A recent article in the Economist reports on the continuing fear and oppression EU-candidate country Turkey inflicts on its Christian minorities.
The decline of Christian communities in Turkey is a result of genocide and ethnic cleansing while fear and oppression stem from Islamic religious intolerance and Turkey’s fascistic Kemalist national ideology, which is expressed both at the state-legal level and at the level of everyday Turkish individual consciousness.
The Economist article says that the Greek community of Constantinople/Istanbul amounts to ‘4,000 souls’. In 1923, when the Turkish republic was founded, this figure was 200,000, reduced – as a result of measures such as the Varlik Vergisi (wealth tax) and Amele Taburu (forced labour battalions) – to 120,000 by 1955, when it was virtually wiped out by the Istanbul pogrom.
The Istanbul pogrom was encouraged by Britain – to stress to Greece the disadvantages of agitating for the end of British colonial rule in Cyprus and union of the island with Greece – but the truth is that the Turkish government of Adnan Menderes did not need much prompting to initiate and organise what amounted to Turkey’s final solution to the 2,600-old Greek presence in Istanbul/Constantinople/Byzantium.
John Phillips, writing in Harpers Magazine in June 1956, describes the nature of the pogrom:
‘Squads of marauders were driven to the shopping area in trucks and taxis, waving picks and crowbars, consulting lists of addresses, as the police stood by smiling. Greek priests were reported circumcised, scalped and burned alive; Greek women raped. The Greek Consulate was destroyed in Izmir. Just nine out of eighty Greek churches were left undesecrated, twenty nine were demolished. Ghouls invaded the huge cemetery where the Patriarchs of Constantinople are buried, opened mausoleums, dug up graves, and flung bones into the streets; corpses waiting burial were lanced with knives. There had been no comparable destruction of Greek sanctuaries since the fall of Constantinople.’
For more information on the Istanbul pogrom, read this: The Greek Kristallnacht.