FM meets Greeks from Istanbul
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily NewsTurkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held a meeting in Athens late yesterday with the chairperson of the Universal Federation of Greeks from Istanbul based in Athens, Nikolas Uzunoğlu, together with a 40-person delegation.
Federation representatives voiced a number of demands during the meeting, including the return of the right to hold double citizenship for third generation Greeks, descendants of those who had to leave Turkey after the painful incidents experienced decades after the founding of the Turkish Republic.
Other demands were for financial support for court costs for those who resort to judicial means for the recovery of property they had to leave behind, Turkish language courses to be provided for those who return, support for those who want to found their own companies, and the setting up of education and research institutes for returning scientists.
The federation recently sent a file containing the same items to Ankara. According to foreign ministry officials, the file arrived at the ministry on Oct. 2. The head of the federation, Nikolas Uzunoğlu, told the Hürriyet Daily News that they had also taken the issue to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, EU Minister Egemen Bağış and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
“The wish of Istanbul Greeks to return has nothing to do with the economic crisis in Greece. These people had to leave this land because they were forced to. The [Turkish] media portrays them as if they are ‘opportunists,’ but this is a huge injustice,” Uzunoğlu said, adding that the majority of Istanbul Greeks had lost their Turkish citizenship because they did not fulfill their military service obligations.
State assistance is mainly being sought on property issues, he said: “In the late 1950s and during the 1960s, the political atmosphere in the country forced some people to leave the country and leave their property behind. We are trying to reach these people through court notices. A nongovernmental organization could be set up and the court costs of these people could be funded through this NGO.”
[HH] Young people in Istanbul
Despite the fact that those who had to leave Turkey never came back, curiosity about Istanbul is huge among the third generation. Marina Drimalitou, 29, started living in Istanbul a few years ago and currently works at RUMVADER, where Greek foundations are managed under one umbrella. For the last three years, she said, several of her friends from Greece have come to Istanbul to study or to work.
“The older generation thinks we are bolder than they are. Even though they oppose us coming here, we also feel that they envy that we were able to come to Istanbul. Despite all their opposition, the love for Istanbul in their hearts is very big,” Drimalitou said.
Haris Rigas, 30, who is a doctoral candidate in the Political Sciences department at Bosphorus University, also works as an editor at the publishing house ISTOS, which publishes books in Greek. Rigas said Greek citizens living in Istanbul faced many obstacles.
“There are obstacles to buying property for Greek and Israeli citizens. Also, if I marry, I would not be able to send my child to an Istanbul-Greek school because I am a Greek citizen. There are other significant problems similar to these. However, in the event that rights are restored and conditions improve, the number of those returning will undoubtedly increase,” Rigas said.