Under the terms of the agreement regarding the exchange of populations in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, the Greek population of Constantinople-a thriving community-and the muslim community residing in Western Thrace were exempted from the exchange process.
In the beginning of the 20th century there were 300,000 Greeks residing in Constantinople.
They had managed to survive there despite centuries of oppression and persecution under the Ottoman yoke. But the Turks were determined to expel all Greeks from their ancient home using all available means. Thus, the Turks systematically used the following measures in order to accomplish their objective :
a) In May 1941, large numbers of young men ranging in age from 18-38. were conscripted into the Turkish army from the Greek and Armenian communities The Turkish intention was to exterminate these young men through the well-known method of <<forced-labour battalions>>. If this extermination plan was not successful it was due to protests from the Western allies and the defeat of the Germans in Stalingrad in December 1942. Seeing the tides of war shifting, the Turkish authorities permitted the discharge of these soldiers.
b) On 11 Noverriber 1942, the Turkish government passed a law regarding taxation of property of non-muslims, known as the VA RLIK VE RGISI. Through this !aw non-muslim citiizens had to submit, without the right to appeal, to the discretion and arbitrary judgment of the tax clerks. The tax clerks, in turn, were instructed to appraise property at amounts many times over the actual value of each property. Then, if the individual concerned was unable to make payments of the enormous tax share (quota), the property was seized and the unfortunate owners were exiled to ACKALE, in Anatolia.
As a result (of the use) of these harsh and inhuman measures, by 1955 only 25,000 people were left, rather than the 450,000 that should have been their number given a normal rate of growth in 35 years.
On the night of the 6th September 1955, and using the Cyprus situation as a pretext, the Turks dealt the coupdegrace to the remaining inhabitants. The whole story of this pogrom is as follows :
On Saturday the 3rd of September, 1955, the wife of the Turkish Consul in Thessaloniki asked for, and received, from a photographer in Thessaloniki supposedly for a keep-sake a series of photographs and films of the Turkish Consulate and the neighboring home where Kemal Ataturk was born. The very next day she and her family left for Turkey.
At ten past midnight on the 6th of September,1955, in the garden of the Consulate, between the two buildings, dynamite exploded resulting in broken windows in both buildings. The Greek authorities rushed immediately to the scene. They established that two more explosive devices had been positioned in the Consulate yard and that within the building there was only one Turkish guard. In the investigation that followed it was determined that the explosives were placed there by the guard and his accomplice, a Turkish student at the Law School of the University of Thessaloniki, Oktai Egin Faik, who had brought the dynamite from Turkey a few days earlier.
On the 6th of September, Turkish newspapers using forged versions of the photos of the Turkish consul's wife and even before the explosion took place in Greece, depicted Kemal's birthplace as totally destroyed. By the evening, newspapers all over Turkey knew of the alleged destruction of Kemal's home setting off waves of anger among the Turkish populace.
The Turkish authorities then transported large groups of people in trains and military vehicles from Anatolia to Constantinople.
The attack by the angry mobs began at 5 : 50 P.M on the 6th of September 1955 and ended at 02 : 00 A.M on the 7th of September 1955. The police calmly assisted and even guided the mobs, in their relentless path of destruction.
At 00 : 20 A.M on the 7th of September 1955 martial law was finally declared, at 02 : 00 A.M curfew began and at 02 : 30 A.M the authorities had restored a semblance of order.
Screaming slogans <<Today your property, tomorrow your lives>> the mobs had perpetrated terrible crimes. Those who guided them knew that by terrorizing the last Greek residents of Constantinople they would compel them to desert their homeland, once and for all. Simultaneously by destroying monuments which were proof of the glorious Greek past of Constantinople, they would eradicate even future reminders of the Greek presence.
The results of the vandalisms were :
After the pogrom a great portion of the Greek population left Constantinople to save their lives.
On the 20th of September,1975, in a special 35 page Survey section of the influential English magazine, The Economist, it was written : <<Turkish charges that the Moslem population in Western Thrace is harried by the Greek authorities are gross exaggerations. In 1923 there were 300,000 Greeks living in Constantinople and 110,000 Turks living in Thrace. Today, there are 15,000 Greeks living in Istanbul and 120,000 Turks in Thrace. The Greeks ask, with some justification, which country has been putting the pressure on which minority>>. (Survey-15).
It is important for us to realize that today,1982, only 4,000 Greeks still remain in Constantinople.