File photo: Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Omer Celik attends an inauguration ceremony for a refurbished museum at the house where Turkish statesman Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is believed to have been born in 1881, in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 AP
A day before the Turkish court’s decision to convert the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque, a Greek political party called for the birthplace of the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Thessaloniki, Greece to become a museum commemorating Greek genocide victims.
The call was made by the Greek Solution Party and the country’s Minister of Rural Development Makis Voridis.
Greek scholar Vassilios Meichanetsidis told Ahram Online that turning Ataturk’s birthplace into a genocide museum “should not be perceived as a form of retaliation for the reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. These are two different issues and are of a different moral order.”
Meichanetsidis said that the Hagia Sophia issue “is about the desecration of a historical Greek Orthodox shrine of pan-Orthodoxism and pan-Christianity, which is of spiritual and cultural significance, while the issue of converting the house of Mustafa Kemal into a museum is about highlighting the tragic fate of a nation’s victims of genocide, putting an end to a historical and moral absurdity of promoting a notorious genocidaire.”
“Both issues, the Hagia Sophia and Kemal Pasha’s house, are extremely important from a historical and moral point of view, each one on its own merits,” Meichanetsidis said.
The Greek Solution Party said in a statement that no Turkish court can desecrate the character of the Hagia Sophia, and that Greece can and must convert Ataturk’s house into a genocide museum.
For Turks, Ataturk is the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, while Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians remember him as one of the main perpetrators of genocide against Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire, which involved the systematic extermination of around 3.5 million people between 1915 and 1924.
More than 1.2 million Greeks were forcibly removed from Turkey in 1923-1924 as the result of the Treaty of Lausanne.
Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece with a population of over 1 million.
Experts have differed over Ataturk's exact birthplace in Thessaloniki.
Ataturk was born in 1881 to Ali Riza Efendi and Zubeyde Hanim. He served as Turkey’s president from 1923 until his death in 1938.