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The Greek Minority and its foundations in Istanbul, Gokceada (Imvros) and Bozcaada (Tenedos)
After the 1923 Lausanne Treaty and the mandatory population exchange provided for therein, more than 130,000 ethnic Greeks remained in Istanbul as well as on Gökçeada (Imvros) and Bozcaada (Tenedos) islands. Nevertheless, this socially, financially and culturally vigorous Greek population sustained systematic persecutions from the Turkish administration which resulted to its gradual yet dramatic decrease and its eventual emigration. The events of “Septemvriana” in September 1955 and the deportations in 1964 (see paragraphs 2 and 3) grossly violated the 1923 Lausanne Treaty obligations Turkey ought to honour. Today, less than 3,500 ethnic Greek residents remain in Turkey.
1. On November 11, 1942 the Turkish Government put into force the Law 4305, imposing a burdensome wealth tax on property, which is known as “Varlik Vergisi”. The Law was to be equally applied to all citizens, however, its selective implementation, using as criteria religion and ethnicity, intended to economically ruin the non-Muslim minorities. The Law required the payment of the tax within 15 days and without the right to appeal. The failure to pay resulted to the confiscation of the taxpayers property, their arrest and displacement to forced labor camps in Askale, at extremely bad weather conditions. The number of the exiled reached 2500 persons. Having ruined the non-Muslim minorities, the Law was abolished in August 1944. I t 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 the tax.
2. On the night of September 6, 1955, in Istanbul, an orchestrated mob turned against the ethnic Greek community and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in a riot, which destroyed 1.004 houses, 5.000 SMEs, two cemeteries, 73 churches, 23 schools and 5 recreation centers. By the 1960s, the number of ethnic Greeks who were forced to leave Turkey is estimated at around 9,000 people. On October 1961, the then Prime Minister of Turkey Adnan Menderes was convicted, among others, of ordering the Istanbul Pogrom against the Greek minority.
3. On March 16, 1964, Turkey denounced the 1930 Greek-Turkish Ankara Convention, refusing, at the same time, any negotiation for its replacement. Within two years, more than 12,000 Greek citizens living in Turkey were deported from the country and deprived of all access to their movable and immovable property. As a consequence, a further 40,000 Turkish citizens of Greek origin (relatives of the above-mentioned deported Greeks) fled the country; these ethnic Greeks (Greek Minority in Turkey) were excluded from the mandatory population exchange of 1923 and laid without the realm of the 1930 Greek-Turkish Ankara Convention. Along with the deportations, a secret decree (1) froze all Greek assets in Turkey. The houses and the properties of the deported Greeks were taken by the Turkish government, after being characterized as abandoned.
(1) The decree of November 2, 1964, known as kararnames, which means “order” in Turkish, was secret because it wasn’t published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Turkey so that it couldn’t be challenged in courts.