Wednesday, 30 September 2009

ECHR - Turkey Guilty of defrauding expelled Greeks of Istanbul

Fokas v. Turkey (no. 31206/02)

The applicants, Ioannis Fokas and Evangelos Fokas, are Greek nationals who were born in 1945 and 1948 respectively and live in Katerini (Greece). The case concerned the applicants’ inability as Greek citizens to inherit their sister’s immovable property in Turkey on account of their nationality and of the principle of reciprocity between Greece and Turkey. They relied in particular on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property).

Violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1

Just satisfaction: question reserved for decision at a later date


Archive item from 2007, explaining the background to this case:

2nd August 2007

From Cyprus Weekly

Ankara must answer

Ankara to answer for violation of Greek property rights in Turkey

By Philippos Stylianou

APART from the usurped properties of Greek Cypriot refugees in the part of Cyprus occupied by its army, Turkey now has to answer before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for the violation of Greek property rights in Istanbul.

The Strasbourg-based ECHR has recently reviewed an individual application filed in 2002 by two brothers, who have been denied their family inheritance in Istanbul because they are Greek citizens and Christian Orthodox.

According to one of their lawyers, Achilleas Demetriades, known from the landmark Titina Loizidou case, the Court has decided that the case is a serious one and worth considering and has therefore asked the respondent government of Turkey to submit its observations by the middle of September.

"When this happens, the applicants will be afforded the opportunity to give their comments and submit their claim for the damages they sustained," Demetriades said.

He added: "The importance of the case is huge, as a successful outcome would open the way for thousands of Greeks originating from Turkey but who do not have Turkish nationality to claim the property rightfully left them by their forefathers."

Demetriades is appearing for the brothers Ioannis and Evangelos Fokas together with lawyer D. Geldis, who is practicing in Katerini, Greece. The applicants’ property consists of three buildings in Istanbul, one of them an apartment block, as well as income from rents, deposits and valuable documents and deeds.


The two brothers aged 61 and 58 inherited the property from their sister Polyxeni Pistika – Foka, who was adopted in 1954 at the age of 11 by the couple Apostolos and Elisavet Pistika, both Turkish nationals of Greek origin. The adoption was made in accordance with the decisions of both the Greek and Turkish courts.

Following the death of her adopted parents, their property was transferred to Polyxeni by way of inheritance in July 1987 by order of the Istanbul 3rd Civil Court. A few years later, in 1991, Polyxeni Pistika (Foka) was admitted to the psychiatric department of the Balikli Rum (Greek) hospital in Zeytinburu and the authorities appointed a guardian for her affairs, despite efforts by her brother Ioannis to appoint a guardian of his choice.

In 1997 the Turkish authorities proceeded to annul the 1987 inheritance order for Polyxeni under a 1964 Legislative Order, according to which a natural person holding Greek nationality has no right to inherit in Turkey. They also said that they could do this on grounds of reciprocity because the Greek government applied similar provisions to persons of Turkish origin living in Greece. The annulment was confirmed by the Court of Cassation the next year and Polyxeni was deprived of all her property and income and remained in hospital without resources until her death in April 2000.


In September 2000 her brothers filed a petition with the Beyoglu Magistrates’ Court for a certificate of inheritance. The Court, once again invoking the reciprocity grounds, dismissed their petition in regard to the immovable property, accepting it only for the movable assets. Polyxenis’ brothers repeatedly appealed the negative decision unsuccessfully.

Commenting on the reciprocity argument used by the Turkish side, Achilleas Demetriades said: "The Turkish argument that this should be allowed in view of a similar practice in Greece is not simply valid, because two wrongs don’t make a right."

He expressed the hope that this would not prevent the Greek Government from exercising its right under the European Convention on Human Rights of participating in the process before the ECHR, in order to assist the applicants who are Greek citizens.


Further reply from the Commission, received on 12 July 2005
The Commission is aware that Greek citizens have encountered problems in relation to their inheritance rights in Turkey. The Commission has requested information from the Turkish authorities regarding the legislative framework in this area on a number of occasions. Most recently, the Commission requested this during its regular political dialogue with the Turkish authorities on 18 March 2005. To date the Turkish authorities have not provided a response.

The Commission was recently informed of a case before the European Court of Human Rights regarding this issue (Ioannis Fokas and Evangelos Fokas v. Turkey, Application no. 31206/02). The Commission will closely follow this and any other such cases of which it is made aware. The plaintiffs’ allegation that Greek citizens have been denied their inheritance rights in Istanbul on the basis of a “secret decree” which dates back to the 1960s is of particular concern. The Commission intends to further investigate this issue in the context of its monitoring of the human rights situation in Turkey and will continue to raise the issue with the Turkish authorities.

EU aware of inheritance right problems faced by Greeks in Turkey, Commission official says
23 June, 2005

BRUSSELS, 23/06/2005 (ANA)
The European Commission is aware that Greek citizens have faced huge problems concerning their inheritance rights in Turkey, the head of the Commission's Human Rights Unit Rolf Timans said on Wednesday, while stressing that this was an issue of great importance.

Timans said the European Commission was aware of a claim that Greek citizens had been denied their legal rights of inheritance by Turkish authorities on the basis of 'secret decrees'.
He also pointed out that the Commission had raised this issue repeatedly in the framework of political dialogue between the EU and Turkey but had "received no reply up to this day".

Timans was responding to a question put by Greek MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis, from the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party, concerning an inheritance case brought before the European Court of Human Rights by two Greek brothers, Ioannis and Evangelos Fokas.

The two brothers had sought to inherit a property in Istanbul from their sister Polyxeni Pistika-Foka but this was refused by a Turkish court in April 2000, which found that Polyxeni Pistika-Foka could not inherit the property from her father because she was a Greek national. The ruling caused a stir on both sides of the Aegean, while the Turkish newspaper "Hurriyet" condemned the decision as an "irregularity that is not in line with modern legal thinking".

The EU official said that he had recently been informed of the case in the ECHR and would closely monitor its development, along with any other related case that he was aware of.

"The plaintiffs' claim that, on the basis of a secret decree dating from 1960, Greek citizens have been denied their rights of inheritance is extremely important," Timans said and under-lined that he intended to further investigate the issue in the framework of monitoring the human rights situation in Turkey.

Source: Athens News Agency


A Troubling History of Ethnic Conflict
The Harvard Center for European Studies

Bruce Clark, the international security editor of The Economist, speaks at Harvard University about his book, 'Twice a Stranger'

Write-up about 'Twice a Stranger' at:

Review of 'Twice a Stranger' by The Observer:
Time Judah, Sunday 18 June 2006,
"Bruce Clark's book is about the massive population exchanges that took place between Greece and Turkey in the early 1920s. A book about something that happened in the 1920s cannot always be expected to raise acute questions about the world today; the power of this book is the terrifying way that it does."


Septemvriana events in Istanbul remembered

Costa Vertzayias 5 September 2005

"we remember with great sadness the heinous events of 6-7 September 1955 which has led to the almost extinction of the Greek presence in Constantinople. No words can convey the reign of terror that the Greeks lived through."
Watch fakeloi -ta septemvriana in Educational

1955 riots against minorities on the big screen [in Turkey]

"The Turkish public, at least a part of it, had to wait for 50 years to learn what really happened during the pogrom against the Christian inhabitants of Istanbul in September 1955. In 2005 Dilek Guven’s very detailed doctorate thesis on the Septembriana presented at the Bochum University in Germany was published in Turkish. Same year, photographs and documents compiled by the martial law judge retired Admiral Fahri Coker (Tsoker) who served at the court that tried the suspects was also printed and distributed.

"Tomris Giritlioglu’s film 'The Autumn Pain' comes four years later as a cinematographic account of a love affair between a Greek girl from Istanbul and a Turkish boy who comes from a staunchly rightwing and chauvinist but at the same time rich family with a backdrop of Septemvriana.

"The scenario is based on a novel by Yilmaz Karakoyunlu, a former parliamentarian who has also written an earlier novel about the Wealth Tax levied on Turkey’s non-moslems in 1942. That novel was also put on film by Giritlioglu with the title “Mrs. Salkim’s Diamonds.”

"As 'Mrs. Salkim’s Diamonds' then, 'The Autumn Pain' is also hailed now by most of the commentators as an artistic attempt to recognize the injustices done to Turkey’s non-moslem minorities.

.../ ...

"Until Dilek Guven’s book was published and Admiral Tsoker’s documents and photographs were printed, the general impression in Turkey was that the Septemvriana was organized by the government of Adnan Menderes in 1955 to put pressure on Greece and Greek Cypriots while the then Foreign Minister Fatin Rustu Zorlu was in London negotiating the future of Cyprus. The simple explanation for the pogrom was that the crowds went out of control and did what they did. Guven, in her book, mentions a note sent by a member of the British Embassy in Athens then, saying “A little harassment of the Greek population in Istanbul would help.” At that time the British were supporting the Turkish theses on Cyprus.

"But there was more to that. In 2001 journalist Fatih Gullapoglu, interviewed retired General Sabri Yirmibesoglu, the former head of Turkish army’s Department of Special Warfare, who admitted that it was his organization that mobilized the Turkish Cypriots against Greek Cypriots. He also declared that Septemvriana was also one of the “perfect jobs done by the Special Warfare Department.” It seems that it was one of the major operations to dispossess the non-Moslem minority and force them to leave Turkey, a well known policy of the Turkish governments since the 19’/20s."


Erevna (Investigation)
3rd March 2009
(spoken in Greek)


Tuesday, August 18, 2009
“Ta Septemvriana”
by Costa Vertzayias
An excellent write-up on Ta Septemvriana, in English.

"The Septemvriana did not erupt so suddenly and violently in order to destroy an entire community. Cyprus, was merely the ostensible cause, the events in Cyprus provided the pretext to fanaticise the mobs. It was the excuse that Turkey was waiting for just as the coup in 1974 was the excuse Turkey needed to invade Cyprus to implement its long awaited plan. The Greek Cypriots campaign against Britain in 1955 was used to turn the Turkish public against the Greeks of Constantinople and thus to eliminate them forever.

"At the trial of Prime Minister Menderes in 1960 it was revealed that he and Foreign Minister Fatin Rustu planned and mapped out the programme of terror.

"Fifty years later we remember with great sadness the heinous events of 6-7 September 1955 which has led to the almost extinction of the Greek presence in Constantinople. No words can convey the reign of terror that the Greeks lived through.

"The Septemvriana are yet another black page in Turkish history, along with the genocides against the Armenians, Pontians and Assyrians for which Turkey has never been held accountable. Sadly, Turkey’s complete disregard of international law and contempt for universally accepted human values has been condoned by the West for geopolitical reasons.

"Even sadder, the situation in Cyprus is worse now than in 1955. However, the great irony may be that Cyprus could be the sting in the scorpion’s tail for Turkey. Exactly fifty years after the Septemvriana it may be Cyprus that will block Turkey’s road to Europe – divine retribution or nemesis?"


Concerns in Istanbul - Are new Septemvriana being prepared?

28th August 2009
(text in Greek)
The Green and Red stripes of paint on the exterior walls of houses belonging to Greeks and Armenians of Istanbul, a few days before the black anniversary of the Septemvriana have troubled the two communities as well as the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

According to information, these have appeared on houses in different locations in Istanbul where christians live where there are stripes of green paint, while on the houses of the Armenians there are stripes of red paint. The christians were amazed when they saw the stripes of green paint on their houses, bringing immediately to mind the destruction of the 6th and 7th September 1955, when the Turkish masses created violent scenes against the Greeks of Istanbul. A member of the Turkish parliament has submitted a formal question to the Minister of the Interior of Turkey Mpesir Atalai, asking for clarification on what is going on.

The same member of parliament stated that he has recently been receiving an increasing number of complaints by christians in relation to harassment and discrimination. What must be mentioned is that the Armenian and Greek christian communities have lived in Istanbul for many centuries, but in recent years have experienced greatly increased instances of hate and crime against them. There are more than 50,000 Armenians, and about 2,500 Greeks.

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