The Crucial Role of Minority Rights in a Nation State The case of the Greek-Orthodox Community of Turkey in 20th Century Prof. Nikolaos Ouzounoglou

The Crucial Role of Minority Rights in a Nation State
The case of the Greek-Orthodox Community of Turkey in
20th Century
Prof. Nikolaos Ouzounoglou
Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans
The unified global body of the expatriated Greek-
Orthodox Community of Istanbul
Topics to be addressed:
1. A review of the history of the Greek-Orthodox
Community after 1923.
2. The sources of anti-minority state policies during
1923-2000 and their consequences.
3. The unbreakable relation of strengthening of “Rule of
Law” and “Respect of Constitutional Fundamental
Rights” with the status of Minority Rights.
4. The Importance of “Remedy and Reparation” in the
Context of U.N. Resolution 60/147 and the efforts of
EFC towards the Government of Rep. of Turkey.
5. Conclusions.
A review of the history of the Greek-Orthodox
Community after 1923.
• The status of the Community was established by the international Lausanne
Treaty (L.T.). signed 24/7/1923.
• The Community members were exempted of Population Exchange between
Turkey and Greece which was annexed to L.T. It was stated that ALL GREEKS
established (ETABLIS) within the Perfect of Istanbul (as defined by the law of
the year 1912) before 30 October 1918 will have the right to stay in Istanbul.
However the Community population being 300.000 dropped to 125.000
because of the consequences of war in Anatolia and interpretation of the nonexchange
zone being the Metropolitan Municipality instead of the Prefect
written in the French text. The Community consisted of 100.000 members excitizens
of Ottoman Empire obtaining the citizenship of new Turkey and
25.000 citizens of Greece. Both components were exempted of Population
Exchange and remained in Istanbul.
Lausanne Treaty
Turkey undertakes that the stipulations contained in Articles 38 to 44
shall be recognized as fundamental laws, and that no law, no
regulation, nor official action shall conflict or interfere with these
stipulations, nor shall any law, regulation, nor official action prevail
over them.
The Turkish Government undertakes to assure full and complete
protection of life and liberty to ali inhabitants of Turkey without
distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion.
Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities will enjoy the
same civil and political rights as Moslems.
Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities shall
enjoy the same treatment and security in law and in fact as
other Turkish nationals. In particular, they shall have an equal
right to establish, manage and control at their own expense,
any charitable, religious and social institutions, any schools and
other establishments for instruction and education, with the
right to use their own language and to exercise their own
religion freely therein.
Educational rights…
The Turkish Government undertakes to take, as regards non-
Moslem minorities, in so far as concerns their family law or
personal status, measures permitting the settlement of these
questions in accordance with the customs of those minorities.

The Turkish Government undertakes to grant full protection to the
churches, synagogues, cemeteries, and other religious establishments
of the above-mentioned minorities. All facilities and authorization
will be granted to the pious foundations, and to the religious and
charitable institutions of the said minorities at present existing in
Turkey, and the Turkish Government will not refuse, for the formation
of new religious and charitable institutions, any of the necessary
facilities which are guaranteed to other private institutions of that
Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities shall not be
compelled to perform any act which constitutes a violation of their
faith or religious observances, and shall not be placed under any
disability by reason of their refusal to attend Courts of Law or to
perform any legal business on their weekly day of rest.
This provision, however, shall not exempt such Turkish nationals from
such obligations as shall be imposed upon all other Turkish nationals
for the preservation of public order.
Turkey agrees that, in so far as the preceding Articles
of this Section affect non-Moslem nationals of
Turkey, these provisions constitute obligations of
international concern and shall be placed under the
guarantee of the League of Nations.
The rights conferred by the provisions of the present
Section on the non-Moslem minorities of Turkey will
be similarly conferred by Greece on the Moslem
minority in her territory.
Violations of L.T. 1923-40
- Interventions in Greek Schools; arbitrary dismissal of
hundreds of teachers.
- Interference in the internal affairs of the Ecumenical
- Establishment, with state support, of a Pseudo-
Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate by an ex-Orthodox
priest Eftim Karahisaridis - Erenerol, whose family
members to this day illegally occupies 3 churches +
50 real estate properties in the district of Karakoy -
for 80 years it has been an arch-enemy of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate.
-Dismissal of all Greek Employees from state offices and
foreign companies (1923-24).
Violations of L.T. 1923-40
- Closing down the “Literary Society” (1924) and of several schools.
- Shutting down the National Council (1925), a social institution
dealing with issues of family law pertaining to members of the Greek
Orthodox community.
- Prohibition of several professions to minorities (1932) (such as
pharmacists, medical doctors, etc.), despite the Greek-Turkish
Friendship Pact (1930). End result was the expatriation of 12.000
Constantinopolitan Greeks.
- Confiscation of properties from Greek foundations (1936); interfering
with the right to elect administrative boards of minority foundations
and appointment of “government posted” administrators (1936).
Violations of the Treaty of Lausanne by Turkey in the period 1940-1946
In May 1941 forced servitude in “Labor Battalions” of Greek,
Armenian and Jewish males was established
(May 1941-December 1942).
Violations of the Treaty of Lausanne by Turkey in the period 1940-1946
The infamous Welfare Tax 1942-44
- In November 1942 the Government of Turkey
introduced a tax law with the intent to
financially exterminate non-Muslim
minorities. The amount of tax to be paid was
exorbitantly high and was arbitrarily
determined by the local leader of the
People’s Republican Party.
- Deportation to Ashkale about 2400 people
were sent to exile;
- This Law was abandoned in 1943, after Cyrus
L. Sulzberger published two articles about it
in New York Times.
- The truth about the methods used was
revealed by the Chief Tax Officer of Istanbul,
Faik Ökte, who was in charge of
implementing this law; he published a book
in 1952 inspired by the remorse he felt.
The Period 1946-1955
- In an internal document titled “Report on Minorities” issued in 1946
by a Committee of the People’s Republican it was stated that it was the
objective of the Party, that the planned 500th (1953) anniversary
celebration of the Conquest of Istanbul in 1453, occur “without the
presence of any Greeks”, meaning they will all be expelled before that
-The beginning of the anti-colonial struggle by Greek Cypriots in 1950
provided opportunity and reason to implement the plan.
- During 1952-55, part of the press systematically fueled the fire of
hatred against Greeks in general and demonized them as enemies of
the state.
-The Turkish State supported and facilitated establishing the “Cyprus is
Turkish” organization, with branches throughout Turkey. This
organization acted as a coordinator of attacks against the Greeks of
Towards the night 6-7/9/1955
-The Turkish Secret Services organized and
executed a provocation by detonating a
small amount of explosive (transported by
diplomatic pouch) at the house of Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk in Thessaloniki, Greece.
- Just after the incident the perpetrators
were arrested by Greek Police.
-Following demands of extradition from
Turkey, the perpetrators of this
provocation, while on trial, were deported
by order of Thessaloniki Court; when they
reached Turkey, they were welcomed as
heroes. The main organizer of the
provocation Oktay Engin, was appointed
by the Turkish Government to oversee the
“Special Committee on Minorities,” the
purpose of which was to uproot and expel
The evening newspaper “Istanbul
Ekspres” that announced the
ostensible bombing of the house
of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was
printed 4 days before the events
and circulated in 200.000 copies
around 4 p.m. on 6/7/55 – while
usually its circulation was 5.000.
The three Phases of the Destruction
- In less than one hour, around 7 p.m, attacks started against Greek
Institutions and properties in all the European and Asian districts of
Bosphorous, in the Old city, and in the Princes islands. Taking into
account the lack of communications means that time, these
simultaneous attacks within a 60X30 km region, show the preplanning
of the whole operation.
- The raiding mobs consisted of at least 100.000 persons. They carried
out the attacks in three consecutive phases:
Destruction of doors
Setting on fire
-The targets were 64 Greek Churches, Cemeteries, Foun-dations
(Schools, Hospitals, the Main Charity Institution Balikli), shops and
houses of Greeks.
-Also, attacks were perpetrated against Armenians and Jews.
-The battle-cry that dominated was: “Today is for your properties,
tomorrow will be for yourselves”.
- The Police forces were indifferent and in some cases encouraging the
attackers. The mobilization of the army units came very late.

The results of the Attacks
(Helsinki Watch data, Books of H. Hristides, S. Vryonis)
- Destruction – arson of 71 churches.
- Destruction – arson of 26 schools -
5 sports clubs
- Destruction – arson of 4.500 shops,
of factories and 3 newspapers.
Extended destructions of cemeteries,
profanation of many graves among
which graves of Ecumenical
- Destruction of 2.100 houses.
Number of Greeks who died 37
(There was no order for slaughter).
- Attacks in the families of Greek
Officers in Izmir (Smyrna) and arson
to Greek Consulate.
- 300 rapes of women.

-The destruction continued for more than 12 hours, despite
the proclamation of martial law.
- The destructions exceed 1billion $.
-The most important issue however was the moral blow
against the Greeks who experienced the sacrilege of their
sacred values and relics.
-The Turkish Government refused its involvement and
incriminated the few Turkish leftists as organizers of the
riots. These were freed after months, because there was no
evidence proving their involvement.
-The 3000 persons arrested for their participation in the
riots, were set free after 3 months. Nobody was punished.
-The Government of Turkey attempted in every way to
conceal the fact that there was an organized plan to
exterminate the Greeks of Constantinople.
-The effort to hide the events failed because of the pictures
taken by Dimitrios Kaloumenos, and later transferred by
the journalist G. Karagiorgas, outside Turkey.
-The compensation of the victims ended up in a political
game and finally, the compensation given was only 10% of
the damages.
The “Trial” of the Event of 6-7/9/1955 after the Military Takeover of
- In May 1960 the government of Menderes
is overthrown by a coup and the members of
the Democratic Party, in power during the
years 1950-60, were arrested and tried in an
extraordinary court within a Naval base in an
island (Yassiada) near Istanbul.
- Among the cases to be tried were also the
events of 6-7/9/1955. Essentially, this Trial
sought to cover the mechanisms that
executed the extermination attack of the
Greeks of Istanbul and protect the real
perpetrators. Three members of the
Menderes Government were sentenced to
sanctions of a few years, while the prime
organizers of the events and the “agent
provocateurs” planning and executing the
Thessaloniki bomb incident, were acquitted.
Disclosure of the real organizer
-General Sabri Yirmibeşoğlu, founder and for 25 years
Commander of the Special Warfare Directorate of the
General Staff of Turkey, in 1992 during an interview for
TEMPO magazine stated the following :
The preparation of the Exiling - Deportation Program 1964
- During the Trial of 6-7/9/1955 events in a
secret session it was disclosed that the
deportation of the établis Greek citizens was
planned as early as 1957.
- The severe inter communal clashes that started
in Cyprus around Christmas of 1963, had an
immediate impact on the atmosphere in
Istanbul against the Greek-Orthodox
Community, despite the fact that this
Community had nothing to do with the events
in Cyprus.
Planning of Exile of the Community
-The law on restrictions to the exercise of 20 professions by
foreign nationals – with the exception of business owners –
that had been in force since 1932, was strictly implemented.
- On November 7, 1962, the ruling 28-4869 of the Prime
Minister İsmet İnönu, established a special “MINORITIES
SUBCOMMISSION” at the level of the Prime Ministry; the
members of this Commission were exclusively drawn from the
security forces, secret services and General Army Staff. This
commission was the supreme authority for all minorities
issues, was placed above all the other legislative, judicial and
executive authorities and has operated as the central
coordinating body for all the suppressive and repressive
measures against the non-Muslim minorities till its
replacement in 2004 by a commission having a political
16 March 1964
- The Prime Minister of Turkey İsmet İnönü on March 16, 1964 declared the
unilateral abolishment of the Convention on Establishment, Commerce and
Navigation that had been signed in 1930; the declaration was published in the
Official Journal. Immediately, the Tax Authorities of Istanbul took under close
surveillance the members of the Greek-Orthodox community holding Greek
citizenship and started the fiscal liquidation of their commercial activities in
- The deportation procedure started with an evening visit of the police in
civilian clothes at the residences of the victims who were invited to present
themselves the next day to the 4th Directorate of the Istanbul Police
Department. At the Police Directorate, they were, under duress, ordered to
sign a paper without being allowed to read it, in which they were “confessing”
that they had carried out spying actions against Turkey in favor of Greece;
under strict surveillance they were treated as ordinary criminals and ordered
to leave Turkey in a few days. They were allowed to carry with them only 20
kilograms of personal items and 20 Dollars.
- All the properties of the deportees were “frozen” following a ruling of the
Council of Ministers in November 1964 via Secret Decree 6/3801, according to
which no legal actions such as transfer or inheritance could be carried out for
these properties.
The Deported Greeks of Istanbul because of the harmful actions against the
State of Turkey.
Economic boycott of the Greek businesses
The archives of the Commerce Chamber of
Istanbul show that, at the beginning of
1964, the 36.000 active members of the
Chamber included 1000 Greek citizens;
18.000 businesses belonged to members of
the Greek-Orthodox Community holding
Turkish citizenship. Just after the start of the
deportations, in April 1964, nationalist,
university-student organizations (with both
right and left leanings), without any
interference from the Government,
organized a wide spread economic boycott.
Printed signs (see image next) were placed
at the entrance of Greek shops where one
could read: “… as the money spent in this
shop produces bullets used against your
Turkish brothers in Cyprus, do not buy here”.
This campaign was implemented in parallel
with the slogan “Citizens, speak only Turkish
and warn those not obeying”.
Oppressive measures against the Greek Institutions
In parallel with the deportations, an extensive program
of repressive measures, decided by the special
Minorities Sub-Commission, were put in force:
Turkish vice directors were appointed at the Greek
schools who limited the competence of the Greek
directors, and all signs recalling the Greek-orthodox
identity and culture were removed (e.g., signs in Greek,
even cross-shaped window frames
- Students with Ottoman Empire ancestors from the
region of Epirus – the prefecture of Arnavit (vilayeti) –
who were identified in their documents as “Arnavut-
Orthodox” were expelled from the Greek schools; only
those identified as “Rum (Greek)-Orthodox” were
allowed to stay. 30
The Consequences of the Deportations
- A drop of the Greek population of Istanbul from 90.000 to less than 30.000 in a
12 month period.
- The anti-minority policies planned and implemented by the special MINORITIES
SUBCOMMISSION resulted in an exodus of the Greek-Orthodox, as well as of other
non-Muslim minorities. These anti-minority policies are not only violations of all
the articles of the Lausanne Treaty (1923) regarding the protection of minorities,
but also of the European Convention of Human Rights of Rome (1950). The worse
persecution measure against the minorities occurred in 1974, when the Higher
Cassation Court of Turkey (Yargitay) issued a ruling stating that the real-estate
properties registered in the name of non-Muslim foundations after 1936 should
be confiscated by the State, based on the argument that the non-Muslim
minorities despite being citizens of the Republic of Turkey were also “foreign
citizens”. This legal aberration of Yargitay was abolished by several decisions or
the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. However, in spite of some
reparations, there are still pending serious injustices against the non-Muslim
minority foundations.
Population of the Greek Minority living in Istanbul 1923-
Prohibition of 20
Professions to Greeks
Recruitment of minority men aged
18-45 years to work in forced
labour camps
Deportation of minority members (3-9/1964)
Capital Tax to
Pogrom 6-7/9/1955
In post War European History the only
community almost completely (98%) expelled
is the Greek- Orthodox Community of
Istanbul and the islands: Gökçeada/Imbros-
The sources of anti-minority state policies during
1923-2000 and their consequences.
Analysis of the human rights violations against the Greek-Orthodox minority in
Turkey clearly shows that:
- The primary source has been the nationalistic ideologies conceiving any
difference from assumed “ideal citizen” as potential danger. The non-Muslim
minorities in principle were declared as potential internal enemies.
- The tensions or the good relations of the states of Greece and Turkey were
irrelevant on the implementation of anti-minority measures. Only timing of
pre-planned measures were linked to the relation between the two states.
- While the citizens belonging to Muslim religion of majority were also severely
persecuted, still the nationalist practices exploited the religion as instrument
against the non-Muslim minorities.
- The violations of Constitution and International Treaties endorsed by Republic
of Turkey effected not only the minority but all the citizens of Turkey. This is
true even Republic of Tukey in 1954 has been one the first country endorsing
European Convention of Human Rights.
-The inability of judicial system to protect human rights of
Minorities. Secret decrees discriminating were binding the
independence of tribunals and as a result different unpublished
laws were used to discriminate minority members citizens.
-The hate publications by part of the press throughout 1950-2000
against the minorities were systematic and unlimited.
-A “Special Minority Committee” under the office of the Prime
minister was active during 1962-2004 with superseding powers
to overturn any favorable ruling of judicial or even executive
- Although the above mentioned mechanisms have been
abolished the consequences of the past injustice practices
continue to still pose serious problems to minorities.
The unbreakable relation of strengthening of “Rule of Law” and “Respect of
Constitutional Fundamental Rights” with the status of Minority Rights.
The Developments during 2004-2017
- In 15 May 2010 the Prime minister of the time Mr. R.T. Erdogan
issued a Circular drawing the attention of all state authorities
abandoning old practices of discriminatory measures against minority
- On numerous occasions during this period higher state officials
recognized the misdoings against the minorities in the past.
- A Parliamentarian Commission in 2013 investigating the military
interventions recognized that the Pogrom of 6-7/9/1955 was pivotal
in the development of these Constitutional diversions in the Country.
- The restrictive measures towards the minority welfare foundations
were eased and in 2008 a law passed allowing the return of their real
estate properties. The implementation of the law allowed only part
of the properties while many issues are still pending.
International Treaties
Although the Rep. of Turkey has signed
(13/10/1972) and ratified (16/09/2002) the U.N.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Racial Discrimination still administration
authorities and Courts are reluctant to accept
its implementation.
Unfortunately the Rep. of Turkey has neither
signed and ratified the Framework Convention
for the Protection of National Minorities of
European Council.
The Importance of “Remedy and Reparation” in
the Context of U.N. Resolution 60/147 and the
efforts of EFC towards the Government of
Republic of Turkey.
The strategy of EFC
Why the past should not be forgotten
Remedy-Reparations towards Injustices of the Past
“Atrocities in the past must be recognized, documented and
learned from - but not distorted or misused for political purposes”
Thomas Hammarberg, 2010
Commissioner of Human Rights of Council of Europe
Despite the progress of the respect of human rights based on the
landmark of European Convention on Human Rights (1950) the
issue of Remedy and Reparations towards the victims of the
massive scale violations still remain in a transitionary state. This is
a serious breach and weakens the whole institution of human
rights. The promise of respecting human rights in future is put in
doubt if REMEDY and REPARATIONS of the past injustices are not
Resolution adopted by the General Assembly
[on the report of the Third Committee (A/60/509/Add.1)]
60/147. Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right
to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross
Violations of International Human Rights Law and
Serious Violations of International Humanitarian
Proposals Submitted by EFC to Authorities of
Republic of Turkey during the last 5 years
-Restitution of citizenships including to 2-3nd generation
expatriated members: More than 40.000 members of the
Community during 1964-2000 were stripped of their citizenship in
order to decrease their rights. Following proposals of EFC
citizenships were reinstated although is some cases special
difficulties are encountered.
-If the Community to survive a state funded project for the
repatriation of young members of expatriated Community should
be implemented. Despite numerous submission of proposals no
response has been received. In this context a proposal to
establish research institutes with the contribution of
Constantinopolitan scientists from various Universities abroad.
Proposals remain unanswered.
Proposals of EFC
The survival of the Community is directly linked to the solution of the problems
faced by the minority community in Istanbul, such as:
1) Elections of Administrative Councils in the MinorityWelfare Foundations
Despite the existence of a law imposing elections every four years of the
General Directorate of Welfare Foundations (GDWF), in January 2013 with a
sudden ruling these elections were abolished and the Minority Foundations
carry on without the much needed elections.
2) Fused Minority Foundations
A large number of Greek-Orthodox Minority Foundations (15 belonging to
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, 2 to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem
and 1 to Mount Sinai St. Katherine Monastery) during the years 1960-1990’s
had been placed by the GDWF under the Fused-Merged (Mazbut) status
meaning that the Minority is prevented to elect members of the administrative
boards of these foundations.
3) Establishment of a Coordinating Body of the Greek-Orthodox Minority Welfare
Presently the number of Minority Welfare Foundations being 70 in number and
because of severe depletion of population of members of Community residing in
Istanbul, they are facing unsurmountable problems. The necessity of establishing a
central Coordinating Council which existed till 1962 is necessary and to this end GDWF
should recognize a Minority Body of Coordination of Welfare Foundations.
4) Difficulties in guaranteeing the individual Property Rights of the members of the
Expatriated Greek Community.
In the framework of the discriminatory measures exercised in particular during the
period 1964-2000 based on the use of “Secret Decrees”, the individual property rights
of the Greek-Orthodox Minority members were grossly violated. As a consequence, a
large number of real estate properties belonging to members of the Community are
under the status of “abandoned properties”. Although presently no restrictive measures
of the past are implemented, the situation of these abandoned properties is being
exploited by some illegal extortionists which are acting against the laws of Republic of
Turkey. The necessity of establishment of legal advice service, under the auspices of
Ombudsman of Turkey was raised by EFC during the last 4 years. This is imperative since
an extensive “black market” operation is growing by the mentioned extortionists and
this is not only damaging the expatriated members of the Minority but is also blatantly
braking the laws of the Republic of Turkey.
5) The continuing illegal occupation of the Greek-Orthodox Churches in the district of
Three historic churches with their properties (50) are still illegally occupied by the
descendants of the Eftim Karahisaridis-Erenerol family, whose leader in 1924 selfdeclared
himself as a “Turkish-Orthodox Patriarch” and consequently occupied
illegally, by force and with the blessing of the Government of Turkey at the time, the
mentioned churches. Down the years, this family with no congregation whatsoever
are unjustly abusing the incomes of the rental properties belonging to the three
churches (one of the church was expropriated in 1958 while the compensation was
given illegally to E. Karahisaridis). The three Churches and all their properties should
be returned immediately to the right owner which is the Greek Orthodox Community
of Istanbul.
6) Theological School of Halki.
The Theological School on the island of Heybelidada (Halki) was closed following the
ruling of Ministry of Education of Turkey in 1971 despite the fact that the School was
established in 1843 during the Ottoman Empire and continued to function during the
subsequent Republican era. This long standing prohibition is against the religious
rights of and is preventing the Ecumenical Patriarchate to carry out its worldwide
mission as leader of Christian Orthodox Church of 350 Million believers. The
Ecumenical Patriarchate is an international institution serving humanity, religious
tolerance and protection of environment.
Especially valid for the Greek-Orthodox
Community of Turkey
• In Nations States the violation of human rights of
minority Communities is directly linked with the absence
of Rule of Law principles which affects the whole
• The suppressive measures against minorities rarely
stems from external relations.
• In the context of respect Human Rights it is vital to
integrate strongly the necessity of REMEDY and
REPARATION measures towards victim communities
which is important for the strengthening of Democracy
and Rule of Law. The endorsement of these are for the
benefit for all citizen.
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