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EU Calls on Turkey to Protect Ethnic Rights of Greek Minority

Greek minority Turkey
Closeup of traditional wooden Istanbul Greek style homes with cumbalar/τζούμπες, enclosed rectangular balconies. Credit: Greek Reporter/Matthew John Hadodo

Turkey should protect the human rights and property rights of its Greek minority, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore said at the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

Gilmore was speaking on the Assembly’s 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious, and Linguistic Minorities.

The declaration “remains a milestone for the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to minorities referred to above,” he said and referred to several countries mistreating their minorities including using them as a pretext to justify wars such as Russia’s against Ukraine.

Referring specifically to Turkey, Gilmore said, “The EU deeply regrets past discriminatory policies implemented by Turkey, which resulted in the Greek Minority currently being on the verge of extinction.”

“In this context, the EU reiterates the call on Turkey to protect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, including property rights of persons belonging to minorities and minorities’ legal entities.”

Greek minority in Turkey victim of the 1955 pogrom

Until 1955, there were about one hundred thousand Greeks living in Constantinople (Istanbul). Now there are less than two thousand Greeks.

In September of 1955, the large Greek population became victim to a heinous pogrom that resulted in the suffering and death of many and the destruction of countless homes and businesses.

Greek minority Turkey
The aftermath of the pogrom against the Greek minority in Istanbul. Public Domain

Men and women were raped, and according to the testimony of the famous Turkish writer Aziz Nesin, many priests were forced to be circumcised, with one of the victims being an Armenian priest.

The Pogrom against Hellenism in Istanbul resulted in the death of sixteen Greeks and the injury of thirty-two, the death of one Armenian, the rape of twelve Greek women, and the rape of an unspecified number of men, but the real numbers could be much higher.

Violence against the Greeks took place not only in Istanbul but also in Izmir, or Smyrna, as it is known by Greeks. On the morning of September 7th, Turkish nationalists set fire to the Greek pavilion at the Izmir International Fair.

Economic destruction and fear forced thousands of expatriates to emigrate to Greece. Of the one hundred thousand Greeks who resided in Istanbul in 1955, only two thousand remain in the city today.

Related: Constantinople Greeks: The Cosmopolitans of Byzantium’s Capital

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