🇹🇷 🇬🇷 The Great Population Exchange between Turkey and Greece | Al Jazeera World

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As part of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, Greece and Turkey agreed to uproot two million people in a massive population exchange, the lasting effects of which are still felt by some in both countries today. Only since the 1990s has it been possible for the 'exchangees' caught up in the upheaval and their families to visit what they see as their ancestral villages in Greece and Turkey.

Huseyin Selvi was forced out of Greece when he was five, but at the age of 97 he was able to travel in a group from Turkey to the village where he was born. The exchangees had to travel on foot, by train and by sea and many of the ships involved in this mammoth operation were full to overflowing. The elderly and the young especially suffered from the shocking travel conditions.

"My mother had to throw my younger sister, who was three or four, into the sea. I don't remember it but that's what my mother told me", says Huseyin.

Numan Toker, a second generation exchangee, also travelled to the village in Greece his late mother was forced out of. "It was my mother's last wish. Now I'll bring water from there, to her grave. I'll bring soil...She was longing to see it [village] again but never had the chance. I asked her if I could take her. She replied, "Yes son, please. Would you really take me there?" Of course, I said I would but it wasn't meant to be. We couldn't make it in the end," says a tearful Numan.

His ancestors had lived in Greece for 400-500 years, until the population exchange. Recalling his mother's stories, Numan says "She cried, laughed and talked about what they used to do. The day they were called back to Turkey and were leaving, they left 500 sheep and their farmland behind. She even left dinner cooking on the stove. They left everything behind."

Population shifts occurred in the early twentieth century as old empires disintegrated and new nation states emerged. But these changes often raised complex questions of identity for the ordinary people caught up in them.

Greek Orthodox Christians and Muslims had lived together under Ottoman rule for centuries, though not always entirely peacefully. The Greek war of independence from the Ottomans was fought between 1821 and 1832 and the new state of Greece founded. This created tension which increased after the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. Muslims remaining in Greece and the Balkans suffered discrimination and persecution, while Greek Orthodox Christians were expelled by the Ottomans from the Aegean region.

After the Ottoman defeat in World War One, the victorious allies maneuvered to divide up their former empire. This was resisted by the Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kamal Attaturk who fought the Turkish War of Independence between 1919 and 1923.

At Lausanne in Switzerland, all the parties sat round the conference table in 1922-23. Part of the resulting Treaty of Lausanne involved an agreement between Greece and Turkey to forcibly exchange around 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians and a lower number of Muslims in the largest population displacement of modern times.

When the exchangees arrived at their destinations, they often faced serious problems integrating into their new communities – and some of their social, housing and education problems have persisted.

Language was an immediate problem and exchangees like Nuriye Can who left Greece in 1923 for Turkey were all Greek-speakers. It was hard for the first generation to learn Turkish after having grown up with Greek as their native language.

"I couldn't speak any Turkish when I got married", says Nuriye. "My mother-in-law used to ask me why I spoke the language of an 'non-believer'. She asked, "Why don't you speak your father's language?" I did eventually learn Turkish."

There are now reciprocal visits by both Greek and Turks, as part of a cultural project supported by the European Union and the Foundation of Lausanne Treaty Emigrants.

"I thought it was a debt of honour, a moral obligation to come and kiss the ground where my grandfathers were born," says Evangelia Kiortci who found her grandparents' village. "They didn't make it, nor did my parents but I'm a third generation refugee, and I've come...They left for Greece and they've always had this sorrow. They had never had the chance to come back and walk on the same ground. I'm deeply moved."

For Dimitris Dayioglu, a visit to the Turkish village his grandmother was expelled from, was an equally emotional experience. "My grandmother wanted very much to g

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💬 Comments on the video

So sad I want Greek and Turks to be friends

Author — Naumanistani


As a Turkish it is too painful for me to watch this i can not hold my tears ! Our past is full of pain, i hope we will never repeat these mistakes again Never!

Author — Aysegul YILDIRIM


Greco-Turkish war. A pointless conflict that led millions of people to change their lives radically.

Author — Κωνσταντίνος Τσιούμας


Beautiful documentary, brought tears to my eyes for both Greeks and Turks alike. My mother's parents came to Greece from Constantinople, Asia Minor, my grandfather was from Kerasounta, I think it is now called Giresun in Turkish. I have nothing against the Turkish people, I have Turkish friends that we call each other brothers and sisters. I never heard my grandfather talk badly about the Turkish people. He use to tell me that they got along great, and that they played Tavli/Backgammon together. I believe that some government people and rulers are the cause for the hate between us. We the people, on both sides, would get along together and live peacefully if it wasn't for some rulers that try to divide us through their war games of power, greed, and land territories disputes. I wish the people on both sides should not allow themselves to be brainwashed by them.

Author — Mercy Chanter


I encourage everyone to visit each other's country to clearly see that we've been told lies and hatred all our life. Don't trust ideologic mindset coming from politicians or other people with an agenda. Clear your mind from prejudices and let yourself surprise. You will not regret it.

Author — emre05x


My grandparents were from Vourla. I think is a place near Izmir . they came as refugees in central Greece when the war started. I want to come one day there and see the place where my grandparents lived..!! big love and respect from Greece!!

Author — Tony Montana


both know greek and they remember after a century!!!!

Author — aris0978


repect each other and love each other..From S.korea :D

Author — Leuko Cyte


yasasun turk ve yunan halk dostluk !!biz kardesler !!

Author — george Trapzon


A very touching report Al Jazeera. Humanity is one, one heart, one smile. Anything different from that, is not human....

Author — Μ Kyriakides


Perhaps nationalism isnt such a good thing anywhere be it in Greece and Turkey or in the US or Germany or Japan .

Author — Mardig Bidanian


Nation state ideology is poison rooted by Western countries during colonial era. Unfortunately most of the countries fell into this trap. Humans are still suffering by the brutal results of nation state ideology. Life is short and we should not waste it having hatred and ill-feelings toward others.

Author — Milky Way


the common things the old people remember is the "tsinar" or "çinar" tree in Turkish, my grandmother told the same to my father

Author — Kaan Erdem


Exactly yesterday, yes, yesterday March 17, I went out (with my wife) with a lady from Turkey. She's been a friend of mine on FB for about 4 years. She visited my city, Thessaloniki in Greece, along with a Turkish group from Istanbul for 4 days. I asked her - before her coming - if we could meet here and she accepted my invitation. So, last night we met... and we went out to a local restaurant and we talked about the political situation in Greece and Turkey... and we had meat mezes... and we drank some wine(!) She is a Muslim and I am an atheist but so what? In short, we had a great time... I gave her some Greek cookies as a gift and she gave me some Turkish delights and a bottle of Turkish wine. More, she invited us to Istanbul at her house (if we would like to visit her city) and, she said she would show us around Istanbul in her car. We tried to avoid our politicians' policies between the two countries and it was fine. What do simple peoples have to separate? Let not History make us think of the past and divide us. There are many attitudes over historical facts, after all, not one side only. To study History, yes, but in order to make us wiser and able to live in peace... How much, I think, the world would be better if there were no borders and religions

Author — Pavlos Palapanidis


One day i’ll visit the village in Kilkis, Greece where my grandparents came from.

Author — Cag Cav


Wow. It really made tears out of my eyes
Like if i was connected. Hope relationship

Author — Α lυςαδ


I watched this documentary at the end of February 2018: I was so surprised by the reaction of the two groups of people. It was very different to what they expected, particularly from the Greek perspective of modern day Turkey.

Author — nickburton100


A totally useless war a war that should Never had happened will this be a lesson for the future? i very much hope so But i do Not sadly believe it will

Author — polygamous1 Sozou


This video and others like it really touch my heart. My Grandparents were refugees from Mersina [Mersin ] in Cilicia [ Kilikia] ... they must have gone through the same feelings too .

Nicholas John Papadopoulos
Auckland, New Zealand.



I am from a Village near Alaşehir (Philadelphia), our ancestors lived here together in peace. We still have greek schools and houses here. After the greeks left this place, the greek army came here and burned up our village completely ...

Author — mark steinberg