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Pantelis Kapsis’ Articles on the Greek POWs in Asia Minor

This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936. In the comments section, the focus will be on Greek women and children in Turkey. A translation of the article appears below that has been edited in parts for clarity.

Makedonia July 7, 1936

30,000 Greek prisoners still exist in Asia Minor. Converted to Islam by force. They work on the vast farms of the great Turkish Beys.

[Here is] an enlightening response of the journalist who returned from Asia Minor – K. Pantelis Kapsis.

We wrote yesterday that the surviving captive Greeks in Turkey amount to at least 40,000 thousand, including 25-30 thousand women.

The above numbers only concern the residents of western Turkey. We must therefore add to the above numbers the captives of the interior [from the Sea of Marmora and the western part of the Black Sea coast] and [also] the cities of Pontus, and we must also add the remaining captive soldiers, whose number must not be great.

Conclusion

There are still many thousands of Greek prisoners whose fate the Greek state should take an interest in. But perhaps, since today’s Turkey is no longer the old one, i.e. it is no longer a barbaric country and since Greece’s relations with Turkey are so friendly, why don’t the prisoners of war take care to communicate with those in Greece? We also ask in our turn, why the six prisoners who arrived at Patras two months ago and who were also soldiers originating from old Greece did not show signs of life for 14 years.

Undoubtedly, Turkey is a civilized and favored nation. But isn’t Brazil also a favored and civilized state? And yet there are savage peoples in the depths of Brazil. And cannibals, and the truth is, the east is no less vast and no less mysterious than Brazil.

Then something else happens. As we said, the majority of the surviving captives are women and children from the Greek cities of Asia Minor who converted to Islam.

During my eastern tour, which, as I said above, I undertook a few years ago at the behest of free people, I met a young Muslim of Magnesia who learned of my visit to his city, [who] wanted to meet me and asked me for information about his Greek relatives.

This young Muslim was simply a Greek from Reisderi of Erythraia who was captured at the age of 12, adopted by a [Turkish] landowner who eventually converted him to Islam and later married him to one of his daughters. He replied to my question, ‘why aren’t coming to Greece?’ by saying, ‘where should I leave my wife, my fields, my livestock?’

In Smyrna, I met a female Turkish lawyer who was Greek from Adrammyti and who confessed to me that she would come to Greece if she had no children.

There are therefore many thousands of prisoners whose new life circumstances prevent them from leaving [Turkey]. But at the same time, there are many thousands of prisoners whose lives are miserable and who yearn to come to Greece but are unable to even communicate with their relatives here. This is a serious issue and must be dealt with seriously by the Greek state.

Let the rulers of the Greek state not forget that there are in Greece more than 70 thousand Greek citizens – parents, brothers, and mothers, who from 1922 until today are plagued by doubt about the fate of their loved ones, and are comforted by the hope that someday they will find out whether their children, their girls and their women who were snatched from within their embrace [by the Turks are alive or dead].”

Comments by Stavros Stavridis

I searched the League of Nations archive regarding the deportation of women and children in Turkey and the Near East with the greatest number of reports covering the 1920s. Many 1930s documents cover discussion on the International Convention for the suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children (Geneva, September 30th, 1921) with Turkey’s accession to this convention in April 1937. Many of the reports from the sample examined describe what happened to the Armenians. which can easily be applied to the Greeks in Asia Minor. Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians were persecuted by the Young Turks and Kemalists.

Kapsis mentions that there were 25-30 thousand Greek women and children held in Turkey. I wonder how Kapsis arrived at this figure and whether this was based on official sources or a guesstimate. The young Muslim Greek and female lawyer married Turks and had children with their partners. Any chances of going to Greece were out of the question due to having children and family responsibilities.

I will quote a brief excerpt from Karen Juppe’s account of the situation of Armenians in Syria which she submitted to the League of Nations in September 1922. Her report can apply to the Greek Muslim and woman cited earlier:

“The [Muslims] had many reasons for seizing women and children, ranging from the pure human charity to the most savage lust. And just as different as were the motives to take them just as different is the treatment which they since then have been subjected to.

“We have these days to deal with an Armenian boy, taken up by a childless Turk, who adopted him and to whom he by his death left all his estates. We have to do with many who have lived in slavery similar to that of the one in ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. With respect to the children, they have grown up in thorough ignorance. The time other children spend at school or preparing themselves for life has been lost to them. They have learned to work but are foreigners to the world of their countrymen; they have very much to recover.”

By 1936, Greek women and children had lost their identity and also changed their names by converting to Islam. Even if the Greek government intervened to bring them home, they would have become accustomed to life in Turkey.”

There are other reports of deportations to the interior. In the letter of the Greek Minister in London, Dimitrios Caclamanos’s said to Lord Curzon on October 27, 1922, that “7,000 women and children from the Moschonisia islands off Aivali, and the village of Yenitsarcheroi have been deported by the Turks to the interior of Asia Minor after having been robbed of all their possessions.” Maybe this deportation fits the description in Kapsis’s article.

The issue of deported women and children in Turkey is an area that warrants more research.

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