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The shame is always with us
by Ergo te Lina
2006-10-11 10:18:33
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Mehmet Ali Birand’s text is translated from Turkish by Ergotelinen
Click here to read the original Turkish text.

I am one of the living witnesses of what happened in Istanbul 50 years ago. I was 14 years old. I did not know what it was all about. However, the passage of time made me understand the seriousness of the incidents, and I will always carry the shame. Despite being the only such incident in which the Turkish state officially admitted its culpability and tried to compensate its victims, it continues to weigh on our conscience.

I can never forget.

I can still remember what I saw in Beyoğlu on the morning of Sept. 7, 1955. I had to go to Galatasaray High School to register for the preliminary class. I reached Beyoğlu with great difficulty. When I went to Tunnel from Karaköy, I just was flabbergasted.

The scene was shocking.

The huge street seemed like a war zone, with windows of the shops on both sides of the street shattered and all their goods strewn all over the street, including bunches of clothes, books, notebooks, chandeliers and much more. People were taking home whatever they could find. The scene was like judgment day. I was a child, and I had no idea what had happened.

What I noticed immediately was that while some shops were plundered, others were not even touched. I had a look and saw that there was a Turkish flag hanging on the windows of the shops that were not looted, while those that were had Greek names.

People with long beards and those who were dressed very shabbily were walking around. I saw that some people who were dressed normally were hiding in the shops, looking outside. The police and the soldiers seemed as if they were saying, "Enough is enough. You did what you did, but now just leave." They were both intervening and not intervening at the same time. That scene has always remained with me.

Even though half a century has passed, I still shiver when I remember it. When I read the newspapers a day later, I realized the extent of the matter.

Similar incidents had occurred also in Taksim and Şişli, where most of the citizens of Greek origin lived. Not only the shops, but also churches, even cemeteries were damaged and plundered. Jewish citizens also got their share of trouble, but the main targets were Greeks.

Newspapers were writing about people waving Turkish flags, pleading with the looters, "Please don't do it. I'm a Turk. I am a Turkish citizen." It was a disgusting, belittling and tragic affair.

My mother and other adults were criticizing what had happened, while officials were talking about the placing of a bomb at the house in Thessalonica where Atatürk was born, which had been turned into a museum, and the anger felt against what was happening in Cyprus, explaining that the people had become enraged.

We were living on Ethem Efendi Street at the time. Our neighbours were mostly Greek. They were my best friends. All of a sudden, they shut themselves in their homes. They talked to no one. I can never forget Madam Eleni when she asked, "Can we seek refuge in your home if they attack us?" The barbershop she managed with her husband was in ruins. They were in shock. My mother sent them food for a week. We let them live in one of our rooms.

I was too young to make sense of what had happened. Why should they attack Madam Eleni? What could they ask from them? Why were they different from me?

As I was seeking answers to these questions, the Greek families in our neighborhood started to move to other places or go to Greece. After 1963, none of them were left. They left Istanbul. They took with them an important culture, a colour and a different lifestyle. They left us alone in Istanbul to live our colourless lives. Later on we were full of regret, but by then it was too late.

Turkey admitted all culpability, accepted responsibility

Much later, we learned the September 6th and 7th incidents were the doing of the infamous deep state. It was planned with government approval in order to let diplomats say the people are reacting during the U.N. discussions on Cyprus. However, it later got out of control and turned into a shameful plunder. The crime was one the deep state could not handle and it shamed the Turkish nation.

What's surprising is that apart from a few injuries, no one was killed. It wasn't a massacre. It was a disgusting plunder aimed at frightening people. What's even more surprising is the way that those events shamed us, hurt us and tainted us as a nation. This was also recorded as the only such incident when the Republic of Turkey officially admitted its responsibility, apologized and compensated the victims.

At the Yassıada trials, after the military coup on May 21st, 1960, the incidents were investigated down to the smallest detail, and those held responsible were tried and punished.

As always, there was no mention of the deep state. It emerged entirely unscathed by the affair. A few thieves, civilians with no links to the planning or to the politicians, were punished.

In later years, whenever the September 6th and 7th incidents were mentioned, I felt an overwhelming shame and I always apologized to the victims I saw at international meetings. During those incidents, our Turkishness was trampled underfoot. It was then I realized that if we don't criticize such incidents and apologize to the victims we can never feel proud of ourselves.

Apologizing is enriching. It shows self-confidence. Discriminating due to religion, language or culture or using force on the weak is belittling one's self.

I don't know you, but I apologized to our neighbour Madam Eleni from Erenköy.

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Asa2006-10-10 21:03:13
Is this the same event that was portrayed in 'A Touch of Spice'?

Ergotelina2006-10-10 22:09:58
That was in 1995
The film-plot starts
with 1963

The historical conflicts between Greece and Turkey and the lives of those caught in between are explored in Tassos Boulmetis' debut feature, the autobiographical drama A Touch of Spice. A box-office smash in Greece, the film won the Audience Award at the 2003 Thessaloniki Film Festival, and had its U.S. premiere in competition at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. After a brief prologue, which introduces its astronomer-chef protagonist, Fanis (Georges Corraface of Escape From L.A.), who lives in Greece and is preparing for a visit from his grandfather, Vassilis (Tassos Bandis), the film flashes back to his boyhood 35 years earlier in Istanbul, where Vassilis, who owns a grocery store, teaches Fanis about the connection of various spices to life and to the universe. The precocious Fanis makes a deal with a girl he likes, Saime (played as an adult by Basak Köklükaya), that he'll cook for her if she dances for him. Eventually, political turmoil intrudes on the family's happiness, and Fanis' father, Savas (Ieroklis Michailidis), a Greek, is forced to take his wife (Renia Louizidou) and son out of the country. They settle in Athens, but never get over the trauma of being deported. In addition to missing his grandfather, Fanis never gets over his connection to Saime. His grandfather repeatedly promises to visit, and to bring the girl along, but always has an excuse for canceling the trip at the last minute. Meanwhile, Fanis grows up despondent and depressed. He quickly develops a great talent for cooking, which his parents strongly discourage. It's not until he's in his forties that Fanis makes the voyage back to Istanbul to resolve his relationship with the two most important people in his life.

Politiki Kouzina
Culinary of Istanbul
A touch of Spice


Thanos2006-10-10 22:17:50
It comes as a surprise to read these words from a Turk. At least there are descent people there!

Ergotelina2006-10-11 09:54:29
Let us know them

Two-and-a-half factors misled popular reaction.

1) What we call now the deep state, or covert organizations that see themselves as guardians of the country and protector of the nation, intervened and changed the course of events. One general (four-star Gen. Sabri Yirmibeşoğlu) admitted in an interview with Tempo magazine (24th edition, June 9-11, 1991) that the events were the product of special forces' and were an example of magnificent organization.� Indeed, the raging horde was not an ad hoc crowd that was spontaneously provoked. They were organized, equipped with thousands of clubs, axes, national flags and posters of Atatürk and were waiting for the news of the bombing to come out. They were also supplied with lists of names and addresses of non-Muslim minorities. Police just watched the devastation for two long days and did not help the victims, except a few personal exceptions.

2) The phenomenon was one of the concrete examples of a series of actions of the undeclared policy of weeding out non-Muslims and non-ethnic Turks from the nation and transferring capital from the minorities to the national (ethnically Turkish) bourgeoisie. The process had started during the last decade of the Ottoman Empire led by the Young Turks (or the government of the semi-clandestine organization of Union and Progress) and went on during the republican years, to be repeated in Thrace (European Turkey) by intimidating the Jews in 1934, creating and exacting an exorbitant income tax, called the Varlık Vergisi (Wealth Tax), from all non-Muslim minorities of the nation in 1942 and finally an orchestrated operation that squeezed away 12,000 Greek inhabitants from Istanbul. The combined result of these intimidations and deterrent policies has been departure of initially hundreds and later tens of thousands of non-Muslim citizens from the country.

2 ½) The 1950s were the last years when the last traces of Ottoman social and cultural heritage of Turkey had disappeared or were erased. The republican regime had chosen to legitimize itself as unique and matchless by denying its Ottoman past in all vestiges of life and built its educational system on this rift. What had remained of Turkey's multi-cultural social fabric was destroyed in the 1950s both by discouraging non-Muslim minorities to remain in the country and by massive migration from the countryside into towns, most of all into Istanbul. By 1955, new districts composed of ex-peasants had emerged like Taşlıtarla, Kağıthane and Alibeyköy. The rural inhabitants of these and other new districts were quite unfamiliar with the cosmopolitan atmosphere of urban life and had never experienced a lifestyle enriched by non-Muslim urban groups. They were hungry for power, respect and wealth. Provoked into doing something good for their nation, proving their worth as destroyers of �subversive elements� and enriching themselves through booty was a perfect combination to Turkify the nation. In other parts of the world such a deed may be called ethnic cleansing but such a term is unknown in our part of the world so no one is blamed for the act.


Journalist and writer Ridvan Akar, wrote a sensational article, entitled “Sorry Kostas”. He apologizes for the Turkish persecution of the Greek minority during the 20th century.

For Details about
See the wiki article


kemal2006-10-11 11:04:58
bitch and lie

Asa2006-10-11 11:29:05
Nice one, kemal!

Nothing like a well-constructed argument and that was nothing like one. You may not agree, but at least add some thought to your reply.

Ergotelina2006-10-11 16:12:53


Over the next two days and nights mobs raided the homes and workplaces of non-Muslim minorities in Istanbul and Izmir, leaving behind 16 dead and dozens of wounded citizens of Greek origin, 73 devastated Greek Orthodox churches and damaging one synagogue, eight chapels and two monasteries. Some 5,538 properties were sacked, burnt and destroyed, of which 3,584 belonged to Greek citizens of Turkey. Unfortunately, between 50-200 women (varying according to who has reported it) of the same extraction were physically violated. In Izmir, the Greek Consulate and the Greek pavilion at the Izmir International Fair were set on fire by arsonists; 14 homes and five shops were destroyed and ransacked. Some graves of Greek citizens were destroyed as well

We are not more stable and peaceful within now that the non-Muslims are only a miniscule part of the national population. We are ready to hate anyone who may dare to say that our recent history may not be a good compass to show the way in the future that is in the making.

Ashamed of what he has read and seen, the military prosecutor at the time has saved the photos and documents of the Sept. 6-7 events to be shown to future generations as a mistake not to be repeated. He gave them to the Turkish Historical Association and demanded that they only be published 25 years after his death. That day has come and in sad commemoration of the events, the Turkish Historical Association has organized an exhibition of photos of those two fateful days.

The exhibition opened its doors to the public on the same day of the events. But what do we see? A bunch of thugs calling themselves nationalists' raided the exhibition hall and destroyed some of the photos. It seems the scions of the original perpetrators are still alive and kicking. Or is it more than that? Is it an understanding that we have to get rid of if we do not want to be ashamed of similar deeds?

History is not a lot from which we can choose the best; it is a load we have to carry in whole whether we like it or not, for we have accumulated it.


Political scientist (b. 1 May 1940, Beşiktaş / İstanbul). He graduated from Ankara University, Faculty of Political Sciences (1966).
WORKS IN ENGLISH: The Social History of the Turkish Liberation Movement, Secularism in Turkey, Turkey in Search of Herself.


Kemal2006-10-11 16:17:41
french and greeks bitch

Orhan2006-10-11 17:26:38
Long live Turkey,Greece,France,Europe,Iran,USA and the whole world!

Love one another!

Let bygones,be bygones...

Calm down..

Let 's see now the future
without bithces and hate...

jack2006-10-11 22:37:52
Forgive and forget just does not work. Apologies need to be given but they will never be given.

Alan2006-10-12 10:20:00
True and don't forget the Armenians

Ergotelina2006-10-12 11:11:32

There are European-Turks calling
for coexistence...

We don't need a new Sept. 6-7
Thursday, October 12, 2006

Anti-Western groups are enjoying what has been taking place in the past few days. The behavior of anti-EU groups in Turkey is no different from the anti-Turkish ones in France. This gave them an important opportunity to dominate the headlines. If we don’t ensure that this mania is kept under control, we will face a new Sept. 6-7 incident. Things seem to be getting out of control.

Mehmet Ali Birand

Our passion is once again getting the better of us.

It's becoming a field day for the nationalists.

Anti-Western groups are enjoying what has been taking place in the past few days. The behavior of anti-EU groups in Turkey is no different from the anti-Turkish ones in France. This gave them an important opportunity to dominate the headlines. If we don't ensure that this mania is kept under control, we will face a new Sept. 6-7 incident

Ergotelina2006-10-12 11:25:09

Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO) President Sinan Aygün appears as if he will soon call on all French-made cars to be burnt. He suggests people throwing away French-made clothes and publicizing the names of those seen wearing French products.


Asa2006-10-12 13:12:55
It is so refreshing to hear somebody championing such a measured response and in such an intelligent manner.

French kissing will be banned next and President Sinan Aygün will be following in the American's footsteps by renaming French Fries to Freedom Fries - if that doesn't choke you, then nothing will.

Ergotelina2006-10-12 15:26:26
Congratunations Turkey!

Turkish Orhan Pamuk wins Nobel literature prize

Pamuk won the Nobel literature prize for his multitude of works that deal with the symbols of clashing cultures.

Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, who has clashed with his country's government and tried for charged with insulting "Turkishness,'' won the Nobel literature prize on Thursday, for his multitude of works that deal with the symbols of clashing cultures.

The decision surprised few and drew a brief but intense round of applause when Horace Engdahl, head of the Swedish Academy, announced his name.

In January, a Turkish court dropped charges against Pamuk for insulting "Turkishness,'' ending a high-profile trial that outraged Western observers and cast doubt on Turkey's commitment to free speech.

Pamuk, who wrote "Snow'' and "My Name Is Red,'' went on trial for telling a Swiss newspaper in February 2005 that Turkey was unwilling to deal with two of the most painful episodes in recent Turkish history: the massacre of Armenians during World War I, which Turkey insists was not a planned genocide, and recent guerrilla fighting in Turkey's overwhelmingly Kurdish southeast.

"Thirty-thousand Kurds and 1 million Armenians were killed in these lands, and nobody but me dares to talk about it,'' he said in the interview.


Ergotelina2006-10-12 15:32:24
He has written a book
about the lost multi-cultural
Istanbul: Memories and the City
hüzün (melancholy). Istanbul's hüzün,


Kemal2006-10-13 14:14:45

Ergotelina2006-10-13 20:00:21

THE Nobel Prize for Literature to Orhan Pamuk is not only a great honour for the celebrated Turkish novelist and his country but also for the whole of Muslim world. For Pamuk is only the second Muslim, after Naguib Mahfuz of Egypt, to get the world's highest and coveted literary prize.

However, it is not Pamuk's Muslim identity that may have anything to do with the Nobel honour but his rare ability as a writer to reach out to both East and West. Pamuk's works are all about the constant interaction and friction, if not clash, between the West and East and between Turkey's essentially Muslim soul and its political and geographical proximity to the Christian West.

This is perhaps why the 54-year old writer (incredibly young for the Nobel honour!) appeals to his largely Turkish audience as well as his larger audience in the West and elsewhere. By urging his people to confront their recent past, especially Turkey's troubles with Armenian and Kurdish minorities, he landed himself on the wrong side of the establishment, even as he was lionised in the West.

Earlier this year, Pamuk was taken to court on the charges of insulting Turkey for talking candidly about the historical excesses against the Armenian and Kurdish minorities. Thankfully, the author was cleared of the ridiculous charges soon in a case that had attracted worldwide attention.

But Pamuk is no Salman Rushdie. Unlike Rushdie, who picked on Islam and Muslims constantly pandering to his Western audiences, Pamuk sympathetically holds a mirror to his country and people. Unlike the author of Satanic Verses, Pamuk is not an outsider to his people. He is part of the Turkish mainstream yet he is also the voice of Turkey's conscience.


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