[MGSA-L] On this 49th anniversary of the Greek Krystallnacht in Istanbul

Christos D. Katsetos dkatseto at bellatlantic.net
Mon Sep 6 06:34:14 PDT 2004

On the eve of the 49th Anniversary of the 'September 6, 1955 Greek
Krystallnacht in Istanbul' [1], a group of about one thousand protesters
gathered in front of the physically barricaded Ecumenical Patriarchate
[a.k.a. Fener Greek Patriarchate/Fener Rum Patrikhanesi] shouting
slogans and throwing stones from the surrounding streets of the
dilapidated neighborhood...

According to the 'Agence France Presse', "The protesters, called out by
the youth movement of the Party for Nationalist Action (MHP), hurled
stones at riot police before being subdued by tear gas and truncheons.
Pictures showed the protesters burning an effigy of Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomew I, head of the northern Greek Orthodox church [sic! --
emphasis mine], and hanging him from a tree." [Excerpted from
TurkishPress.com © 1997-2004 Anatolia.com Inc.]

The demonstration was purportedly incited by the recent comments made by
the Patriarch Vartholomaios A' in an interview with Reuters, in which
--allegedly-- he criticized the standing of "religious freedom in
Turkey" and called on the European Union (EU) to intervene on behalf of
the reopening of the Theological Seminary in Halkê/Halki (Heybeliada in
Turkish). There was apparently a misunderstanding and misrepresentation
of his Holiness' comments, and the news piece was retracted shortly
afterwards by Reuters, which, in addition, issued a note of apology to
the Ecumenical Patriarch. However, it was indeed too late.  Most Turkish
newspapers, led by the flagship liberal daily Hürriyet, had already
risen to the occasion.

I have previously addressed, in this list, the problem of
non-recognition of the Ecumenical status of the Patriarchate under
Turkish law, and the ongoing saga of the Theological School of Halki [2]

The analysis by Sema Sezer, Chairperson of the Balkan Studies Desk at
ASAM (Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies) -- an Ankara-based think
tank, is particularly telling in this regard to the extent that it puts
the whole issue in context, from a policy-oriented Turkish perspective
[see below]

Excerpted below (in accordance with 'Fair Use') is Sema Sezer's article
titled "Patriarch Bartholomeos's Statement and the Reactions to It",
which was published in the August 09-12, 2004 issue of the quarterly
strategic studies journal, Avrasya Dosyasi (Eurasian File).
Copyright ©1999-2004 ASAM Tüm hakki saklidir.



Patriarch Bartholomeos's Statement and the Reactions to It

The Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos's statement regarding
"religious freedom in Turkey and the reopening of the seminary" (the
statement made to the Reuters correspondent made newspaper headlines on
Aug. 9, 2004) has drawn strong reactions. According to the newspaper
reports the patriarch had said that in Turkey the "freedom of religion
concept" was "quite restricted and superficial" and that they did not
have the right to manage the foundations, monasteries, cemeteries and
schools belonging to the church, that these had come under the state
administration and financially exploited, that the EU pressure would
ensure the reopening of the Heybeliada Seminary which was closed down in
1971 and that if the violations of individual and religious freedoms
were to come to an end that would accelerate the process of EU

After the statement attributed to the patriarch caused public uneasiness
and government spokesman Cemil Cicek said, "No one should try to put his
private expectations before Turkey by using the EU as a tool", it has
been observed that the Patriarchate has taken the path of denying these
reports. In a written statement the Patriarchate said, "The news item
that has been relayed to the press with the kind of phrases that hurt
the feelings of the general public has got nothing to do with the

The Patriarchate stressed that Bartholomeos had merely expressed the
hope that the Heybeliada Seminary would soon be reopened, stressing that
after being contacted by the Patriarchate the Reuters Agency issued a
correction, conceding that it had made a mistake. However, it does seems
far from being credible that a prestigious agency such as Reuters would
make such a big mistake in relaying to the public the answers it had
gotten in writing to a set up questions it had asked in writing.

When assessing the (albeit later denied) remarks of the patriarch it
would be useful to refer briefly to the Patriarchate's status. The
Patriarchate is a religious institution that meets the religious needs
of the Orthodox minority and is fully subject to the laws of the
Republic of Turkey. It is not a legal entity. For that reason it does
not have the right (which the Turkish Law grants to real persons or
legal entities) to set up, manage or supervise establishments such as
schools, foundations and associations. With the Lausanne Treaty --though
the Patriarchate is not mentioned on its own as an institution-- the
presence and the rights of the minorities were accepted and, as a result
of the verbal agreement reached, the Fener Patriarchate was described as
the church of the minority and its administrative, political and
judicial powers were terminated. In this framework from the
administrative angle it has to take up as its interlocutor the Eyup
District Governor's Office, the Fatih Prosecutor's Office and the Office
of the Governor of Istanbul.

Although on every occasion he expresses support for Turkey's EU
membership it is no secret that Patriarch Bartholomeos has issued
statements in which he implied that the path to EU membership would be
via the "modification of the Patriarchate's status and the reopening of
the seminary". The statements the leaders and officials of the EU member
countries to this effect, the European Commission's Progress Reports on
Turkey and the European Parliament decisions, are of a nature that
provides support to that stance. For example, in its year 2000 Progress
Report the European Commission stressed that the "regardless of whether
they are covered by the 1923 Lausanne Treaty or not, the concrete
demands of all non-Muslim segments should be duly examined including the
problem of the Heybeliada Seminary remaining closed."

On the other hand, one sees that Bartholomeos, who has served as the
Fener Greek patriarch since 1991, has had talks with western heads of
state and government, putting on the agenda issues such as the
Patriarchate's status and the reopening of the seminary though he should
not be engaging in international activities without permission from the
Council of Ministers. During his frequent visits to the USA he has had
the opportunity --with more ease than would a visiting head of state--
to meet with the high level American officials including the president
and the secretary of state. As a result of these talks the reopening of
the seminary becomes a major item on the agenda during the
aforementioned leaders' and officials' talks with Turkish government

The fact that a Greek-Greek Cypriot population of over 2.5 million lives
in the USA, carrying out a powerful lobbying activity, and the
importance the EU attaches to the Patriarchate in the framework of its
Balkan policy, indicates that the pressures and the impositions on
Turkey on this issue will be continuing. A significant part of the
peoples living in the Balkans --starting with Greece-- are Orthodox and
there is a clash of interests in the region between the EU and Russia.
This constitutes a major factor causing the EU to display an interest in
this issue.

One could also say that the remarks made during the Reuters interview
with the patriarch run parallel to the statement the patriarch had made
on Oct. 3, 2002 after meeting with EU Commission President Romano
Prodi.  At that time the patriarch had said that he had explained to
Prodi that in Turkey the minority rights and the rights given to the
foreign foundations were not enough. He had said that he understood that
the EU would not give Turkey a date for the talks at its December 2002
Copenhagen summit and that they were expecting bolder steps.

In this framework one could say that the latest development as well
contains a message, an indirectly conveyed threat aimed at benefiting
from the Turkish government's eagerness to obtain from the EU a date for
the talks and, therefore, to prevent the Progress Report to be issued
prior to the 2004 summit from making negative comments on this issue.
Thus, one thinks that the aim is to cover significant ground in the
context of the "ecumenical" claims by ensuring the reopening of the
clerical school that has remained closed for 33 years. (Sema Sezer,
Balkan Studies Desk, Chairwoman)

Copyright ©1999-2004 ASAM Tüm hakki saklidir.


Yesterday's demonstration brings back agonizing memories of another
serendipity of history coinciding with the Cyprus conflict: The infamous
1955 Pogrom (a.k.a. "The Night of St. Bartholomew of Rômiosynê") aimed
at the defenseless Greek minority of Istanbul [1]

It is worth mentioning --in closing-- that the protesters demanded,
among other things, the re-opening of the 'Closed Gate' of the
Patriarchate [... from which Patriarch Gregorios E' (Gregory V, later
sanctified as St. Gregory Holy Martyr-Hieromartyr) was hanged on Easter
Sunday 1821] http://www.turkishpress.com/turkishpress/news.asp?ID=26341
, to which the Patriarchate responded by issuing the following

"There is the memory of a Patriarch here. It is not possible to open
this door because it is reinforced with marble."


A solemn reminder in the true spirit of Turkish-Greek rapprochement.



[1] See the editorial by Speros Vryonis Jr. titled "Eye on History:
September 6, 1955 Krystallnacht in Constantinople"

AND the book by Leonidas Koumakis titled _The Miracle: A True Story_
translated in English by Pat Tsekouras
http://www.greece.org/genocide/books/miracle/p1-70.htm and in French by
N. Lygeros http://lygeros.free.fr/Le_miracle_de_Leonidas_Koumakis.html
(both highly recommended)

See pictures by journalist and photo-reporter D. Kaloumenos depicting
scenes from the aftermath of "The Night of St. Bartholomew of
Rômiosynê". The latter expression was used by Andreas Lambikês, editor
of the 'Eleftherê Fonê' (Free Voice), a high circulation Greek newspaper
in Istanbul in the 1950s, for which he was arrested and imprisoned


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