By SHEIKYER MAMI
“…The BBC reports that the Christian population of Turkey has declined from 20% to 0.2% in the last 100 years. No, that’s not a typo. And it’s not an accident either.
“No country in the region – including Iran – is as homogenous in terms of Islam as Turkey,” says writer Cengiz Aktar. “It’s a mono-colour country – it’s a Muslim country.”
After the Turkish Republic was born in 1923, it carried out a “population exchange” with Greece to create more ethnic and religious consistency. More than a million Greeks were forced out of Turkey to Greece while around 300,000 Muslims from Greece were relocated here.
The Greeks of Istanbul were initially saved but after a crippling wealth tax, (jiziya-extortion) anti-Greek pogroms in 1955 and mass expulsions in 1964, the Greek community was left in tatters. And so was the Orthodox Christianity they practised.
“The ethnic cleansing of these non-Muslim minorities was a huge brain drain,” says Mr Aktar, who has created a new exhibition on the loss of the Greeks here.
“It also meant the disappearance of the bourgeoisie because not only were they wealthy but they were artisans. Istanbul lost its entire Christian and Jewish heritage.”