Ladies and Gentlemen:

In consecutive OSCE Meetings since 1995, we have been protesting violations of human rights and freedoms, which the Turkish State has been systematically perpetrating against the Greek Minority living in Istanbul .

It is tempting to observe that our participation in the meetings and our protestations to OSCE already acquired a monotonous tone. Indeed our protestations hardly display much thematic diversity. This is so, because Turkish violations do not only go a considerable way back in time.  One is tempted to concede Turkish violations against minorities have a nearly admirable record of perseverance! They are almost enviable in their steadfastness of purpose – to an extent that makes them appear almost extra-temporal. Over several decades, Turkish authorities have been engaging, premeditatedly and in routine fashion, in minority persecutions.  Pretexts to engage in such acts have ranged, from surreal and wild, all the way to partisan political considerations.

The stark truth with respect to these practices can be rendered in two or three  lines of text:

How to deprive the Greek Minority of its means of economic subsistence, especially how best to usurp its real estate property  -- community owned or privately owned. In every instance, the State re-distributed the assets it usurped to persons filling ranks of para-governmental and para-military groups (of the Sousourluk category in our days). Even Turkish political analysts admit that the Turkish State thus aimed to oust a middle-class (predominantly Greek up to 1955) and replace it with a Turkish one.  The plan necessitated the economic annihilation of all Greeks of Turkish citizenship, followed by the overnight generation of a middle class with Turkish origins.  A range of means was resorted to: Public measures cloaked in legalistic disguise; secret orders by the executive carried down the ladder of command verbally; even intimidation and terror. Considering the above with a dose of cynicism, perhaps it would be apt if the esteemed Turkish side insists that Greeks fled from Istanbul for economic reasons. As I said, perhaps it would be apt, although rather cynical. But let’s not make one mistake: It would be a very clumsy way to cover up the stench of the real issue.

Turkey systematically misleads organizations (such as OSCE) assigned to monitoring human rights conduct on a global level. In our statement to this body last year, we reported that General Kenan Evren, (President of Turkey in 1981), following behind-the-scenes pressure from General Rogers, consented to a classified document (Decree No. 57779/ 3 November 1981/ Office of Prime Minister). The document was to rectify seizures of estates  grom Greeks by recalling prior arbitrary court acts.

Allow me to explain briefly: We can report on this classified Turkish document today because NATO received a copy of it then.  From NATO, another copy made its way to the Foreign Affairs Department in Athens .

As for the substance of the matter: You guessed right. Up to this day, Decree No. 57779 remained a void text. It was simply never implemented.

With all due respect to international bodies – we repeat our accusation: In a systematic and repeated fashion, Turkey has been misleading global organizations. Unfortunately, OCSE is not an exception to the rule.

Allow me to end this sad story with a note which (who knows?) might elicit pale grins from some of you in the audience: Disclosure of Document 57779 may yet elicit court action on grounds of making classified material available to the public.  Parody at its best!

Since 1995, we have been reporting on Turkey seizing real estate property belonging to Greeks of Turkish citizenship. Last year, we noted our suspicion that the Monastery of Transfiguration on Kinaliada (the smallest of the Princes Islands , a short distance off Istanbul ) might be next in harm’s way.  Our fears are now verified. In July of this summer, His Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, voiced his concern about authorities maneuvering to deprive the Monastery of its land. The Monastery has camp facilities and hosts needy children for vacationing. Turkish authorities claim it is entitled only to its church building.

Last year, we reported to the OCSE audience that the Theological Seminary of Halki (a venerated institution serving Orthodox Christianity worldwide) was shut down on arbitrary orders from Turkish authorities in 1971. Situated on Heybeliada (second largest of the Princes Islands ), the Seminary is needed badly as graduate school educating top clergy. The Seminary remains closed to this day. Isn’t 28 years  rather a long time for a theological institution to be barred from functioning?  We wonder who are so disposed against Christian clergy? And why? We wonder if the esteemed Turkish Delegation can conceive an answer to this puzzle. But a logical, a sane answer, please.

We remind the Theological Seminary of Halki elicited special commentary by the U.S. Delegation in Warshaw last year. Such actions notwithstanding, Turkey embarked on another act of notorious intransigence: A few days before opening date for the OSCE Conference in Warshaw, Turkish authorities served notice of dissolution to the elected administrative council of the Seminary. As we said, the place remains closed to this day, pressure from the U.S. notwithstanding.

Unfortunately, there is more ugly stuff in store to be related here.  The Greek Minority in Istanbul has been silently witnessing desecration of its cemeteries and its holy grounds, in addition to everything else.  On more than one occasions, vandals have broken into Christian cemeteries, unearthed graves and scattered human remains around.  These acts of atrocity to the dead took place on specific dates: On March 1, 1998 , 51 graves were destroyed.  On July 25 of this year, 20 graves in the Christian Cemetery in Kurtulus (a densely populated central district in Istanbul ) were desecrated.  A few days before that, vandals gave the same treatment to a cemetery in Kuzguncuk (a more remote location).  Digging up Christian graves seems to be catching as a favorite sport past the normal bedtime hour of children. And the role of Turkish police?  Well, police did not ever apprehend even one vandal -- never!  We remember the Turkish Delegation last year bragging about the almighty Turkish Police. We also believe they are. There are orders against apprehending the culprits.

Yet another fixation of Turkey is how best to eradicate traces of Greek presence from earlier times in what is Turkey today.  For example, during guided tours to sites of Classical Antiquity, the Turks have struck the word “ Greece ” off the dictionary.  As for remnants of Byzantium   (cultural heritage for the Greek Minority) they are keen on eradicating every such trace from the land. Historic monuments are bulldozed on the pretext of decongesting car traffic!  While this is taking place, UNESCO grants its funds to have these monuments preserved. Pertinent accusations were voiced by Turkish archaeologists themselves (and this is truly to their credit) and by Europa Nostra.

Earlier this year, original Byzantine fortifications were restored in a haphazard fashion for tourist exploitation. The restoration works were of such bad quality that these sections crumbled down in the recent severe earthquake.  Other parts of the Byzantine walls (lucky enough to be spared the man-made calamity of uplifting) superbly survived the natural calamity.

Let us now pass to another burning issue: The adventures of the Minority in educational matters. The children of the Minority apparently are deprived of a fundamental right -- to obtain primary schooling in their mother tongue. Regardless of what you believe or we believe on this issue, the Turkish Ministry of Education seems to have decreed that it be just so. In implementation of this, weekly hours for subjects taught in Greek were cut back severely; pupils are matriculated into the next grade even if they scored below the base in Greek-language classes.  Apparently the Ministry could not think of anything more disastrous. The Ministry is unfolding a master plan to deprive minority youth from its mother tongue inside school premises.

The adventures of Greek Minority schools in Istanbul go on and on.  Authorities banned all textbooks for subjects taught in Greek (the subjects in question include science courses and math).  As a result, proper education of pupils at elementary school level has become an impossible task. To make  sure it stays so, the Ministry next forbade Greek schools (including those of secondary level) from recruiting teachers from the ranks of the Minority! There have been some bizarre instances of students passing university entrance exams but not qualifying to enroll due to an incomplete high school certificate.

Our conclusion: These adventures in educational matters are precisely meant to alienate Greeks from their ethnic identity, especially from their mother tongue.  These ethnic cleansing practices are taking place in Europe at the dawn of the 21st. century. But not in Kossovo.  The place they are taking place in is called Turkey .

This is not all there is to it.

Freedom of expression  -- another pillar of human rights – receives special beating in Turkey . For instance, for every cultural / intellectual public happening, the organizers are obligated to submit its content to the authorities for prior approval -- the speeches (in translation, if not in Turkish); the identity of speakers; the program of the event; etc. Such coercion is especially detrimental to a Minority striving to hang on to its ethnic identity.

And still more of the same:

It is inconceivable for a private citizen to commence litigation against the State.  Such an attempt would face charges of contempt against the Turkish State .  Turkish observers themselves note the predominant fear of indictment for contempt of State among Greeks and Armenians living in Istanbul .

Our very sketchy briefing of conduct by the authorities points to three conclusions:

1.        Turkey remains an untrustworthy partner on the global scene: It has been lying to international organizations concerning practices at home and violating agreements it was a signatory party to.

2.        Turkey self-repudiates its fundamental constitutional provision of a secular state.  All the same and without blinking an eyelid, it makes the most of opportunities to portray secularism as its distinguishing mark from theocratic regimes of Islam.  We retort that no Greek or other Christian minority suffered in the hands of an Islamic authority half as many persecutions as it has suffered in the hands of Turkey .

3.      To perceive Turkey as a land where law reigns supreme, a severe doze of fantasy is a must. Turkey pervasively engages in acts which mock every sense of law. Nonetheless, it is strange how Turkish delegations at international forums get a kick from delivering sermons on how laws are upheld in Turkey .

Ladies and gentlemen, our friends, here is our closing statement:

We look forward to the day democratic processes gain true momentum in Turkey . When human rights conditions take permanent root in Turkey , we will gladly return to our birthplaces. We look forward to friendship and coexistence with the Turkish nation. For this to occur, it is imperative for Turkey to ameliorate wrongs and democratize its institutions. We need to feel secure and not to be discriminated. In short, we ask to be treated as equals before the law and as accepted as friends.

May the international community – while witnessing this catalog of past and present misdeeds and this articulation of hope for better days -- become instrumental in bringing forth-such developments.