Saturday, September 7, 2013

Anniversary of Istanbul Pogrom (September 6-7, 1955)

MYSTAGOGY — 9/6/2010

Recent history recalls that during the night of Sept. 6 and into the early morning hours of Sept. 7 enraged mobs descended into the Istanbul neighborhoods where most of the ancient metropolis' ethnic Greeks lived, worked and owned property. The tragic developments that occurred in those fateful hours came to be known as the "Septemvriana" or "Evenings of September" pogrom.

As it turned out, the orchestrated attack on the centuries-old Greek presence in what is now known as Istanbul -- then the glorious Constantinople, the seat of the Byzantine Empire for a millennium -- came a day after a stick of dynamite exploded in the garden of the Turkish consulate of Thessaloniki, a building historically linked with the founder of modern-day Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Several windows of the consulate were broken in what would quickly be uncovered as a staged provocation by Turkey's ruling DP party and its 1950s-era "deep state": the man who placed the stick of dynamite in the courtyard was a Turkish doorman at the consulate, Hasan Mehmetoglu, on orders of a young ethnic Turk college student then studying law at the University of Thessaloniki, Oktay Engin.

The long-planned provocation was timed to coincide with the delicate trilateral talks in London on the fate of Cyprus.

A few broken windows in Thessaloniki led to the ethnic Greek community's "Kristallnacht" in Istanbul 650 kilometers away, as angry mobs of young, mostly working-class, men recruited from the provinces rampaged through the Bosporus metropolis, wrecking everything Greek or Orthodox Christian in their wake, although Armenian and Jewish property were not spared either.

The death toll reached 30, with hundreds injured and thousands of buildings -- shops, residences, cafes, restaurants, factories, clinics, hotels, pharmacies, churches, schools, community centers and even cemeteries -- looted and destroyed.

The Septemvriana pogrom was literally the "beginning of the end" of Hellenism in the ancient metropolis.