Amele Taburu

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Amele Taburu, Greek: Τάγμα Εργασίας Tagma Ergasias) was a form of slave labour in the late Ottoman Empire and later in the Turkish Repubic [1] It also refers to disarmament and murder of Armenian soldiers of the Ottoman Empire during WWI.[2] [3]. Usage of Labor battalions is among major arguments in support of the Pontic Greek Genocide.

Greeks in labour battalions

Under the Young Turk movement, the Greeks of Asia Minor, up to 45 years of age, were subjected to forced conscription in the labour battalions. The recruits were used to build railways, roads, bridges in remote parts of the Ottoman Empire, more often than not with inadequate food and water supplies. It is estimated that 100,000 Greeks died in this fashion, while many more were forced to emigrate to avoid their fate. Greeks who refused this forced duty were hanged.

During the Second World War the Amele Taburu service was brought back by the government of Ismet Inonu. The wealthier Turkish citizens were subjected to the Varlik Vergisi, a one-off tax on accumulated wealth. Greeks, though constituting at that time only 0.5% of the population, were forced to pay 20% of the total tax. Those who could not afford to pay - as the assessment often bore no resemblance to the actual value of one's property - were forced into the Labour Battalions. As Greece was under Axis occupation, there was nobody to speak up for the injustice though individual journalists - such as Cyrus Sultzberger - sought to bring it to light.

Armenians in labour battalions

During the beggining of World War I, Enver ordered that all Armenians in the Ottoman forces, some as old as sixty, to be disarmed, demobilized and assigned to labor battalion units. Many of the Armenian recruits were taken and executed by Turkish soldiers and armed squads known as chetes (groups whose roles were similar to Nazi Germany's Einsatzgruppen) in remote areas.[4] Those who initially survived were turned into road laborers (hamals) and construction mules, but were eventually killed thereafter.[5]


The well-known writer-novelist Elias Venezis later described the situation in his work the Number 31328 (Το Νούμερο 31328).


  1. Henry Morgenthau, Sr., "I was sent to Athens", Garden City N. Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Co, 1929
  2. Foreign Office Memorandum by Mr. G.W. Rendel on Turkish Massacres and Persecutions of Minorities since the Armistice, March 20, 1922, Paragraph 35
  3. USA Congress, Concurrent Resolution, September 9, 1997
  4. Balakian. The Burning Tigris, p. 178
  5. Toynbee, Arnold. Armenian Atrocities: The Murder of a Nation. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915. pp. 181–182