Emily Greene Balch to Jane Addams May 1922 Also known as: Emily Greene Balch to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Officers, May 1922

6 rue du Vieux Collège, Geneva
Circular Letter A11 B10
Series 1922

May 1922

To the Officers of the W.I.L. and to all other interested.

We have received a telegram from our Greek Section together with Hellenic Lyceums, the Professional Union of Greek women and the Anti-Alcohol League of Greek women appealing to the members of the international associations of which they make part to join with them in a protest of all Christian women of the world against the prospect opened up by the decisions arrived at Paris, of the "return of the Christian Populations of Asia Minor to the yoke of the Turkish makers of massacres."

At the same time came a Greek letter, vaguely addressed to the ["organization] for the defense of the rights of women", from Women of a Smyrna Committee for the [defense] of the Greeks of Asia Minor begging for moral and financial aid:

"Let those who are struggling for their political rights remember that our life and future are exposed to Kemalist fury and anarchy".

And now, May 24, we receive a telegram as follows:

"The political League of Greek women called upon to assist the widows and orphans, victims of the barbarous atrocities of the Kemalist hordes, is daily receiving the most heartbreaking evidence of the despair that these populations feel at the idea of a possibility of their return under the yoke and tyranny of the Turks. We appeal to the women of Europe and America and beg them unite in a common protest against the cruel decision which might expose the surviving Christians of Asia Minor to [dishonor] and death by torture.

Vice-President Julie Streit".

The situation is this:

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, France and Italy met in Paris, March 24, 25 and 26, and decided to recommit to Turkey much of the territory taken from her by the peace treaty with Turkey (the Treaty of Sèvres, which has never been ratified).

The text of the memorandum addressed to Athens, Constantinople and Angora by France, Great Britain and Italy, contained the [page 2] following passages (Translation from the French text as given in the Temps of March 28):

"They (the Foreign Ministries of the three Powers) desire to make dispositions for the protection and security of the different minorities, Mussulman and Christian, or of any other race or religion which either in Europe or in Asia are placed amidst larger political or ethnical groups.

* * *

"Recognizing the imperious necessity, resulting from both historical and geographical causes, of assuring the protection of racial or religious minorities, sometimes very considerable in number, in the provinces of Turkey as well as in Europe, in the possessions of Greece, the Ministers propose a series of measures to guarantee in both regions the complete security of minorities without distinction of race or religion. These measures will be based on the stipulations contained in the treaties now in force, in the proposed treaties which have been prepared and in the civil and religious laws of the countries interested. In addition the Ministers have decided to invite the League of Nations to [cooperate] in this [program] by the nomination of commissions specially charged, in the two regions, with the oversight of the execution of these measures and their application to the communities principally interested.

The situation of the Armenians had to be taken (a dû être prise) into special consideration, both because of the engagements contracted by the Allied Powers in the course of the war and because of the cruel sufferings endured by this people. In consequence the aid of the League of Nations is sought -- in addition to the protection accorded to minorities by the dispositions already spoken of -- with a view to satisfying the traditional aspirations of the Armenians to the constitution of a national home" ("foyer national").

Leaving diplomatic phrases we must recall what are the facts.

While Turkish feeling has been excited by the fact that the Sèvres Treaty was marked by complete lack of respect for the principles of nationality and of consideration for Turkish populations and Greek armies have been campaigning in Asia Minor, [committing] some barbarities on their side also, the non-Turkish populations within the power of the Turks have been left completely at their mercy. Terrible killings, forced deportations, and violations of women have affected literally hundreds of thousands [page 3] of Armenians, Greeks, Syrians and others. The talk of a greater Greece and of an Armenian State has served for little but to provoke acts of extermination which have been only too successful and which have been revived on a large scale since the Paris meeting in March.

In the House of Commons on Monday, March 15, ↑1922↓ Mr. Chamberlain stated that a

"report from the British High Commissioner at Constantinople fully confirmed the recent unofficial reports of wholesale massacres of Christians in Asia Minor by Turks. The Turks, the report states appear to have set out on a deliberate plan for the extermination of minorities, and their favorite method is to march their prisoners until they drop dead. The women and girls are saved for the harems." [written in left margin] ↑[Eng?]↓

The Turkish counter-charges of atrocities [practiced] on Turks is no argument against investigations of commissions of control and prevention; on the contrary they are additional arguments in favor of these measures.

Mr. Chamberlain is pressing for an enquiry. The Pope is concerned. In the United States Congress there was discussed on March 7 ↑1922 [U.S.A.]↓ a Resolution (H.R. 244) providing for a protest by the government to the "de facto Angora government" (the Turks led by Kemal Pasha) and for a conference to be proposed by the President to the Governments of Great Britain, France and Italy "to consider methods by which the Armenians may be given an opportunity to establish themselves as a nation."

On all these accounts this is a critical moment when public opinion has a chance of making itself felt.

I have had exceptional opportunities of consulting with persons here, as well as by letter with Mr. Harold Buxton of London, one of the best authorities on Armenian interests, who has just returned from the Near East, and I want to present the following proposals: [page 4]

I) The appointment by the League of Nations of an adequate number of Commissioners charged with the protection of non-Turkish groups under Turkish rule and of non-Christian groups under Christian rule. These Commissioners should be [authorized] to hear and investigate complaints, able and ready to go quickly to whatever place may need their presence, and should have at their disposal A) adequate gendarmerie for police (not military) functions, and B) patrol Boats (one boat with its crew to be supplied by each of the three Powers), these boats to be either under the direct orders of Commissioners themselves or under immediate control of the League of Nations.

II) As to Armenia: -- the addition to the existing Armenian State, which is at the present time federated with Russia and known as Soviet Armenia, of [contiguous] territory so as at least to realize, though meagerly and in much less degree than was proposed, the promised "national home".

In support of these proposals the following considerations may be pointed out:

1) Protection of Minorities. This is not the time when commissioners under the joint orders of England, France and Italy -- two of them or all three of them -- could be expected to be active, united and successful in the delicate task of protection pure and simple, without fear or favor. The LEAGUE OF NATIONS alone has the universal character and position which are absolutely necessary for intervening on behalf of Greek, Syrian, Chaldean, Armenian, Turkish or other minorities.

At the same time the League of Nations itself can do nothing effective in the way of intervention and protection unless it has practical and effective support from the nations of which it is composed and especially from the three Powers which have made themselves responsible by their Paris decision in March. [page 5] Furthermore it is most unlikely that the League of Nations would accept any responsibility in the matter unless its efforts are to be given effective backing.

2) In general, apart from the famine, for which Soviet Russia has given at least some aid, conditions in Soviet Armenia are to say the least far more tolerable for Armenians than life outside its frontiers. The great difficulty is that its present territory is inadequate in view of the three or four hundred thousand refugees not gathered there to say nothing of some hundred thousand other refugees from Cilicia and elsewhere now in Syria. This is shown by the studies made on the spot by Mr. Buxton and others.

It will be noted that the above [program] has nothing to say as to where frontiers should be drawn or what territorial adjustments should be made. The hideously complicated problem of Near Eastern claims -- with its intermixture of peoples and religions, its [rancorous] and black memories, its oil wells and trade routes. This is because I do not know enough to make suggestions, because those who receive this letter would probably not be convinced if I did, and because it seems to me so unlikely that expressions of humanitarian public opinion will be able to force a change policy in this regard on the government of Great Britain, France and Italy.

On the two points which I urge they have committed themselves in principle (to the protection of [imperiled] social and religious minority populations and to a national home for Armenians).

In this we are working along the line of least resistance, and for objects to which all agree. What is needed is a sufficient volume of interest and determination to get principles turned into realities. [page 6]

The precise measures suggested may not be the ones adopted -- but it is easiest and most effective to press for something definite and these appear to be the most promising. An investigation may be also useful, if it is accompanied by measures that prevent its serving simply to stimulate new killings.


Each group can best judge how it can help.

The Swedish Section, which also received an appeal from the Greeks, took the matter up with the Turkish Minister in Sweden. Their letter, after speaking of the reports of massacres published on May 6, continues

"We are persuaded that the Turkish Nation does not wish to permit these continued cruelties against the minorities in Turkey and ask the Turkish Legation in Sweden to implore the authorities in Turkey to do everything in its power to stop these cruelties. We are convinced that a decided opinion of the Turks themselves would be the best means of overcoming the hatred between the Turks and populations of a different race and religion" (translated from French original).

The Turkish Minister in Sweden said a commission of women ought to be sent to the suffering population to investigate. He also accused the Greeks of outrages committed against Turks.

This policy of direct appeal to the Turks to reform themselves is certainly most in harmony with our principles. I believe however that it must be accompanied by efforts to secure not only investigation but, as explained above, political measures to guarantee the security and safety of the [imperiled] populations in alien territory, Turkish and Christian, equally.

In addition, then, to efforts to influence the Turks directly (both in your own capital and in Constantinople or Angora through your own representatives there or otherwise) we have to consider methods of influencing the non-Turkish governments to realize the suggested [program]. [page 7]

For this there are the usual methods of trying to enlighten public opinion and to enlist the interest of legislatures and individual public men: deputations and personal interviews, questions (interpellations) in parliaments, petitions, public meetings, articles and letters in newspapers and the periodical press, letters addressed to individual statesmen (which might be published with or without copies) etc.

It might be well also to write direct to the Secretariat of the League of Nations, Geneva to express concern and to secure information. The various Armenian societies, and Greek and other consulates, ought also be able to supply information.

It may be best to appoint a special Committee to work on this whole question.

If anything is to be effected, every possible effort must be made to bring home to people the terrible gravity of the situation.

Emily G. Balch,