Turkey and its Jews: Avlaremoz, the Varlık Vergisi and Şekip Bey, the appropriation of minority capital, Sephardic Jews and Spain

26 Dec

Next time a Turk or Turkey/Islam apologist tells you that progressive, tolerant, cosmopolitan Turkey gave refuge to Jewish intellectuals and scientists persecuted by the Nazis during the 1930s, remind them that a few years later the Turkish Republic imposed an over 100% estate tax — the Varlık Vergisi, also imposed on Greeks and Armenians — on its own Jews, which ruined most and saw many sent to lethal work camps in Anatolia as punishment, where many died.

One voice of protest:

Context: from the massacres of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Lausanne Population Exchange, the various rulings and legal restrictions placed on non-Turkish speakers and non-Muslims following the founding of the Republic, the 1934 Thrace Pogrom against Jews, the estate tax (above), the anti-Greek Pogrom of 1955, the Deportations of Greeks in 1964-65 and the general climate of fear and violence and harassment non-Muslims still live under in contemporary Turkey — the Varlık Vergisi represents just one episode in a process of a massive transfer of capital from non-Muslim to Muslim hands in the 20th century – a transfer which laid the groundwork for late 20th and early 21st century Turkey’s booming (or now not-so-booming) economy.

But history does provide us with some delicious ironies: currently, when Turks need a visa to travel anywhere in Europe or North America — given they could even afford such travel with their steadily plunging Erdo-lira — Turkish Jews can just go and fill out some paperwork at the Spanish consulate and be granted the Spanish citizenship with which they can start a new life in any country in Europe tomorrow! Snag…

And follow Avlaremoz (“Hablaremos” in Ladino, of course) on Twitter; it’s a fascinating, informative account.

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