Chicago, November 7, 2009

                        Academic Conference on
the Asia Minor Catastrophe

    Hosted by The
Pontian Greek Society of Chicago










[c] Not for
quotation or other use in any form without the author’s written permission

            I would like to thank our hosts for
organizing an important and timely conference on the fate of historic Hellenic
communities in areas currently under the sovereignty of the Republic of Turkey,
or under illegal occupation by Turkish armed forces, as in the case of Cyprus.

            Even though the focus of our
discussion is on the fate of Hellenic communities in Asia Minor, the Black Sea
region and Cyprus,
the policies and actions we will be discussing affected all non-Muslim and
non-Turkish minorities, including Greeks, Armenians and Jews among others.
Non-Turkish but Muslim minorities were also affected by such policies. The purpose
of this paper is not only to expose the deliberate and systematic policies
against these ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities but, also, to raise
public awareness of the continuing nature of these actions and their
consequences at a time when Turkey aspires to join the EU, an organization
dedicated to the rule of law, democracy and human rights. Our discussion can
help the Republic
of Turkey
come to terms
with its own past, with the consequences of its policies, and with its moral
and legal obligations under its own constitution and various international
conventions it has freely signed and ratified during the course of the 20th
century. I also hope that our own government, that claims a renewed commitment
to the rule of law and human rights will not again sacrifice these principles
on the altar of ill conceived strategic considerations. Unfortunately, the
early actions of the Obama administration on the issue of the Armenian Genocide
and the administration’s promotion of Turkey for EU membership and as a leader
in the Islamic world, do not offer much hope for change in policies that
encouraged Turkey’s misconduct for more than a century.

            My paper will examine how the
emergence of Turkism and of a Turkish world view, along with the economic and
social changes that took place in Turkey during the 20th
century, affected the place and the fate of non-Turkish and non-Muslim
minorities residing in that country. My examples are drawn from events that
occurred in Izmir, Istanbul,
Eastern Thrace, Imbros/Tenedos, Iskenderun and Cyprus.
In addition to my academic interest in the conference topic and in the region
under discussion, I also have a deeply personal interest given my family roots
in Istanbul, Izmir
and Iskenderun.

            My paper discusses the tactics utilized
by successive Turkish governments in implementing their Turkification policies,
policies that left no space for minorities to grow and prosper. It will also
discuss the consequences and outcomes of these deliberate and systematic
policies, along with the rationalizations used by successive Turkish
governments to justify their actions. The paper will discuss how Turkey
exploited the conditions of the international environment to carry out its
systematic violation of its international obligations and, how, the combination
of international apathy and the strategic considerations of influential powers
allowed Turkey to proceed with these actions without fear of sanctions. The
paper concludes with what can be done and has been done under current international
law to bring Turkey
into compliance with its international obligations.

From the
Ottoman Empire to the Republic
of Turkey

            The Ottoman
was a multinational and multi-confessional empire. Cities
like Istanbul, Izmir and Salonica were microcosms of the
empire’s multicultural character. Non-Turkish and non-Muslim ethno-religious
minorities developed and maintained their own social, cultural, political and
economic standing under the millet system. The millet system of
Ottoman administration did not always protect these ethno-religious minorities
from arbitrary, capricious and violent actions emanating from Istanbul, nor did it encourage their
incorporation in the Ottoman political system. During the course of the second
half of the 19th century these conditions began changing. While
minorities were influenced by European nationalist ideologies, they often
became the pretext for interference in the affairs of the “sick man of Europe” by major European powers. Under European
pressure, the reform movement of the Tanzimat period (1839-1876) produced many
positive legal and political changes. This included the formal proclamation of
equality among the Muslim and non-Muslim subjects of the empire. These reforms
were climaxed by the proclamation of the Hatt-i Humayun of 1856. Thanks to
these reforms, members of the non-Muslim minorities rose to important
administrative, political and professional positions in the Ottoman political
system. These reforms also consolidated the important economic role of these
non-Muslim ethno-religious minorities in sectors as banking, finance, industry,
commerce and the professions. This was largely due to the absence, at that
time, of a Turkish middle class.

            The rise of the “Young Turks” after
1908started reversing these positive developments. The “Young Turks” pursued a
policy of Turkification, under slogans like “Turkey for the Turks”. They sought
to create an ethnically defined state that was Turkish and Muslim in character.
Consequently, the consolidation of the state required the elimination of the
economic, cultural and social domination primarily by Jews, Greeks and
Armenians and to a lesser extent by Arab citizens of the empire.

            The modern Turkish republic was
founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He built on the ideological
foundations of the Committee of Union and Progress (1908) and shaped the
republic’s present outlook and world view. The creation and imposition of a
national identity, a national culture and a national economy and the creation
of a homogeneous nation were also influenced by 19th century
European nationalism, by European unification movements, and European
assimilation policies prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. By the 1930’s Turkish nationalism was also influenced by the
nationalist movements in Germany
and Italy.
This new Turkish nationalism was unable to accept the benefits of Turkey’s
multicultural society. On the contrary, these ethno-religious minorities were
seen as an obstacle to the creation of a homogenized Turkish state and as a
threat to the unity of the state. Even if one accepted the need for the unity
and consolidation of the new Turkish republic, the question underlying this
paper is how this consolidation process was carried out and with what
consequences. It is very telling that, as reported by Zaman  on13 November 2008, Turkish Minister of
Defense Vecdi Gonul, speaking in Ankara on the
anniversary of Ataturk’s death, claimed that “if the Greeks and Armenians were
still living in the country, Turkey
would not be the same nation-state it is today!

            Ataturk’s Turkification policies
built on xenophobia. In the process of creating a new Turkey and a new Turkish nation,
Ataturk wrote a new history, developed a new Turkish identity and a linguistic
theory to fit the objectives of this “new” nation. His “Turkish Theses of
History” (Turk Tarih Tezi) and his theory of linguistics (Gunes Dil Teorisi)
presented the Turkic language as the mother tongue of all languages. The Arabic
script was replaced by a Latinized alphabet, while “Turkish only” became the
new official language policy. Theorists like Ziya Gokalp(“The Principles of
Turkism”) further developed and expanded these theories of nation, state and
nationalism. State educational and political institutions coercively promoted
these theories in order to create this “new” Turkish citizen. This is why,
after 1923, many of the state and national consolidation policies took on a
clear and punitive character intended to curb and eliminate the influence and
role of the flourishing non-Turkish/non-Muslim minorities. In the early 1950’s,
the broadening of the political system, the rise of the Democratic Party, and
new groups entering the political system, provided some relief from oppressive
anti-minority pressures. This relief turned out to be short lived as the
Menders regime faced serious economic and political problems. The regime,
therefore, reverted to the Communist threat and to the problem of Cyprus
to defend itself and to take new steps in the eradication of its non-Muslim minorities.
The 1955 Istanbul
pogrom was primarily directed against the Greek minority. It was a clear
manifestation that the non-Muslim minorities were to pay the price for the
failure of civilian institutions. The 1960 Yassiada trials showed that the
Menderes government had created a psychological climate conducive to violence
against the Greek minority of Istanbul.
The process was supported by government controlled media that cultivated
Grecophobia and the fear of minorities at large. The Menderes regime also
relied on government sponsored extremist organizations such as the “Cyprus
is Turkish Association” (KTC) and the “Society of Western Thrace Refugees,”
among others to assist in carrying out the policy of eliminating the
ethno-religious minorities.

            In a society of underdeveloped
democratic institutions, it was easy for the government to lead the way in the
destruction of these ethno-religious minorities. In the process, the weakness
of civilian institutions opened the way for the return of military rule. This,
however, did not improve the climate facing the ethno-religious minorities as
the remnant so the Greek minority of Istanbul
discovered during the decades of the 1960’s. After all, the military were the
guardians of Ataturkism.

The Legal
Framework and Its Implementation

            Over the last century and a half the
Ottoman Empire and its successor state, the Republic of Turkey,
adopted various constitutional and legislative measures calling for the legal
and political equality of non-Muslim and non-Turkish minorities. Many of these
reforms were introduced under external pressure because of the abusive
application of existing laws. The reform process has continued despite several
setbacks along the way. Turkey
freely signed and ratified various international treaties especially in the
second half of the 20th century of direct relevance to our
discussion. This includes the historic 1950 European Convention on Human
Rights. However, the implementation of reform legislation is still lagging. For
example, legislative provisions on “offending Turkism” and constitutional
provisions protecting the unity of the Turkish state (article 14, par.1 of the
present constitution) still undermine the implementation of reform legislation
and keep Turkey
from complying with the European Convention on Human Rights.

            I have already referred to reforms
adopted by the Ottomans under European pressure during the Tanzimat period
(1839-1876) and the proclamation in 1856 of the Hatt-i Humayun which assured
the legal and political equality of all the subjects of the empire. The rights
of all Turkish nationals were also protected, on paper at least, by the 1924
Turkish constitution and by appropriate domestic legislation based on the Swiss
Civil Code and the Italian Penal Code of 1926. However, the formal adoption of
domestic reform legislation and the ratification of international human rights
treaties have not guaranteed their effective implementation or the equal
protection under the law for all citizens of the Republic.

            The rights of Turkey’s ethno-religious minorities
were explicitly protected by the

1923 Treaty of
Lausanne, a treaty that remains in effect to this day. I will discuss some of
its provisions shortly.  Other
international treaties freely ratified by Turkey include, but are not limited

  • The 1907 Hague Convention;
  • Various UNESCO Conventions on the
    protection of cultural property;
  • The 1949 Geneva Conventions
    (conduct of war; treatment of civilian populations, pow’s, cultural
    property, settlers);
  • The 1950 European Convention on
    Human Rights. This Convention and its various protocols remains the most
    complete international instrument for the protection of human rights in
    the world with appropriate enforcement mechanisms. This Convention is now
    part of EU law and it is binding all its signatories.

During the course of WWI, the twelfth of President Wilson’s
“Fourteen Points” (January 1918) stated:

The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty,
but other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an
undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity for
autonomous development…”

Although this was a statement of war aims, its principles found
practical application in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, a landmark treaty signed
by thirteen states including Turkey.
The United States was a
signatory of this treaty but did not join the other twelve in the League of Nations. I should note that, in contrast to the
draconian Treaty of Sevres, the Treaty of Lausanne was freely negotiated by Turkey following its victory against Greece
in 1922. Thus, the Treaty of Lausanne was not imposed on Turkey nor did it contain punitive clauses that Turkey
later on sought to revise.

The Treaty of Lausanne:

  • Provided the foundation of peace
    in the region after a decade of war;
  • It settled territorial issues in
    the region;
  • It required that Turkey give up its legal claims on Cyprus;
  • It contributed to ethnic cohesion
    in Greece and Turkey
    through massive population exchanges. These involuntary exchanges affected
    more than 1.5 million Greeks and nearly 1/2 a million Turkish nationals.

Most important to our discussion was the conferring of significant
rights to non-Muslim and non-Turkish minorities inhabiting post WWI Turkey. The
Lausanne Treaty also conferred explicit rights to the Eastern Orthodox
Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul along with
rights granted to Greeks living in Istanbul
exempted from the population exchange. Finally, article 14 of the Lausanne
Treaty conferred explicit legal, religious and administrative rights to Turkish
nationals of Greek origin inhabiting the islands of Imbros (Gokceada) and
Tenedos (Bozcaada) who were also exempted from
the Greco-Turkish population exchange.

Articles 37-44 of the Treaty of Lausanne clearly spell out Turkey’s
obligations toward its non-Muslim minorities. Two months after the conclusion
of the Treaty, these articles were endorsed by and placed under the guarantee
of the League of Nations. The United Nations,
being the legal successor of the League of Nations,
is responsible (at least in legal theory) for the enforcement of this

Article 14 of the Lausanne Treaty explicitly defines the rights of
the Greek in origin Turkish nationals inhabiting the islands of Imbros and
Tenedos. This article was considered necessary for the survival of these people
once the decision was made to place the two islands under Turkish sovereignty
because of their strategic location at the entrance of the Dardanelles.
Let me quote article 14 so that you will see how Turkey systematically and
deliberately violated its terms:

The islands of Imbros and Tenedos, remaining
under Turkish sovereignty, shall enjoy a special administrative organization
composed of local elements and furnishing every guarantee for the native
non-Muslim population insofar as concerns the local administration and the
protection of person and property. The maintenance of order will be ensured
therein by a police force recruited from amongst the local population by the
administration above, provided for and placed under its orders. The agreements
which have been, or may be concluded between Greece
and Turkey
relating to the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations will not be applied
to the inhabitants of the islands of Imbros andTenedos.”

            How did Turkey violate such explicit legal
obligations? In the interwar period Turkey
exploited the isolationism of the US, the European preoccupation with
Fascism and Nazism, and the effects of the Great Depression. World War II was
followed by the Cold War. Once again, Turkey
exploited its geographic position to manipulate the strategic interests of the
Western alliance and Russia
and avoid any sanctions for its violations of Turkish as well as international
law. Few examples will suffice:

  • Britain, despite calls from Greece in the mid-1920’s about
    the violations of the Lausanne Treaty in the case of Imbros and Tenedos,
    “took under advisement” the Greek complaints. It failed to act because of
    the interwar conditions in Europe.
  • The United
    argued against any sanctions on Turkey
    during the Cold War. Thus, Turkey
    got away with the 1955 Istanbul
    pogrom, which John Foster Dulles attributed to the Communists.
  • The Carter administration opposed
    the arms embargo imposed on Turkey
    by the US Congress because of its invasion of Cyprus. Late in 1978 the
    embargo was lifted. The administration praised Turkey’s
    role in the Cold War and made vague promises to support UN initiatives to
    resolve the Cyprus
  • The United
    and Britain
    worked behind the scenes to avoid the publication of the reports by the
    European Commission of Human Rights on the four interstate applications
    filed by the Republic of Cyprus against Turkey
    under the European Convention of Human Rights, following the 1974 invasion
    of Cyprus.
    All four reports had found Turkey
    to be in gross violation of the European Convention.

By presenting Turkey
as a vital ally in the fight against the USSR
during the Cold War and, now, against radical Islam influential states like the
have encouraged and tolerated these documented violations of international law
by successive Turkish governments. Ironically enough, the US has been the persistent promoter of Turkey’s EU membership, even though the US has
no voice on the subject! This is why the members of the EU and of the Council
of Europe drew the line and told the US
to “lay off” from pressuring the EU and the Council of Europe on behalf of Turkey.
One such occasion was during the November 2002 Copenhagen EU Summit. The second
time involved the warning issued to Turkey by the Committee of Ministers of the
Council of Europe on 24 July 2000, that her obligations to comply with the
decisions of the European Court of Human Rights were unconditional. The US had been urging the Council of Europe members
not to insist on the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights
decisions as these issues would be resolved by the political settlement of the Cyprus
problem. Pressures from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
helped the Ministers to issue that warning at a time when Turkey was maneuvering for a date
to start EU accession talks.

Earlier in this paper I mentioned that the European Convention of
Human Rights and its institutions provide the most complete of the
international instruments for the protection of human rights in the world. The
success of this system is shown by the near 100% compliance of the signatories
of the European Convention with the decisions of the European Court of Human
Rights. The consistent case of defiance is that of Turkey. The weakness in the
enforcement system of the European Convention is the Committee of Ministers of
the Council of Europe that has that responsibility. The Committee of Ministers
consists of the same Ministers of Foreign Affairs or their Deputies who represent
their countries in NATO, the EU and in other international organizations. This
group then confronts regularly the clash in the priority assigned to human
rights, economic and other security considerations. At the end, human rights
lose out and Turkey

I should also add that Greek timidity did not help matters either.
During the first three decades of the Cold War, Greece
was a weak country whose government was dependent on US support. Under pressure from the
US and Great Britain, Greece was unwilling to take steps under the European
Convention against Turkey’s misconduct in the interest of NATO’s cohesion and
not to allow the Russians to exploit NATO “family” disputes.. Thus, Turkey, assured of influential American support
and facing no sanctions proceeded unhindered in eliminating its ethno-religious
minorities and destroying the Hellenic presence and civilization in Cyprus, in Istanbul
and on Imbros/Tenedos.

Tactics—Their Repetition and Continuity

            The Turkification policies employed
by the “Committee for Union and Progress”
after 1908 and, later, by the Kemalist state and its successors, were based on
the belief that non-Turkish and non-Muslim ethno-religious minorities were a
threat to the unity of the state. This was due to their economic power. They
were also suspect because of their ties to European countries and to the United States.
The concern about the unity of the state remains incorporated in Turkey’s
current constitution in article 14, par. 1, an article that has been liberally interpreted
to suppress dissenting individuals and groups.

            After 1908, Turkish authorities
introduced deliberate and systematic policies including Genocide, intimidation,
terror and discrimination to reach the desired goal of “Turkey for the Turks”. The deliberate
policies that will be discussed in this section in summary form were conceived
by the State and its ruling elite, were carried out under state direction and
often  in cooperation with other
non-state organizations and rival ethnic groups. No effective protections or
remedies were available to the victims of these policies.

            The tactics employed against these
ethno-religious non-Turkish minorities show continuity and repetition. By
intimidating, terrorizing and breaking the economic power of these groups the
surviving unwanted citizens were forced to flee. They often abandoned their
properties which were taken over by a new Turkish entrepreneurial class. While
many of these victims were able to start a new life outside Turkey, the same cannot be said of
the victims of Genocide, as in the case of the Armenians and the Pontian

            From the early days of the 20th
century, secret state sponsored organizations were used to terrorize,
intimidate and remove Armenians, Greeks and Jews from Eastern Thrace and the
Aegean coast of Anatolia. These actions were
justified because these minorities were considered potentially “disloyal” to
the state. With the coming of WWI, these secret paramilitary organizations took
on the form of “defense societies” intended to carry our guerrilla warfare
against a potential foreign occupier. In the aftermath of WWII, these groups
received a new lease of life and official status under NATO’s “Gladio” plan. In
case of war with the USSR
these paramilitary groups were to stay behind to fight the Soviets. By 1962,
these special action groups were organized into the ‘Directorate of Special
Operations”. That office and its predecessor organized, trained armed and
financed terrorist groups like the Turkish TMT that played a critical role in Cyprus
starting in the late 50’s.  The
predecessor of the “Directorate of Special Operations,” the “STK,” was behind
the organization of the 1955 Istanbul
pogrom against the Greek minority. NATO, at no time showed any interest or
concern about the activities of groups it supported and possibly financed and
armed inside Turkey.

The Turkish

            Following the events of WWII, the
United Nations General Assembly adopted in 1948 the “Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” As defined by this treaty,
the actions carried out by the Turks against the Armenians and the Pontian
Greeks, particularly in the period of 1914-1923, were acts of Genocide.
Ironically enough, our government that signed and reluctantly ratified this
treaty, still refuses to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. This was shown
clearly by the pressure exerted on Congress by the Executive branch in order
not to offend Turkey
and affect our strategic partnership with that country.

            The accepted definition of Genocide
involves acts committed, whether in times of war or peace, “with the intent to
destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”
The Convention enumerates acts of Genocide, including the deliberate killing of
members of a group; causing serious bodily or mental harm; conditions
calculated to bring the destruction in whole or in part of a national group;
transferring of children of one group to another, and so on. Based on
photographic evidence, archival research, reports by foreign diplomats,
missionaries and foreign correspondents, this is exactly what happened to the
Armenians and to the Pontian Greeks In both cases the elite of these
communities were summarily executed, men were rounded up and shot, while elderly,
women and children and any remaining male subjects were deported. During long
forced death marches over mountainous and desert territory thousands lost their
lives to deprivation from food, water, illness, mistreatment, lack of clothing
and attacks by irregular forces. Needless to say that before their deportation,
these individuals were stripped of their personal possessions and money and had
their properties confiscated.

            Both in the case of the Armenians
and the Pontian Greeks these people were forcibly removed from their ancestral
homes dating back to some 3,000 years. Turks also engaged in the systematic
destruction of the Armenian and Greek cultural heritage in an attempt to
eradicate all symbols and evidence of their existence in this ancient land.  When these genocidal actions came to an end
more than a million and a half Armenians had been uprooted and killed, while
more than 350,000 Pontian Greeks, nearly half of the affected population, had
been exterminated because of their language, ethnicity and religion. Several
hundred thousand who were uprooted but survived fled for their lives. Some went
to Western countries, while others found refuge in Russia. There were also forced
conversions to Islam by members of these minority groups in order to protect
themselves and their property.

            Even though some symbolic trials of
Ottoman leaders were held in 1919 by allied tribunals in Istanbul
and Malta,
these genocidal acts continued well into 1923. Today we are left with dates
commemorating these events, on April 24 for the Armenians and 19 May for the
Pontian Greeks. Turkey
still refuses to come to terms with its past.

The Turkish
Tactics-Ethnic Cleansing

            The population exchanges that
followed the end of WWI and the Asia Minor catastrophe were an externally
conceived legalized version of ethnic cleansing intended to provide ethnic
cohesion and reduce conflicts among states of SE Europe.
These tragic involuntary population movements forced 1.5 million Greeks and ½
million Turks from their traditional homes. They were the result of
international political action that was often accompanied by limited relief
measures to ease the impact of these forced transfers.

            The ethnic cleansing of interest to
our discussion was the result of Turkish military action, as in the case of Izmir in 1922, and Cyprus in 1974-75. It involved
deliberate decisions by Turkish authorities to remove non-Turkish and
non-Muslim ethno-religious minorities from their ancestral homes.  Often, these persons were uprooted from areas
considered to be strategically important to Turkey
as in the case of Jews in Eastern Thrace in
1934, or of the Greek in origin Turkish nationals of Imbros/Tenedos whose
rights were explicitly guaranteed under article 14 of the Lausanne Treaty.

            The record of the 1922 destruction
of Izmir is
well documented. Those that survived the onslaught of Ataturk’s forces were
literally pushed to the water’s edge in search of safety, while great power
warships watched an unfolding humanitarian disaster. Meanwhile, the Turks burned
down Smyrna, eliminating its historic population
and the cultural heritage of a city that Giles Milton recently described as
“Islam’s City of Tolerance”.

            In the case of the Jews of Eastern
Thrace, another flourishing ethnic community, a 1934 law provided that
minorities not attached to the Turkish culture be moved elsewhere in order to
assimilate (article 2). Article 11 of the same law gave the right to the
Minister of Interior to forcibly remove such minorities for cultural, economic
and strategic reasons. Numbering in the thousands, many of these people were
moved to areas incompatible with their skills, condemning them to hardship and
thus forcing them to emigrate from Turkey.

            The Greek in origin Turkish
nationals of Imbros and Tenedos, despite the protections accorded to them under
article 14 of the Lausanne Treaty, faced the wrath of the Turkish state before
the ink of the Lausanne Treaty had dried! In September 1923, two months after
the conclusion of the Treaty, sixty four leading individuals and their
families, the elite of the two islands, were expelled as “undesirable” because
of their “questionable” loyalty to Turkey. Additional people from both
islands, fearing for their safety, temporarily fled to the Greek island of Limnos
and to Thessaloniki.
Despite the amnesty provisions of article 8 of the Lausanne Treaty, these
people were never allowed to return to their homes while their properties were
confiscated as “abandoned” property without any compensation by the Turkish
state. This was the beginning of the ethnic cleansing of the two islands. In
1923, no Turks resided on Imbros. There were 6762 Turkish subjects of Greek
origin. Imbros, at that time, had 10 Greek schools. Tenedos, the smaller island
had 1631 Turkish subjects of Greek origin, a very small number of Turks and two
Greek schools.

            Eighty six years after the Treaty of
Lausanne the Greek community of Tenedos has ceased to exist, while only 200
elderly Greeks remain on Imbros. In contrast, Imbros now has a Turkish
population of more than 8,000 while Tenedos is home to 2,000 Turks, in addition
to military personnel and police stationed on both islands. 

            How was the ethnic cleansing of
Imbros and Tenedos carried out?

  • By the adoption of administrative
    law 1151 of 1927 which violated the provisions of article 14 of the
    Lausanne Treaty.
  • By reducing the status of local
    administration, the courts and police and replacing them with Ankara appointed
    Turkish officials and police.
  • By introducing the Turkish school
    curriculum to all Greek schools, prosecuting those “offending Turkism” or
    unable to teach and promote Turkism.
  • By bringing in Turkish settlers to
    dilute the homogeneous ethnic character of these islands. After 1963, some
    3,000 Turks from Bulgaria
    were brought in along with Turks from the Laz region of the Black Sea. Others came in as students to reside in
    newly opened Turkish boarding schools.
  • By massive land expropriation
    allegedly for the construction of public projects that deprived rural
    people from their means of livelihood.
  • By the establishment of an open
    agricultural jail for hardened mainland criminals in the community of
    Schoinoudia on Imbros. The violence and terror caused by these inmates
    forced Imbriots away from their homes. Having achieved its objective, the
    jail has now been closed.

Similar tactics were employed by the Turkish occupation army in Cyprus
following the 1974 invasion. Even though prohibited by the Nuremberg
and Tokyo Tribunal rulings and the 1949 Geneva Convention,
Turkey has ethnically
cleansed occupied Cyprus
without fear of any international sanctions. Despite UN resolutions and binding
decisions by the European Court of Human Rights, more than 170,000 Greek
Cypriots, nearly 28% of the total population of Cyprus in 1974, have been expelled
from their ancestral homes. This amounted to nearly 70% of the population of
the areas of Cyprus
under Turkish occupation. These displaced persons have not been allowed to
return in peace and safety to their homes. Since 2003, they can only visit the
occupied areas as “tourists”. Expelled Imbriots and Tenedians can also now
visit their islands as tourists on holiday…

The techniques employed in occupied Cyprus include, but are not limited

Forcible eviction;

Forced deportation across the
cease fire line;

Intimidation, especially in the
case of the few hundred “enclaved” Greek Cypriots;


Indiscriminate bombing;

Killing of civilians in cold

Separation of families;

Torture, assault and battery,
forced labor.

ethnic cleansing activities had one clear objective, the partition of Cyprus
through the creation of two ethnically cleansed states on the island. In the process,
much as in the case of the Armenian and Pontian Genocides, the ethnic cleansing
activities were complemented by the destruction of the Greek Cypriot cultural
heritage, including the alteration of historic names of towns and villages, in
an attempt to erase the historic presence of this community.

The Turkish

            Those reluctant to leave their
ancestral homes faced intimidation tactics sponsored by the Turkish
authorities. For example:

  • Between 1930 and1934, the Jews of
    Eastern Thrace were forced to leave and sell their properties on the cheap
    to Turks. They faced boycotts, rapes, rumors and threats of violence, and
    actual violence (as in the attacks of 21 June 1934 in Edirne, Canak Cale and elsewhere).
  • The terror tactics employed by
    hardened criminals brought into Imbros to serve their sentences in the
    open agricultural jail set up in the community of Schoinoudia.
  • The 1955 progrom against the
    Greeks of Istanbul which, as shown by the 1960 Yassiada trials, was
    organized and supported by the Turkish state and state sponsored terrorist
    groups. Many of the remaining Greeks of Istanbul were expelled in 1964,
    their properties were confiscated and owners were denied by law the right
    to bequeath their property. These actions were attributed to the problems
    on Cyprus.
    Once more, the Greek minority in Istanbul
    paid the price of an engineered foreign crisis as was the case with the
    1955 Istanbul
    pogrom. The result of these actions has been that less than 3,000 elderly
    Istanbul Greeks remain from a once thriving and protected community of
    120,000 in 1923.This raises doubts about the long term viability of this
    historic community as well as the viability of the Ecumenical Orthodox
    Patriarchate that depends on this community for its hierarchical

The Turkish
Tactics-Rape and Forced Prostitution

            Rape and forced prostitution have been
typical tactics used by the Turkish army to breakdown the morale of traditional
ethnic groups that place special pride to family values and the honor of women
and children.

These tactics were evident in the treatment of Jews in Eastern
Thrace in 1934, and during the 1955 Istanbul
pogrom. The evidence uncovered by NGO investigations and by the three reports
by the European Commission of Human Rights on Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus, show
the systematic use of rape against Cypriot women and children ranging in age
from 12-71.It was part of a tactic intended to humiliate, intimidate and
terrorize Greek Cypriot civilians so as to force them to leave their ancestral
homes. Rape and dishonoring women and children is a particularly heinous crime
in conservative and close knit societies. Rape, as the international record shows,
was systematically carried out by soldiers and officers alike. There is no
evidence that any disciplinary action was ever taken against any offenders or
that any preventive measures were taken to avoid such actions. Rape and
enforced prostitution is explicitly prohibited both by article 27 of the 1949
Fourth Geneva Convention but, also, by article 3 of the European Convention on
Human Rights, conventions that Turkey has freely signed and ratified.

The Turkish

            The importation of Turkish settlers
with the clear intent to alter the demography of a particular area has been
another characteristic of Turkish policy, especially in the aftermath of ethnic
cleansing. It should be made clear that such government sponsored migrations
involve both the alteration of the demography but also of the political
landscape of an occupied area. Such migrations do not involve economic or
political refugees, or seasonal workers. Settlers are supported by public
policy providing them with homes, jobs, and property most often taken from the
original owner without their consent or any compensation. I have already made
references to the case of Imbros and Tenedos. Similar was the case of Izmir which, since 1922,
has become a purely Turkish city with no evidence of its historic past.

            Settlers were also infiltrated in
the Hatay region and the port city of Iskenderun
prior to 1938 in order to alter the demography of the region prior to the
League of Nations sponsored referendum that detached the area from Syria.
Today, only small remnants of Iskenderun’s
ancient communities of Jews, Armenians, Latins, Arabs and Greeks remain.

            According to the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe, the most striking case of demographic change
through the use of settlers on post-WWII European soil remains that of Cyprus.
Following the 1974 Turkish invasion and ethnic cleansing, of the approximately
120,000 Turkish Cypriots living in Cyprus in 1974 only 82, 000 remain
today.  The balance left because of bad
economic and social conditions in the occupied areas and the influx of
Anatolian settlers who outnumber the native Turkish Cypriots by a ratio of 2:1.
The settlers have been given preferential treatment in jobs and housing by the
Turkish authorities and have been granted “citizenship” in occupied Cyprus
despite the prohibition of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention and the 1998
statute of the International Criminal Court. The dimensions of the Turkish
colonization of Cyprus
have been documented in two reports by the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe. (The Cuco and Laakso reports).

Tactics-Property Confiscation and Denial of Property and Inheritance Rights

            Armenians, Jews and Greeks
inhabiting Eastern Thrace, Istanbul, the Aegean
coast of Asia Minor, Izmir,
Imbros and Tenedos had their property confiscated by the Turkish authorities.
Sometimes the Turkish state claimed these properties under eminent domain, as
on Imbros and Tenedos. Other times these properties were considered abandoned
after their owners were expelled or forced to flee. Minority property owners
lost title to their homes and properties following the ethnic cleansing of Izmir in 1922. In occupied
Greek Cypriot properties were confiscated by “law” without any compensation.
These properties have now been redistributed to Turkish settlers and to Turkish
Cypriots who have been granted titles to these properties by the occupation
authorities. More recently, many false property titles have been sold to
foreigners. In addition to property confiscation, the occupation authorities in
have implemented rules prohibiting inheritance rights.

            The violations of property rights
affected ethno-religious minority rights in other ways as well. Property and
ancestral homes provided “roots” and a sense of identification with a
particular area and with one’s own heritage. Turkey has shown total disregard of
its national and international obligations with these actions.

Treatment-Wanton Killings-Missing

            Such actions were the result of
officially sanctioned policies showing contempt for unwanted minorities and
terrorizing those unwilling to leave their ancestral homes. No government
officials have ever been held accountable for these actions.

            With the coming of WWII and despite Turkey’s ambivalent
neutrality, from 1939 to 1944 all Christian and Jewish males from 18-45 years
of age were forced to serve in labor battalions known as “Amele Taburlari”.
These minorities could not serve in the regular army and/or carry weapons.
Thousands died in these forced labor camps constructing various public projects
under poor nutritional and health conditions. Others were brought to these
camps because of their inability to pay discriminatory taxes that we will
discuss next.

            Another distinctive case of cruelty
involves the case of civilians and military missing as a result of hostilities.
Available evidence showed most of these persons to be alive in life threatening
conditions at the time of their capture. Evidence shows that in 1922 thousands
of pow’s and non-Turkish civilians in Anatolia
were sent to forced labor camps and were never exchanged at the end of the
hostilities. They never returned to their homes and have not been accounted

            The best documented case involves
the nearly 1600 Greek Cypriot missing since the Turkish invasion of 1974.  All available evidence places them in Turkish
custody. Of the Greek Cypriot missing, 61% are military personnel while 39% are
civilians. This includes 116 females and 27 persons under the age of 16. The
number of missing is staggering if taken in proportion to the 1974 population
of Cyprus.
Reports by the European Commission of Human Rights and decisions by the
European Court of Human Rights place full responsibility on the fate of the
missing to the government of Turkey.
Despite the provisions of the 1949 Geneva
, Turkey

has failed to cooperate in these UN mandated investigations or in the
implementation of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. The
reason is simple. Forensic investigations show that these persons were killed
while in Turkish custody because of their ethnicity, religion and language. The
Turkish government has not prosecuted anyone for these actions while the UN
sponsored Committee on Missing Persons has no power to investigate in Turkey,  to call on Turkish witnesses to testify, or to
prosecute anyone for his/her actions.

The Turkish
Tactics-The Use of Public Policy – Discriminatory Taxation Against Minorities

            The classic case of this type of
policy remains the imposition in 1942 of the “Capital Tax,” the so-called
“Varlik Vergisi”. The declared purpose of the tax was to curb excess profit
making due to WWII.  The tax was enforced
for two years until its abuses were exposed by the New York Times in the
fall of 1943. The ruthless practice of the “varlik” has been fully documented
by its administrator, Mr. Faik Oktay, in his book The Tragedy of the Capital
(in Turkish 1951, in English 1987). Ironically, Mr. Oktay, while
critical of the impact of the tax, appears to be proud of its systematic

            The tax affected primarily
Armenians, Greeks and Jews who made up Turkey’s merchant class. Turkish
industrialists bore 4.9% of the total tax, even though native Turks made up 98%
of the country’s population. The non-Muslim minorities paid the rest. The
effects were devastating given the amounts imposed on businesses created after
1939, on owners of immovable property and salaried private employees. Those who
could not pay these exorbitant taxes had their properties confiscated while
most were also sent to the forced labor battalions. The physical, financial and
psychological effect of the “varlik” on these communities was devastating.
Among the remaining Jews in Turkey,
many left to seek a better future in British controlled Palestine
and later in Israel.

The Turkish
Tactics-The Use of Public Policy Against Minorities-Discrimination in

            Starting in 1919 and continuing well
into the post-WWII period various laws were enacted intended to Turkify the
economy by barring the employment on non-Turkish and non-Muslim persons in key
economic sectors. Laws adopted between 1919 and 1923 barred employment in the
public bureaucracy, the railways, key industries, while minorities could not be
licensed for certain professions. They were also barred from the military and
security services and were prohibited from carrying arms. These laws had an
immediate effect on the Greeks of Imbros and Tenedos despite the provisions of
article 14 of the Lausanne Treaty. On these two islands Greeks could no longer
teach or serve in the local administration unless they were fluent in Turkish
and could teach Turkism and Ataturkism. In 1932, these laws were expanded to
bar the entry of non-Turkish non-Muslim minorities in certain professions and trades.
The “etablis” Greeks of Istanbul were also included in this ban despite the
Treaty of Lausanne. Some thirty trades and professions including real estate,
medicine, insurance, photography and tailoring were included in the ban. Some
10,000 Greek “etablis” lost their livelihood and left Turkey penniless. Similar was the
fate of Jews and Armenians who were removed from rural Eastern Thrace and the
West coast of Anatolia and could not adapt in
the conditions of urban life.

The Turkish
Tactics-The Use of Public Policy Against the Minorities-The Destruction of the
Cultural Heritage

            As indicated earlier,  the officially sanctioned destruction of the
cultural heritage of the non-Turkish and non-Muslim minorities was one of the
consequences of the ethnic cleansing policies described earlier.  The elimination of monuments, sites of
religious worship, cemeteries, etc. removed all proof that these minorities
ever existed. In addition, historical names were altered, personal names were
Turkified and Turkish only became the official linguistic policy. It is only
now, under EU pressure, that the Erdogan government has taken steps to allow
the limited use of the Kurdish language. The total destruction of Izmir has eradicated its multicultural past, while in Cyprus
the extent of the destruction of Greek Cypriot heritage has become the subject
of international investigations and major court cases in European and US
courts. These studies and court cases show the complicity of the Turkish
authorities in this deliberate and systematic destruction. Similar things
happened in Turkey’s
Armenian districts, on Imbros/ Tenedos and Iskenderun.

The Turkish
Tactics-The Use of Public Policy Against the Minorities- The Use or the Threat
of Violence

            I have already referred to the
intimidation and to the violent tactics used against Armenians, Jews, Greeks
and Kurds. This was evident in the state sponsored pogrom against the Greeks of
Istanbul and the Jews of Eastern Thrace. It was also evident in the violence
used in the Armenian and Pontian Genocides and, ultimately, in the violent
suppression of the Kurdish uprisings in the 1920’s and during the decades of
the 70’s and 80’s. Violence was the ultimate of the publicly sanctioned means
in the Turkification process we have been talking about in this paper.

the Elimination of the non-Turkish Ethno-religious Minorities

            Under international public pressure,
has tried to explain, rationalize and defend its actions that have led to the near
elimination of its minorities with the possible exceptions of the Kurds. Some
of these rationalizations have also been adopted and promoted by Turkey’s defenders particularly in the US.
These rationalizations include but are not limited to:

  • The disloyalty of the minority
    groups. Greeks and Armenians were seen as a “fifth column” within the
    Ottoman Empire and later in Turkey. These minorities were
    accused of plotting to dismember Turkey with the assistance of
    foreign powers. This is why the unity of the state and its security became
    paramount state goals.
  • The need to bring cohesion and
    unity to the Turkish state, curb profiteering and minority control over
    the economy. Restoring economic control was a key goal in the unity of the
    Turkish state.
  • The threat of Communism: This
    reflected the Turkish government’s attitude and actions toward the
    Armenians and the Kurds. The allegation was that both communities were
    being manipulated by the USSR.
    The most naïve explanation along these lines was that or the late Prime
    Minister Menderes and John Foster Dulles in the aftermath of the 1955 Istanbul progrom who
    tried to attribute the pogrom to the banned Turkish Communist Party.
  • The policy of denial: The actions
    attributed to Turkey’s
    leadership are fabrications intended to undermine the country and its prestige.
    If any acts of violence occurred, they were isolated incidents by
    individuals and over jealous local officials addressing threats to the
    public order.
  • Putting the blame on others: this
    included blaming the Russians; over jealous local public officials;
    attributing the defeat in WWI (much like in Germany) to the role of
    influential minorities and to the absence of a strong national
    consciousness; blaming the Greek Cypriots and Greek extremists for the
    Istanbul events in 1955.
  • Acting to protect the unity of the
    state and to aid in the return of the status quo ante: This was the case
    with the violent suppression of the Kurdish rebellion, and with Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus. Today, Turkey
    uses more contemporary terminology like “combating terrorism” to avoid
    censure for actions in the Kurdish areas in particular.
  • Measures taken were in reprisal
    for the acts of others: The expulsion in 1964 of the Greeks in Istanbul was justified by the events in Cyprus.
  • The ultimate rationalization has
    been that, over the years, Turks have also suffered in the hands of
    European countries and in particular Greece
    and Cyprus.
    Thus, Turkey’s
    actions were a natural response to this regrettable history. The recent
    book by retired US
    diplomat James Miller promotes this mythology.

However, none of these rationalizations addresses the fact that at
no time, any Turkish government, has come to terms with its own past or with
its own violations of international law. Nor has any Turkish government taken
any punitive measures against those who instigated and carried out these
actions. The only one exception may have been the trial of Menders and his
associates following the 1960 military coup. However, the penalties imposed
were motivated by domestic considerations and not by any great concern over Turkey’s

The Outcome

            Despite its obligations under the
Treaty of Lausanne, the European Convention on Human Rights and many other
international instruments freely negotiated and ratified by Turkey since 1923,
the outcome of Turkey’s systematic and deliberate violations of domestic and
international law is clear:

  • Occupied Cyprus has been ethnically
    cleansed with the exception of the 400 Greek Cypriot enclaved who have
    survived intimidation and oppression for 35 years.
  • Imbros and Tenedos have been
    cleansed of their Hellenic population with the exception of the few
    elderly Greeks remaining on Imbros.
  • Most Jews left Turkey for Palestine and Modern Israel following
    the events of 1934 and the “varlik”.
  • The Genocide against the Armenians
    and the Pontian Greeks succeeded in driving the survivors out of Turkey, primarily to Europe, Russia and the United States.
  • The once vibrant Greek community
    of Istanbul
    and the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate are faced with possible
    extinction over the next two decades.
  • The vibrant ethnic communities of Izmir and Iskenderun
    are virtually gone.
  • Many members of the significant
    Kurdish minority have been dispersed away from their traditional homelands
    in SE Turkey in search of economic
    opportunities and safety from the violence that affected people’s lives in
    those regions.

As shown in this paper, Turkey got away literally with the murder
and the extermination of its ethnic communities capitalizing on international
apathy, on its strategic position, and on the condition of the international
system. In the process, international legal standards and obligations were
forgotten in the name of political expediency. In many respects, the other
signatories of these treaties may also be responsible for the fate of these
ethno-religious minorities for knowing and for not acting to prevent and
penalize Turkey
for its misconduct. That, of course may be expected in Utopia but,
unfortunately, not in today’s world of economic and strategic interests.

Finally, it should also be noted that Turkey’s policies are long term. Turkey failed to get rid of its Greek minority
of Istanbul,
the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Greeks of Imbros and Tenedos, in
1923. Conditions were not conducive for such actions at that time. It may have
taken several decades since then, but Turkey’s systematic and deliberate
policies have nearly paid off.

In Conclusion:
What Has and What Can Be Done?

            Despite the pessimism of my
preceding comments there are actions that have been taken or can be taken in
order to bring Turkey
into compliance with its international obligations. The most positive
environment exists in Europe both because of Turkey’s
pending application for EU accession, but also by legal actions that have been
taken and can be taken to bring Turkey
in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights, a convention that
is now part of EU law as well. Individual Cypriot citizens have taken Turkey
to the European Court of Human Rights over the denial of their property rights
and their right to return in peace and safety to their ancestral homes. Along
with the recent decisions of the European Court of Justice, these decisions
have forced Turkey
to pay significant compensation to the victims for the loss of use and
enjoyment of their properties. The ECHR has also upheld the continuing validity
of the titles held by the original owners of these properties. Even though Turkey
still refuses to restore these properties to their legitimate owners, it is
feeling the pressure of its non-compliance with the European Convention at a
time when it aspires to become an EU member.

            Similar successful recent cases
involve the property and inheritance rights of Constantinopolitan Greeks and
the rights of the Orthodox Church in Turkey to administer its property.
A similar case has also come from Imbros. The political and judicial climate in
Europe is such that those that have been affected by Turkey’s actions should pursue
their cases under European law. They need to keep the pressure on Turkey.
This may not remedy the pain and suffering caused by past Turkish actions but
can provide some restitution and help prevent the recurrence of such actions.

            Another type of action is political
action especially in the US.
I fully understand the intricacies of Congressional and Executive branch
lobbying especially at this time. I have been involved in this process since
the late 1960’s. However, we need to pull back and copy a page from the most
consistently effective US
lobby, that of the American Jewish community. Coordinated action among Greeks,
Armenians and others sharing common goals can have an effect on Congressional
and Executive policy. One of the reasons for the recent ineffectiveness of the
Greek and Armenian lobbies has been their lack of cooperation, coordination and
coalition building. It is not due to the weakness of their cause.

            It is in Turkey’s own advantage to come to
terms with its own national and international obligations rather than
continuing to look for excuses on how to avoid its responsibilities.  No one denies Turkey’s rightful place in the
international system or its strategic significance.  In the post-Cold War environment, President
George H. W. Bush and his successors have supported a new world order based on
the rule of law, human rights and democracy. It is not too much to expect Turkey, a country that claims to be a key player
in Europe and in the Islamic world, to conduct
its affairs by the same rules.



















Alexis, The Greek Minority of Istanbul and
Greek-Turkish Relations 1918-1924
, Athens:
Centre for Asia Minor Studies, 1983.

Matthias, “The 1914 Cleansing of Aegean Greeks as a Case of Violent
Turkification,” Journal of Genocide Research, Vol. 10, No. 1, March
2008, 41-58.

Clark, Bruce, Twice  A Stranger-The Mass Expulsions that Forged
Modern Greece and Turkey
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Harvard University Press, 2006.

Coufoudakis, Van, International
Aggression and Violations of Human Rights—The Case of Turkey in Cyprus
Minneapolis: University of
, Minnesota Mediterranean and East European Monographs, 2008.

Coufoudakis, Van,
“International Law and Minority Protection-The Fate of the Greeeks of Imbros
and Tenedos,” Mediterranean Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 4, Fall 2008, pp.

Council of Europe:
See the Reports by the European Commission of Human Rights on applications Cyprus v. Turkey, 6780/74, 6950/75, 8007/77.
See also the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in classic cases as
Loizidou v. Turkey,  Xenidis-Arestis v. Turkey,
In the Case of Varnava and Others v. Turkey, among others. Also, in the
case of Cyprus Judgment on Cyprus
v. Turkey 2001.  In the case of
Constantinopolitan Greeks see the cases of Apostolides, Foka and the Greek
Orthodox Patriarchate against Turkey.
On Tenedos see the case of Bozcaada Kimisis Teodoku Rum Ortodoks kilisesi Vakfi
v. Turkey
among others.

Council of Europe “Report on the Demographic Structure of the
Cypriot Communities,” Document 6589, February 2003.

Dobkin Housepian,
Marjorie, Smyrna 1922-The Destruction
of a City
, Kent: Kent State
Press 1988.

European Court of
Justice, 28 April 2009, Judgment of the Court of Justice in Case C-420/07,
Meletis Apostolides v. David Charles Orams and Linda Elizabeth Orams.

Guven, Dilek,  Ethnikismos, Koinonikes Metaboles kai
, Athina: Estia, 2006.

Helsinki Watch, Denying Human
Rights and Ethnic Identity to the Greeks of Turkey
New York:
Human Rights Watch, 1992.

Horton, George, The
Blight of Asia
, Indianapolis:
Bobbs Merrill and Co., 1926.

Jansen, Michael, War
and Cul;tural Heritage-Cyprus After the 1974 Turkish Invasion
, Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota-Minnesota Mediterranean and East European Monographs, 2005.

Dimitrios, The Crucifixion of Christianity-The Historical Truth of the
Events of September 6-7, 1955 in Constantinople
, Athens: n.p., 1966.

Ladas, S.P. The
Exchange of Minorities: Bulgaria,
Greece and Turkey
, New York: Macmillan, 1932.

Marriott, J.A.R., The
Eastern Question-An Historical Study
, 3rd. rev. ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press,

Milton, Giles, Paradise
Lost-Smyrna 1922
, London:
Hodder and Stroughton Ltd, 2009.

Morgenthau, Henry,
I  Was Sent to Athens, New York: Doubleday 1929.

Okte, Faik, The
Tragedy of the Capital Tax, Kent, 1987.

Psomiades, Harry, The
Eastern Question-The Last Phase
, 2nd ed., New
: Pella,

United States
Congress, Directorate of Legal Research, “Cyprus—Destruction
of Cultural Property in the Northern Part of Cyprus and Violations of
International Law,” April 2009.

Vryonis Jr,
Speros, The Mechanism of Catastrophe, New York: Greekworks, 2005.

deZayas, Alfred,
“”The Istanbul Pogrom of 6-7 September 1955 in Light of International Law”, Genocide
Studies and Prevention
, Vol. 2, No.1, 2007, 137-154.





1 thought on “Από τη Λωζάννη (1923) στην Κύπρο (2009) – Οι Τουρκικές παραβιάσεις του Διεθνούς Δικαίου και η καταστροφή ελληνικών κοινοτήτων

  1. For the past two hundred years, Turkey has achieved one of the worst human rights records in the world. The Turks have mistreated ethnic minorities within Turkey and the peoples of neighbouring countries, including the Armenians, Bulgarians, Cypriots, Greeks, Kurds, Romanians and the Serbs.

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