asia. DNA analysis suggests they were Turkicized Iranians with no more than a seven percent Mongol admixture, almost exclusively from the female DNA contribution. Except for this, they were not markedly different from the Anatolian Greeks, who probably made the larger contribution to the combined gene pool.
The Ottoman Empire made profitable use of the Dhimmitude and Jizya arrangement for many years. In fact, they leaned heavily on the Jews and Greeks for academic , science, and business skills. They also took a quota of Christian boys from their parents each year and trained them to be loyal Muslims and professional soldiers. Many were Balkan Slavs. They were called Janissaries and were elite infantry. As generations passed, however, more Dhimmis embraced Islam to avoid the hardships, risks, and persecution of Dhimmi life. The term “Dhimmi” has acquired a second meaning in modern times. It is to be a non-Muslim apologist for Islam.
The Ottoman Turks used the Dhimmitude contract to maximize their wealth. They were also aware of their dependence on the Dhimmis for special skills. Practical economics for the Muslim rulers made it profitable to give Dhimmis more economic flexibility, which sustained and actually prospered them. The visible prosperity of the Greek and Armenian Christians, however, added jealousy to the already deadly Islamic teaching that Jews and Christians were enemies of Allah deserving death. Muslim clerics helped to keep enmity toward non-Muslims high and a desire to make Turkey exclusively Muslim ardent.
In 1894, the Ottoman Empire was experiencing some political unrest. In addition, the Armenian Christians began to complain about their subjugated status. Fearing increased unrest, the Ottoman government persuaded Muslim religious leaders to undertake a major crack-down on Armenian dissent.
The Muslim clergy orchestrated mob violence against Armenian Christians in eastern Turkey that lasted from 1894 to 1896. It claimed over 250,000 lives. Rape, considered one of the rights of “booty” in Muslim Jihad was epidemic. Many Armenian women were forced into Muslim harems or sold as sex slaves. Many massacres by pistol and axe were carried out in Armenian churches.
This was only a shadow of the horror to come in 1915 and 1916 and 1919 to 1922. From 1914 to 1927, the non-Muslim population of Turkey dropped from 19 percent to 2.5 percent. Today it is less than a half percent. To be continued.