School reopening to move Greek-Turks to Gökçeada
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
The school, which was opened in 1951, was shut down in 1964 following a decree issued by Turkey’s second president and prime minister at the time, İsmet İnönü, on the pretext of the growing tensions in Cyprus that led to an exodus of Anatolian Greeks. DHA photoAnatolian Greeks that abandoned their lives in Gökçeada to head overseas nearly 50 years ago could return after the Education Ministry responded positively to a demand to reopen a local Greek minority school, according to the Aegean island’s residents.
Stelyo Berber, the chairman of the Protection, Solidarity, Improvement and Development Association of Gökçeada, said the school would begin to operate in September, possibly enticing Greeks outside of Turkey to return to the country.
According to Berber, there are about 15,000 Greeks of Gökçeada origin in the entire world.
“Some groups speculate when representing the subject to the public. It is said that 15,000 people of Gökçeada origin will head to the island; it is not true. Also, it should be kept in mind that most of those who return are already the people of this territory; and many of them are still citizens of the Turkish Republic,” Berber said.
Berber said there were a total of eight schools and 698 students on the island until 1964. “After 1964, migration started for many reasons, including the policies of that period, unsolved murders and discrimination. The Anatolian Greek language was also forbidden. For over 50 years, not a single Greek child was born on the island. Today, there are 300 Greeks on the island, all of whom are old,” Berber said.
According to Berber, most of those expected to return still have some property on the island, and those whose lands or houses were confiscated by the state are pursuing legal cases. Berber said some cases had even been brought to the European Court of Human Rights due to the plaintiffs’ lack of success in Turkish courts.
“After the migration, the lands were transferred to the Treasury. For example, 90 percent of Tepeköy is recognized as public land now,” Berber said.
The greatest obstacle to the school’s reopening is Law No. 1151, which has been in force since 1927. According to this law, Greek is regarded as an extracurricular foreign language.
“The Greek language is recognized as an extracurricular course, and this law is still in force. It is said that a problem will not arise; but still, this must be legally guaranteed with a new law,” Berber said. The school, which was opened in 1951, was shut down in 1964 following a decree issued by Turkey’s second president and prime minister at the time, İsmet İnönü, on the pretext of the growing tensions in Cyprus that led to an exodus of Anatolian Greeks. The school in Gökçeada was shut down shortly thereafter.
Gökçeada (Imbros in Greek) is an island in the Aegean Sea and also the largest island in Turkey. It is located to the north of the entrance to the Dardanelles Strait.