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letter of Mr. Karakostas to HRW - 08/10/2001

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August 10, 2001

 


Letter to Human Rights Watch about the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greeks in Turkey


By Theodore G. Karakostas
I am writing to you to bring to your attention the status of the
Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek minority in
Turkey. I remain greatful to you for responding to previous letters
that I have sent you.I would appreciate whatever attention you can
give to the concerns outlined below.

To date, there has been no improvement in the status of Turkey's
Ethnic Greek population nor has there been any attempt by the
government in Ankara to stabilize this community's status by lifting
its present blockade against the Patriarchate of Constantinople
which represents the centuries long persecution and survival of the
Hellenic population under Turkish rule. The blockade I am referring
to is the Turkish government's forceful closure of the Patriarchate's
Theological Seminary on the island of Halki in the Sea of Marmara.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is a worldwide center of the Eastern
Orthodox Church. It hold a primacy of honor over the Orthodox
Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia,
Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Finland,
and the Czech Republic. It is an institution that claims as its founder
one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ, Saint Andrew. The Patriarchate
has moved from the Church of the Holy Wisdom (Aghia Sophia)
following the Turkish conquest to different Churches over the centuries
but it has remained in the same city during the era of the Byzantine
Empire and predates the arrival of the Turks by well over a century.

The closure of the Halki Seminary is a violation of human rights and
religious freedom. It is a move meant by the Turkish authorities to
finish off the Greek Orthodox population that is supposed to be
protected by the Treaty of Lausanne. Earlier in the century, the
Ottomans engaged in a genocidal policy of extermination against its
Greek population.


By 1923, only 100,000 Greeks remained in Turkey whereas well
over one and a half million had existed in Turkey during the previous
few years. Over the last several years, the Ecumenical Patriarchate
has been bombed four times, at least 2 Greek Orthodox cemetaries
have been desecrated, and several individuals of Greek descent have
been murdered.Human rights abuses against the Greek community
continue.

The closure of the Patriarchal Seminary of Halki is state sponsored
discrimination. In my view, the stature of the Patriarchate of
Constantinople, holy to millions of Orthodox Christians, is worthy of
attention as are its still suffering faithful in Turkey. In January 1998,
a caretaker of a Greek Church was brutally murdered. In the fall of
1999, a six year old Greek boy on the Island of Imbros was burned
to death following an arson attack.

Sir, I have been following the coverage of Human Rights
Watch for several years. In all candor, I must state that there seems
to be a total and complete indifference to the plight of Greeks under
Turkish rule in both Turkey as well as Turkish occupied Cyprus. I am
alarmed at the continued absence of any coverage of human rights
violations by Turkey in Cyprus. Indeed, the failure of HRW to document
the brutal and politically motivated murders of Greek Cypriots Tasos
Isaac and Solomos Solomou in 1996 remains disturbing.

For research purposes, I would be interested in learning what criteria
is used to determine what will be documented in both the annual HRW
World Report as well as individual Country Reports. There has been
a long and consistant pattern of neglecting the Greeks of Turkey and
Cyprus, and it is troubling that ethnic cleansing by Turkey is greeted
with such silence at a time when Ankara is also declaring war on
history by denying the Armenian genocide and intimidating politicians
in America thus exporting their Kemalist censorship abroad.

At present, Turkey is continuing to declare war on its Kurds and
Ankara continues to be responsible for the dissapearances and
torture of its own people. The reason why Turkey is politically
retarded and why it is an enormous cesspool of human rights
violations is because the leadership of the Young Turks and Mustafa
Kemal were allowed to slaughter millions of Christian Greeks,
Armenians, and Assyrians and were never punished nor forced to
confront the truth.

Today, the last Greeks of Turkey are dismissed as insignificent.
This is a shame and a tragedy. The Greeks of Turkey and the
Ecumenical Patriarchate, who are the heirs of the survivors of
Turkey's campaigns of mass murder and genocide link the
past and present of Turkey. The burning of Smyrna and the
extermination of the Greeks and the refusal of the world to punish
the Turkish leadership for the genocide of Armenians and Greeks
paved the way for all the present day atrocities ocurring in both
the prisons of Turkey as well as in the mountains of Kurdistan.

Human Rights institutions should find the continued closing of
Halki troubling. Halki is a theological Seminary and a place of
learning. What better symbol is there to illustrate how an
authoritarian and undemocratic state like Turkey turns its back
on the concepts of learning and enlightenment. One can see the
evolution of Turkish paranoia over three decades when Turkish state
policy evolved fromclosing a Christian Seminary to prohibiting Islamic
headdress for Muslim women.

Once again, I am writing to Human Rights Watch hoping to
make a case for documenting the plight of Greeks in Turkey. I have
attempted as best I could to place Turkey's Greeks and their history,
along with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in the proper context where
they belong. It is my belief that silence is censorship and there has
been too much silence as far as Turkey is concerned.

Sir, in the past HRW has responded to my letters by
claiming there are not enough resources to cover the Greeks of
Turkey. In January 1999, HRW published a country report on the
Muslims of Thrace. Furthermore, HRW gave a grant to a Muslim
from Thrace, Abdulhalim Dede for alleged "past persecution" by
Greek authorities. HRW admits that this individual was imprisoned
"for installing an antenna without a permit" yet concludes that
"Mr. Dede was singled out primarily because he is a Turk".

I seriously wonder if there will be any similar honors coming for
Cypriots Tasos Isaac, (beaten to death by Turkish forces) or
Solomos Solmou, who was shot to death by a Turkish sniper when
he proceeded to engage in a form of political protest by removing a
Turkish flag from a flag pole. I do not see any such recognition for
Titina Loizidou, a Greek Cypriot women who's property has been
stolen by the Turkish army. Or perhaps for the 1,600 or so Greek
Cypriots missing ever since Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974.

Other candidates for recognition by HRW might be Patriarch
Bartholomeos, victim of four assasination attempts, as well as
Metropolitan Iakovos a member of the Holy Synod who was
arrested by Turkish Police in 1997. I would like to know why
HRW cannot document the Greeks of Turkey and Cyprus who's
existence is threatened and who's political plight cannot possibly
be compared with the tolerance shown by Greek authorities towards
the Muslims of Thrace?

In concluding, I respectfully ask for information regarding what
criteria HRW uses to document a particular community in general.
How much time and resources are used to document the Muslims
of Thrace and why can't some of those be used to document the
Greeks of Turkey and Cyprus in the interests of historical and
political fairness and accuracy. I look forward to a response.

Thank You
Theodore G. Karakostas

 
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