Armenian witness says Menderes not initiator of 1955 pogrom
A witness of the Sept. 6-7, 1955 pogrom against non-Muslims in İstanbul has shared his memories of the circumstances surrounding the violence, saying that Adnan Menderes, a former prime minister who was executed by a junta that came to power in the1960 coup d'état, was not the one responsible for the bloodshed as is sometimes claimed.

Mıgır Bilir, 86, is a former athlete who is of Armenian origin. He has been living in Argentina for more than 50 years and is one of the aggrieved people of the 1955 pogroms when many bloody provocations in Turkey targeted non-Muslims. He shared the same destiny with many Armenian and Rum people (Greeks who live on Turkish soil) when his storehouse was looted in İstanbul's Eminönü district.

Now, Bilir has returned to Turkey for the second time after a visit in 1970 and shared his memories of the pogrom with Sunday's Zaman.

"I heard that my country has developed in terms of liberty, which made me very happy. I felt terrible when I had to leave my country since I was born and grew up here, collecting many memories, sometimes good and sometimes bad." Bilir had many difficulties after he was obliged to leave Turkey. "After going to Germany, France and Brazil, I finally settled down in Argentina," Bilir said.

On the day of the pogrom, Bilir was unaware of what was happening until he turned on the television. "I found my storehouse had been looted when I went there after I saw the news about the pogrom on television. All of the workplaces were in a terrible situation like a battle zone. We did not know what to do in that situation. I still remember those days with great grief."

Bilir further stated that he does not hold Muslims responsible for the pogrom, saying that he tells people proudly that he is from Turkey. "All of my close friends are Muslims, and I know those bloody actions against us were not at the hands of Muslims. I don't have any resentment against anyone in this country," added Bilir.

Adnan Menderes -- the prime minister at the time of the May 27, 1960 coup d'état who was hanged along with two of his ministers by the junta after the military intervention -- was seen as the person responsible for the incidents that took place in 1955. Menderes has been accused of having full knowledge of the events as they were planned but not taking any measures to prevent the attacks on non-Muslims. The workplaces belonging to non-Muslims were marked by unknown people and looted according to those marks during the pogrom.

According to court records, 4,214 residences, 1,004 shops, 73 churches, one synagogue, two monasteries, 26 schools and 5,317 other buildings including factories, hotels, bars and such were attacked in İstanbul. Martial law was declared at night in an attempt to quell the unrest, though in some areas the attacks continued for several days. Some of the perpetrators were arrested and prosecuted in closed military trials, but many suspects had been released by the end of 1956.

Bilir strongly denied the accusations against Menderes, saying that Menderes greatly valued minorities. "The Republican People's Party [CHP] and İsmet İnönü provoked people in a way at that time. They plotted against Menderes with the countless television and radio broadcasts. When I heard about Menderes' situation after the coup d'état I felt terribly sorry for him. All the Armenians like me had to leave our country due to excessive pressure on us exerted by İnönü and the CHP."

With the help of a dialogue foundation in Argentina he found the place where he was born in Ordu and found his cousin there. "When I saw him I burst into tears, we talked about our good memories. I will never forget my 25-day visit in Turkey. I hope to visit my country or settle permanently here again before I die," Bilir added.

Recognized internationally for their success and the quality of education they provide, Turkish schools have been opened abroad by volunteer teachers in more than 100 countries. Bilir described meeting the Turkish teachers as one of the milestones in his life. "I came across the Turkish teachers, who were in Argentina to open a new school, at the Turkish Embassy eight years ago. We helped them in learning the language of the country and hosted them in our homes until they found a place to live. We became close friends over time. Every week, Turkish people hold meetings at the cultural center with Armenians who migrated to Argentina from Turkey."

Turkish schools came into prominence in Argentina like in other countries due to their successful programs. Bilir stated that the education level in Turkish schools is higher then in the other schools in Argentina. "Many top executives enroll their children in Turkish schools due to their devoted teachers and modern education facilities. I suggest all people send their children to these schools," added Bilir. (Cihan/Sundays Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-11-04 16:00:01
  • Visitors: 4269
  • (Suanki Oy 0.0/5 Yildiz) Toplam Oy: 0
  • 0 0