Everyone should have a chance to tell their story. If a single person or a family or an entire people have struggled for freedom and survival, it would be a shame to have that struggle forgotten.
My great-grandparents were born in the village of Urgup in Cappadocia, which was then a province in the center of the Ottoman Empire. They lived there at the turn of the last century among a people called the Karamanlides.
(Izakoglu Family - Apx. 1910)
I know very little about the history of the Karamanlides, but like millions of others, they were forced by the cataclysmic political events of the times to leave their lands and become refugees. Like so many millions of others whether Greek or Armenian or Assyrian or later Jewish or Gypsy, they fell victim to a form of madness so great that they could not resist or even understand it.
In their particular case, the Karamanlides lost their homes, their property, their ancient way of life and often even their names. These are the losses and the tragedy common to refugees of any era, but unlike most other refugees, my grandparents were unable to maintain their true ethnic identities when they fled their homes. This part of themselves, this part of their story seems to have been left behind on the high Turkish plateau.
On a personal level I was never told much about the land we came from or our way of life. As a very young boy, when I asked my Grandfather what it was like in the old country he told me in single word that it was 'bad'. When I appealed to the academic world for information on our tribe I was only able to find a single chapter in a single book which specifically addressed the Karamanlides. Why then, are the Karamanlides being forgotten so quickly and so completely? From the few facts I have been able to gather, some answers to this mystery have emerged.
First of all, this group of approximately half a million people, who lived for generations in central Anatolia had the unique distinction of practicing the Orthodox Christian faith but speaking almost exclusively in the Turkish tongue. Their ethnic origin is uncertain and I have been unable to discover whether they were Hellenes descended from Alexander or nomadic Asians descended from Ghengis Khan, or even indigenous people of the land descended from the Hittite kingdoms.
Whatever their history may have been, I know that it was disrupted by war and political upheaval that resulted in their expulsion from Turkey in 1922. In that year the treaty of Sevres was signed by the 'Great Powers' of the times which provided for an 'exchange of populations.' As part of that treaty, Greeks living in Anatolia were to be uprooted and 'returned' to Greece. At the time of the signing it was assumed that the Karamanli tribe would be left in their homeland since they were generally considered Turks. However, for reasons I have not been able to discover, the Turkish authorities decided to include them in the general ethnic expulsion and force them from their homes.
This then created a unique double tragedy for the Karamanli people. Since Turkey did not want them and since Greece did not accept them, my ancestors became refugees among refugees, and as such lost not only their homes but most of their identity. My purpose in writing these words is to recover what I can of their story.
I will have more to add to these pages as time goes by, but in the mean time, if you have a similar family background and have any personal stories you'd care to share, or are a scholar with sources of historic information, please contact me at the link provided below.