Minority school on island to be reopened
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Gökçeada (also known as Imbros) is an island in the Aegean Sea and it is the largest island of Turkey. It’s located to the north of the entrance of Dardanelles Strait. DHA photoThe Ministry of Education has rolled into action to reopen a Greek school on the Aegean island of Gökçeada that had been shut down in 1964 following a decree issued by Turkey’s second president İsmet İnönü, who was prime minister at the time.
“When they cannot find any students for the schools in Istanbul, what are they going to do with this one? I would like to ask whether they are going to repair it with the [Greek] community’s funds and return it back to the state,” Mihalis Vasiliadis, chief editor of the Greek language daily Apoyevmatini, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
İnönü issued the decree in 1964 on the pretext of the growing tensions in Cyprus, leading to an exodus of Anatolian Greeks, after which time the school in Gökçeada was also shut down.
“On average, these people are over 80 years old. Are they going to send them to school or open a retirement house? The state denies the children of diplomats from Greece the opportunity to study in Anatolian Greek schools in Istanbul. People who were forcibly expelled wouldn’t return to Turkey anymore,” Vasiliadis said.
Only Turkish citizens are allowed to receive education in minority schools, in accordance with the Lausanne Treaty of 1923.
“No one asked what would happen when this school was shut down in 1964 and the children were left in such a fix. This is a right. Even the Russians have opened a school in [the Mediterranean province of] Antalya. Why is this right denied to us? Why should Gökçeada residents be denied a school when [Anatolian Greeks] in Istanbul have theirs?” Laki Vingas, a council member of the Foundations Directorate General, told the Daily News.
Some 250 students are currently enrolled in three Anatolian Greek minority schools in Istanbul, while the total population of Anatolian Greeks across Turkey number merely around 1,500.
There is no Anatolian Greek community on Gökçeada, except five families, Vasiliadis said. “[People returning from Greece] are few and far between. It will provide newfound hope for the school in Gökçeada to be reopened,” Vingas said.
There may not be any children on the island at the moment, but they will come, said Stelyo Berber, the head of the Gökçeada Conservation, Aid, Development and Solidarity Association. “The crux of the issue here pertains to the return of a right,” Berber told the Daily News.
Berber said his family was forced to relocate to Istanbul as there were no schools on the island. Nonetheless, most of his family eventually moved back to Gökçeada, Berber said.
“My entire life is in Istanbul. I have no such plans [to go back to Gökçeada], but it does not mean that others will not go just because I will not,” he said on whether he would move back to the island with his children, who could study in the school should it be re-opened.