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TURKEY : THE BLIGHT OF ASIA
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THE HELLENIC ADMINISTRATION IN SMYRNA
(MAY 15, 1919 - SEPTEMBER 9, 1922)
DESPITE many difficulties, the Greek civil authorities, as far as their influence extended, succeeded in giving Smyrna and a large portion of the occupied territory, the most orderly, civilized and progressive administration that it has had in historic times. Mr. Sterghiadis, who continued to the last his policy of punishing severely all offenders of Greek origin against the public order, lost, for that reason, popularity in Asia Minor. When he left Smyrna after the debacle of his troops he was hooted by the people of the town who had not come loyally to his support. He was, indeed, a great man who made a supreme effort to perform a superhuman task and who is suffering from the obloquy that always attaches to failure.
Here are some of the civilizing reforms which the Hellenic administration introduced into the Smyrna region:
1. During the war, under Turkish rule, the morality of the Christian inhabitants of all nationalities had greatly deteriorated. The Turk had no respect or regard for non-Mussulman women, whom he regards as his legitimate prey. All the American residents of Smyrna during this epoch will remember the orgies indulged in by a certain high Turkish official and his friends and the example set the European colony by a prominent Anglo-Levantine lady who became his acknowledged and public mistress. The lady in question was proud of her position and afterward explained it by saying that she had accepted it to use her influence to prevent persecutions and that a monument should be set up in her honor. In one of the first conversations which I had with Mr. Sterghiades after his arrival, the governor general told me that the Christian people had been debauched by the Turks and had lost their self-respect and their morality, and that they needed an awakening of their pride of race and religious instincts. One of his first acts was to suppress the disorderly houses located in the central portions of the town, and in this he met with determined opposition from various of the foreign consuls whose subjects owned these houses and conducted them. Helpless to enforce an edict against a European subject, he stationed gendarmes in front of the establishments in question who took down the names and addresses of all frequenters and thus caused their patronage so to dwindle that they were obliged to close. Playing of baccarat and other forms of gambling for high stakes had also become a crying evil in Smyrna, resulting in the ruin of several people and even in suicides. Mr. Sterghiades suppressed gambling in the clubs, and private houses, wherever it came to his notice.
2. The Hellenic Administration supported and aided in every way possible educational institutions. Its support and encouragement of American educational and philanthropic institutions will be taken up later. It is chiefly to be praised, however, for the measures which it took, paid for out of the Greek Treasury, for the maintenance and improvement of Turkish schools. It continued the Moslem secondary schools at its own expense, the taxes for their support having been taken over by the Ottoman public debt as security for a loan contracted by the Ottoman Government. The Greek administration supported by funds from its treasury, two Moslem high schools in Smyrna, two at Magnesia and Odemish, and two seminaries in the provinces, paying therefore yearly seventy thousand Turkish pounds. It kept in vigor the Turkish system of primary education, appointing prominent Mussulmans in the various villages to superintend the same. It maintained a Polytechnic school at Smyrna, at which two hundred and ten poor Mussulman children were educated and supported, paying therefore thirty-six thousand Turkish pounds yearly. In addition to this, it was especially helpful to those American institutions and schools, which operated in the Turkish quarter and among Turkish children.
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