The Greek government is under fire for its attitude toward the Pontic Genocide after the Education Minister’s comments were followed by revelations that high school students in Greece are no longer being taught about the genocide.
New Democracy MP Miltiadis Varvitsiotis raised the issue of the genocide’s absence from high school teachings in the Greek parliament on Wednesday. Varvitsiotis referenced a ministerial decision that was issued in June by former Education Minister and current Culture Minister Aristidis Mpaltas. The alleged ministerial decision removed the topic of Hellenism by the Black Sea for the period between the 19th and the 20th century, from the curriculum of 12th graders. Pontus is located in the Black Sea’s southern coast.
The Pontic Genocide took place between 1913 and 1923. Around 350,000 people were killed by Turkish troops through a variety of means including starvation and deportations via death marches.
On Monday, Greek Education Minister Nikos Filis expressed his personal opinion that the systemic slaughter committed by Turkish troops was not a genocide, based on the scientific meaning of the term. The minister called for a separation between “a bloody ethnic cleansing and a genocide”.
This caused a vocal reaction from the Greek political opposition parties as well as from the Independent Greeks (ANEL), SYRIZA’s government coalition partner, who criticized Filis for his comments. Political opposition is calling for Filis’s removal from his ministerial post.
The Greek parliament officially recognized the Pontic Genocide in 1994 and also adopted a law in September 2014, by which individuals who refuse to acknowledge the genocide face a fine between 5,000 and 20,000 euros and a prison sentence. Fines for genocide deniers who hold a public office range between 10,000 to 25,000 euros.
In response to these recent developments, the Panpontic Federation of Greece (POE) has called for a demonstration at the Syntagma Square in Athens, in front of the Greek parliament on Thursday, November 5, at 4 p.m. The POE’s announcement notes that the demonstration is against Filis’s comments as well as the Greek government’s general stance toward issues that concern Greek Pontians.