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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 13 September 2014
SATURDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 2014 9 NEWS FEATURE The Constantinople-Istanbul pogrom, also known as the Constantinople riots or Sep- tember events, was organised mob attacks directed primar- ily at the city's Greek minor- ity on 6-7 September 1955. The events were triggered by the false news that the Turkish consulate in Thes- saloniki - located at the house where Mustafa Ke- mal Atatürk, the founder of modern day Turkey had been born in 1881 - had been bombed the day before. A bomb planted by a Turkish usher at the consulate, who was later arrested and con- fessed, incited the events. The build up to the riots, though, goes back to Greece's appeal in 1954 to the United Nations to demand self-de- termination for Cyprus. The day before the Tripar- tite London Conference (29 August - 7 September 1955) on the future of Cyprus be- gan, with the participation of the colonial power Britain, Greece and Turkey, Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Men- deres claimed that Greek C i t l i prominent role in Constan- tinople's business life, mak- ing them a convenient scape- goat during the economic cri- sis in Turkey in the mid-50s. The London conference fell apart on 6 September, the first day the subject of Cy- prus was to be taken up at the conference, when news broke of the bombing of the Turkish consulate in Greece's second-largest city, Thessa- loniki. Prime Minister Adnan Men- deres and Foreign Minister Fatin Rustu Zorlu mobilised the formidable machinery of their ruling Demokrat Parti (DP) and party-controlled trade unions of Constantin- ople that night. According to Zorlu's lawyer at the Yassiada trial in 1961, a trial staged during a period of a military regime, a regime which over- threw Menderes' government in May 1960, a mob running in their tens of thousands was marshalled in a radius of 60 km around Constantin- ople for the attacks. The trial also revealed that the fuse for the consulate bomb was sent from Turkey to Thessaloniki on 3 Septem- ber. During the Yassiada trial it was claimed a twenty-year- old university student named Oktay Engin was given the mission of installing the ex- plosives, two sticks of gelig- nite, in the consulate's gar- den. The consul M. Ali Ba- lin allegedly first pressured consulate employee Hasan Uçar, but Engin was brought in when Uçar resisted. Both of them were arrested after the attack. In his 2005 book The Mech- anisms of Catastrophe: The Turkish Pogrom of September 6-7, 1955, And The Destruc- tion of the Greek Community of Istanbul, renowned Greek American academic Speros Vryonis, amongst others, doc- umented the direct role of the Demokrat Parti organisation and government-controlled t d i i i the an- DP tu- re- ea cal an- t. em- 55, ent ate- ity de- xes, et- ere riv- tor Un- er- on, re- tile A protest rally on the night of September 6, organised by the authorities in Istanbul, on the Cyprus issue and the bombing of Atatürk's home, was the cover for amassing the rioters. At 1.00 pm, news reports of the bombing were announced by radio. However, most peo- ple at the time did not have radios, so they had to wait until 4.30 pm, when the dai- ly İstanbul Ekspres, which was associated with the DP and the National Security Service (NSS), repeated the news in print. At 5.00 pm, the riots start- ed in Taksim Square, and rip- pled out during the evening through the old suburb of Beyoğlu (Pera), with smash- ing and looting of Greek commercial property, partic- ularly along Yüksek Kaldirim street. By six o'clock at night, many of the Greek shops on Istanbul's main shopping street, İstiklal Avenue, were ransacked. Many commer- cial streets were littered with merchandise and fittings torn out of Greek-owned business- es. According to the eyewit- ness accounts the mob chant- ed "Death to the Giaours" (non-Turks), "Massacre the Greek traitors", "Down with Europe" and "Onward to Ath- ens and Thessaloniki" as they attacked Predictably, the sit- n soon became out ntrol and the mobs shouting "First your erty. Then your life". e riot died down by night with the inter- tion of the Turkish my and declaration of rtial law. The police ce, which supported e attacks by prepar- g and organising the perations, was or- ered to hold a pas- ve stance and leave he mob to roam the treets of the city reely and commit atrocities against the civilian population. The Turkish militia and police that coordinated the attacks refrained from protecting the lives and properties of the victims. Their function was instead to preserve ad- jacent Turkish properties. However, there were a few cases where police officers prevented criminal activity. On the other hand, the fire brigade, whenever it reached a fire, claimed that it was un- able to deal with it. While the rioters were not instructed to kill their tar- gets, sections of the mob went much further than scaring or intimidating lo- cal Greeks. Between 13 and 16 Greeks and one Arme- nian (including two clerics) died as a result of the po- grom. However, a number of deaths were never recorded due to the general chaos. It is now accepted that the total death toll is estimated to be at least 36. Apart from the thirty iden- tified victims, an additional three unidentified bodies were found inside the shops, while three burned bodies were found in a sack in the region of Besiktas. Moreo- ver, 32 Greeks were severely wounded. Men and women were raped and islamised by force, and according to ac- counts including those of the Turkish writer Aziz Ne- sin, men, including a priest, were subjected to forced cir- cumcision by members of the mob. Moreover, an Armeni- an rite Christian priest died after the procedure. Priests were also scalped and burnt in their beds and Greek wom- en raped. More than 5,300 properties, the vast majority of them Greek-owned, were badly damaged or destroyed that night. Among these were businesses, houses, church- es, monasteries and schools. The American consulate es- timates that 59 per cent of the businesses were Greek- owned, 17 per cent were Ar- menian-owned, 12 per cent were Jewish-owned, while 80 per cent of the homes were Greek-owned, 9 per cent were Armenian-owned, 3 per cent were Jewish-owned, and 5 per cent were Muslim-owned. The pogrom greatly accel- erated emigration of ethnic Greeks from Turkey, and the Constantinople-Istan- bul region in particular. The Greek population of Turkey declined from 119,822 per- sons in 1927 to about 7,000 in 1978. According to Human Rights Watch, the Greek population in Turkey was estimated at 2,500 in 2006. An organised mob attacked with vengeance mostly Greek properties and houses on 6 September 1955 in Constantinople. Septemvriana: Constantinople 1955 The anatomy of a pogrom "More than 5,300 properties, the vast majority of them Greek-owned, were badly damaged or destroyed that night. Among these were houses, businesses, churches, monasteries, schools." "It is now accepted that the total death toll is estimated to be at least 36." . pled out during the evening attacked. uation of con were prope The midn vent Arm mar forc the ing op de siv th st fa Cypriots were planning a massacre of Turkish Cyp- riots. Deflecting domes- tic attention to Cyprus was po- l itically con- venient for the Menderes gov- ernment, which was suffering from a n ail- ing economy. Although a mi- nority, in a city with a popula- tion of over 1.5 million people at the time, the Greeks played a trade unions in amassing t rioters that swept Consta tinople-Istanbul. However, while the D took the blame for the act al events, it was later on vealed that the riots were product of Turkey's Tactic Mobilisation Group; a cla destine special forces unit During the night of Septe ber 6 to September 7 195 municipal and governme trucks were placed in stra gic points all around the c to distribute the tools of d struction (shovels, pickax crowbars, ramrods and p rol), while 4,000 taxis we requisitioned from the Dr ers Association and Mot Vehicle Workers' Trade U ion to transport the p petrators. In additio flags had been p pared by the Text Workers' Union Workers Union The day after the destruction, 7 September 1955. Adnan Menderes, prime minister of Turkey during the pogrom against the Greek minority in Constantinople, was deposed by a military coup in 1960 and was sentenced to death in 1961. The front page of the Thessaloniki daily Makedonia the day after the pogrom.
20 September 2014