Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all I’d like to thank the organizing committee for the honour of their kind invitation and I salute the conference wishing every success. But before I present my theme, about Greece and the Lausanne Treaty in contemporary Greece, I feel morally obliged to make a mention of another, much newer but unfortunately black page of our history. And I am speaking about the sad February of 1999, about the surrender of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan to Turkish Authorities, with my country in a role that I prefer not to characterize. In the name of the Greek citizen who felt so shame and disgraced those days, I apologize for every acts, mistakes or inadequacy of Simitis government which led Abdullah Ocalan to Imrali and greek-kurdish relations to their worst point. I wish that the wound that was created will be cured and our two peoples return to the way of understanding and brotherliness.

The sign of the Lausanne Treaty for Hellinism was the burial of it’s geopolitical dreams and irredentism. It was also the last act in the drama wich ended to uprooting of Greeks from Minor Asia and Pontus coasts after at least 3.000 continuous years. Was it the result of wrong political and military choices of greek side? Was it a emanation of hitching greek desires to British imperium? Was it an unavoidable evolution after the French Revolution and the creation of national states in the region? Maybe it was all of these. What is sure is that it offered the ethnic cleansing on which modern Turkey was based. An ethnic cleansing that was designed by non Turks (I remind the massive presence of «donmeler» in the Young Turks movement), it was backed by internal conflicts of imperialism (the role of Germany was typical) and it obliterated the Christians – first Armenians, then Greeks – from Minor Asia. When later it was obvious that Kurdish identity resisted to the happiness to say I am Turk, you all know better than me what happened…

The loss of Minor Asia, which was consummated by the Laussane Treaty, did not only put the narrow frame inside which Greece had to move henceforth. It mutilated the selfimage of Hellenism. It changed totally its geopolitical orientation. It changed the synthesis of the population in Greece with the 1.5 million refugees that fleeted out of Minor Asia after the calamity. And, unfortunately, it became the base for future Turkish aggression against Greece.

Ι  have to remind that with the Lausanne Treaty, beyond the definition of the borders, we also had the Agreement for compulsory exchange of their minorities (VI Protocol). The agreement’s name was a little bit ironic for the countless dead and refugees of greek side, for whom any exchange had no meaning. And I want to underline here a great moment of Greek history, as there are no references about any retaliation against the 600.000 muslims who were still leaving in Greece as Greek blood was flushing in the other coast of Aegean sea. From this compulsory exchange two minorities were excluded: Rum in Constantinople, Imvros and Tenedos and muslims in Western Thrace. The Treaty, having in mind the Ottoman past about minority and human rights, provided every detail for the obligations of Turkey pertaining to its non muslim minorities, trying to astrict within the limits of recognition and respect. Of course the same applied to Greece also but the special reference of the text to the Turkish obligations is very characteristic. Unfortunately no signature proved to be capable of limiting kemalist despotism.

The exception of 120.000 Constantinoupolitan Greeks was a greek aim in Lausanne. It was a rich and powerful presence of 1600 years, the fold of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. They were also the backbone of financial life of the city and if they cease to exist within a night the problem for Turkey itself would be difficult. Its shrinkage started the day after the signing of the Treaty and continues up to today, although only about 2000 people have remained. Restrictions on professions, special taxes, amele Taburu, officially organized pogroms, massive deportations, secret racial laws, closure of Halki Theological School, stolen properties were too much to be held by a bourgeois community living in a hostile country and having no real support from Greece. The 1955 pogrom was typical: Turkish state and derin devlet (the Kibris Turktur organization), together as always, organized everything with excuse the anti Occupation Struggle of Greeks against British in Cyprus. In that critical point, when the fate of the community was decided, the American interference was not to Turkey but to Greece, for not imposing any retaliation: the NATO unity was above everything.

Almost the same was the fate of the 6.000 Greeks on islands of Imvros and Tenedos. The small Aegean islands despite their purely greek population were given to Turkey for geopolitical reasons, as they stand in front of the Straits of Dardanelles. Turkey was supposed to provide them a special administrative status of self government (articles 14 and 37-44 in 3rd Section) that would guarantee protection of life and property, free use of their greek language, religion freedom etc. These articles of the Treaty were considered Basic Laws, which means that Turkey had no right to abrogate through other laws or administrative acts. What really happened? Two months after signing the Treaty a Turkish governor came to the islands and all authorities came under the Turks. 64 lawyers, doctors, teachers and merchants were proclaimed undesirables and another 1500 were denied return to their homes. All these violations of the Treaty were made official with law 1151/1927. Measures against Greeks in Istambul were used here also: Varlik Vergisi, Amele Taburu, exiles of local people, properties confiscated… Beyond these, and because of the pure greek population of the islands and the agricultural character of the communities, we had more measures: Real estate expropriations , settlers coming from Anatolia, creation of open farm prisons and military outposts in order to terrify people, destructions and lootings in 248 out of 262 chapels of Imvros (repairing prohibited) and six recorded killings of local people with no one ever arrested or convicted. The result is that today there are 300 Greeks living in Imvros (only 50 in Tenedos) and about 8.000 Turks.

What happened on the other side? The muslim minority in Greek Thrace counts about 120.000 people, 1/3 of the population of the district. Turkey, as the winner of the 1922 War, tried from the beginning to interfere in muslim community of Greece and to take over its leadership. It was in the 20s and 30s that after Turkish pressure all anti-kemalist Turks and Circassians who fled to Greek Thrace from Kemalist Turkey (most prominent of them the last Ottoman seihulislam, Mustafa Sabri Efendi). Later, while muslim population was divided in conservatives and innovators, Turkey managed not only to apply the use of latin alphabet in minority education but also to take over the control on it with the Cultural Protocols that were signed by the two countries (1951 – 1968).  

Kostas Karaiskos,

Kurdish Conference, Lausanne, July 2005