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Near East (Atrocities)

Volume 154: debated on Wednesday 31 May 1922

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I have received a Private Notice question from the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), which I think was covered in the hon. Member's speech last night.

I made no allusion to the facts which I now desire to elicit. I wish to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the telegram from Archbishop Meletios, of Constantinople, stating that during the last fortnight Turkish troops, gendarmes and bands of irregulars have burned down fourteen villages in the Vilayet of Trebizond, the inhabitants being killed, women and children outraged, and houses and shops looted; also that these same Turks have attacked Livera, the scat of the Metropolitan of Rodopolis, incarcerated the inhabitants, putting under arrest the Metropolitan Kyrillos; seven Christians having been decapitated and their heads exposed for many days on spikes in the market place of Dzevizlik; and whether any action is being taken by the British Government in the matter?

Would the hon. Gentleman at the same time state whether he has received a report by two ladies of the Anatolian Mission regarding the atrocities committed by the Greeks upon the Turks, which has only just been published?

I have not seen the report referred to by the hon. Baronet, and I have only seen the telegram in question in the Press. His Majesty's Government have, however, received a report from an independent witness who has just left Trebizond, from which it is clear that acts of great barbarity are still being committed by the Turks in the Trebizond district against the surviving Greeks. The report states that by orders from Angora even little boys of Greek race are now being collected in dungeons and compounds and allowed to die of starvation. As my hon. Friend is aware, His Majesty's Government are doing all in their power to accelerate the despatch of the proposed Commission of inquiry, but no further action can be taken until the reply of the United States Government is received.

Has the attention of the hon. Gentleman been drawn to the statement of Major Jacquith, the head of the Near Eastern American organisation at Constantinople, that many of these reports are exaggerated, and to the fact that he gives a direct denial of some of the charges; and will the hon. Gentleman accept those charges with reservations until this Committee has made a formal investigation?

Will the fact that the House was unexpectedly adjourned at Eight o'clock last night, and this question was unexpectedly discussed, rule it out of to-day's Debate?

The House was not adjourned at Eight o'clock. I was here myself till 11.30.

Can the hon. Gentleman give any indication as to how soon he expects to receive the reply of the American Government? Is anything being done to hasten that reply?

I hope it will arrive to-day. It is expected either to-day or to-morrow.