TURKISH POLICY ON MINORITIES
CONSTANTINOPOLITAN SOCIETY INTERVENTION IN THE
OSCE CONFERENCE IN
Ladies and Gentlemen:
In consecutive OSCE Meetings since
1995, we have been protesting violations of human rights and freedoms, which the
has been systematically perpetrating against the Greek
Minority living in
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
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
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
, a short distance off
) 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
), 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,
We remind the Theological Seminary of
Halki elicited special commentary by the U.S. Delegation in Warshaw last year.
Such actions notwithstanding,
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
Unfortunately, there is more ugly
stuff in store to be related here.
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
in Kurtulus (a densely populated central district in
) 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
Yet another fixation of
is how best to eradicate traces of Greek presence from
earlier times in what is
example, during guided tours to sites of Classical Antiquity, the Turks have
struck the word “
” off the dictionary. As
for remnants of
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
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
at the dawn of the 21st. century. But not in
Kossovo. The place they are taking
place in is called
This is not all there is to it.
Freedom of expression
-- another pillar of human rights – receives special beating in
. 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
observers themselves note the predominant fear of indictment for contempt of
State among Greeks and Armenians living in
Our very sketchy briefing of conduct
by the authorities points to three conclusions:
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.
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
as a land where law reigns supreme, a severe doze of fantasy
is a must.
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
Ladies and gentlemen, our friends,
here is our closing statement:
We look forward to the day democratic
processes gain true momentum in
. When human rights conditions take permanent root in
, we will gladly return to our birthplaces. We look forward
to friendship and coexistence with the Turkish nation. For this to occur, it is
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