Both schools had been closed for 50 years
Turkey returns important fundamental rights that were denied in the past
By Manolis Kostidis – Ankara
The Greek minority in Imbros has been living historic moments, since after the reopening of the Greek-speaking elementary school in Imbros during last year’s school season, the Greeks of the island are feverishly preparing for the reopening of the secondary school.
The Turkish authorities at the request of the newly founded Association of Education and Culture Imbros, gave the confiscated by the Turkish government, primary school in the village Agridi of Imbros, which is planned to be used as a High School.
The signing ceremony took place at the concession Imbros, in the presence of the Chairman of the Board Association of Education and Culture of Imbros, Lakis Vigas and the vice-President Joachim Kampouropoulos, who received the title of concession from the prefect of the island.
After stating that there was a big effort to make this happen for the Greek Diaspora in Imbros, Lakis Vigos emphasizes that the High School will be a “positive step” for the resettlement of many Imbrians on the island.
“We cannot believe that there is a future in the society of Imbros, by just ensuring the religious identity. Otherwise, like all the minorities that shrank in various cities of Anatolia, we will end up with a folk identity and we will not be in a position to speak of a rebirth of the Greek community in Imbros. We cannot just keep a defensive stance towards education. It is necessary that new generations have knowledge of their culture. Otherwise, we cannot talk about the future. Otherwise, the long-term resettling of Imbrians on the island will not be possible”.
The teacher Joachim Kampouropoulos, coordinator of the works for the reopening of the school, said that the building has been granted indefinitely and without a fee, on the condition that it will only be used as a school.
Mr. Kampouropoulos has returned in recent months in Imbros, where he was born, while he was working in Athens. “In the past I had suffered for many years because we did not have a school on the island; they had shut it down and we had to go to Constantinople to learn Greek. When I heard about this effort I did not think twice before participating and we are now giving this fight”.
Mr. Kampouropoulos stresses that there are many families of Imbrians who would like to return to the island but the main issue that makes them hesitate is the lack of a Secondary school.
“Last year we started with the reopening of the primary school and saw that without secondary education this experimental resettlement of the island’s former inhabitants will not work. This development gives us hope and courage and I believe that we will succeed”.
The building that had been illegally confiscated by the turkish government, had functioned as an Urban School for the Diaspora from 1954 to 1964. In 1964 it was arbitrarily converted into a turkish Urban School. “Once, in this school alone there were 180 students”, Mr. Kamprouropoulos told IBNA. However, since the building has been badly damaged, it will take many months for its reconstruction. The aim is to have it ready by next September to open its doors to expatriate students.
In the village Panagia there was a secondary school, which was closed down by the Turkish authorities in 1964.
The reopening of the primary school
The elementary school in Imbros reopened in September 2013, opening its doors for the first time in almost half a century.
The four students completed the training program this year and the joy of the Greek inhabitants of the island is great as they see their school in the village of St. Theodore come to life again. It is the village where the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was born.
The school building was repaired at the expense of the Foundation of the Church, which provided the books and all school equipment. The turkish Ministry of Education appointed Anna Kouzouma as the teacher. Ms Kouzouma had left Imbros 36 years ago and came to the island a few months ago.
The request for the reopening of the greek school was submitted to the turkish authorities in 2011 and was adopted in June 2012.
The turkish plan for the Dehellenization of Imbros
The violent and systematic Dehellenization of Imbros by the turkish state began in 1964. Though many fundamental rights had been violated earlier, that year started the mass migration as the Imbrians had no way to survive and had to protect their families. The systematic policy of persecution of the Greeks began as follows:
– The Turkish authorities closed down schools and confiscated all school buildings of the local community. The teaching of the Greek language was banned.
– The turkish parliament approved an expropriations bill, according to which, the turkish government could essentially expropriate land, without any legal regulation. As such, 98% of all fertile land was expropriated and the compensation that was given was not even enough to buy a few eggs. It was basically confiscation.
– Pastures were characterized as “woodland” or “forested” areas of state land, so the Greeks lost their pastures, their lands.
– They created open rural prisons, where some of the most dangerous convicts were transferred. They could move freely on the island terrorizing, raping, and killing many people spreading fear.
The result of this policy was tragic. In 1960 according to the official census in Imbros there were 5487 Greeks and 289 Turks. Today, about 8000 Turks and about 300 Greeks live on the Island. In recent years, however, with systematic efforts, the number of expatriates returning to their homeland is increasing.