The Greek minority of Turkey

After the end of World War I, the victorious Allied Powers signed separate peace Treaties with each of the Central Powers and their allies. In the case of Turkey, and in light of subsequent developments that had rendered the Treaty of Sevres of 1920 out of date, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed on the 24th of July 1923.

The Treaty of Lausanne fixed the terms on which peace was reestablished with Turkey. It incorporated in its text the agreements signed between that country and Greece in January of that same year, which were part of the solution to the "Eastern Question."

One of these agreements was a Convention foreseeing the compulsory exchange of populations between the two countries. However, the Greeks of Istanbul, Imvros and Tenedos on the one hand, and the Muslims of Thrace on the other, were exempted from this exchange.

A. The Greek-Orthodox Community of Istanbul
According to the provisions of the Lausanne Treaty, 73,000 Greeks were accorded Turkish citizenship while 30,000 Greek citizens permanently established until then in Istanbul, remained there as members of the Greek-Orthodox community, on the basis of a separate Protocol signed on the same date (July 1923).

Taking into consideration that the families as well as the enterprises of the above population were strictly connected with Istanbul, this population constituted an integral part of the city.

The Turkish side accepted their right to stay in their place of birth. This was the result not only of the Lausanne Treaty but also of the Greek-Turkish Conventions signed on July and October of 1930.

Despite their conventional obligations, the Turks were intolerant vis a vis the minorities living in their country. Specifically, while the specter of Nazism was hovering over Europe, Turkey refused to play any part in the fight of the Western World to uphold democratic ideals, claiming "neutrality." At the same time, all Greeks between 18 and 45 years of age were mobilized and, subsequently, deported to special labor camps in the depths of Asia Minor.

Furthermore, in November 1942, Ankara put into force the notorious "Varlik vergisi" Law imposing a wealth tax on property. The provisions of that law were enforced with exceptional zeal only against Turkish subjects belonging to non-Moslem minorities. As a result, the Greeks were forced to liquidate all their property, but since even so they were not able to meet the imposed obligations, they were uprooted from their homes and put to forced labor. (It should be noted that the Greek minority, although it constituted only 0,5% of the whole Turkish population, contributed 20% of the country's total income emanating from this tax).

This measure was the most serious violation of the Lausanne Treaty's dispositions for the protection of minorities.

After a short respite in the pressure, a new period of crisis for the Greek minority began with the Cyprus affair and resulted in anti-Greek demonstrations in Istanbul and Izmir in September 1955. A mob, under the direction of the Turkish authorities, took to the streets of Constantinople. Their attacks were made exclusively against the Greeks, whose shops, workshops, houses, churches, hospitals, schools, and cemeteries were wrecked and looted.

The refusal of any protection from the Turkish side resulted in a dramatic reduction of the Greek element of Istanbul, but the fatal blow came in 1964-1965, when Ankara denounced the Greek-Turkish Convention of 1930 on installation, which led nearly 12,600 Greek subjects living in Istanbul to a mass expulsion while, at the same time, their properties in Turkey were frozen.

In conclusion, the mass flight of the Greeks of Istanbul is due exclusively to the unbearable conditions under which they were obliged to live. Due to these conditions, the Greek community of Constantinople that numbered 270,000 souls in 1922 has been reduced to 3,000 persons today.

B. The Greeks of Imvros and Tenedos
The adventure of Greeks on the islands of Imvros and Tenedos reflects the most flagrant violations of the Lausanne Treaty's provisions.

After a period of twelve years of Greek administration, these two islands were assigned to Turkey because of their strategic importance.

However, the Lausanne Treaty recognized the natural right of self-determination for the Greek inhabitants of the two islands, including article 14, which provided for the status of local self-administration.

On her part, Turkey not only refused to implement the above article but tried its best to eliminate the Greek element from the islands. With the exception of a short interval between 1951 and 1963, the teaching of the Greek language was forbidden on Imvros and Tenedos.

A critical factor that forced the Greek population to leave the islands was the installation of an open prison for criminals from continental Turkey. In this way, Ankara violated the provisions of Lausanne Treaty by expropriating 95% of arable land belonging to the Greeks of Imvros.

The result of this policy was the reduction of the exclusively Greek population of Imvros from 8,000 in 1922 to 400 inhabitants today. Tenedos suffered a similar reduction as its Greek population numbered 5,320 people in 1922 and no more than 100 today.

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