Dr. Luca Castiglioni
The Greek Genocide and the Italian Dodecanese
In 1922 the ports of the Dodecanese were flooded by refugees, most of them without valid papers, in bad health or orphaned, with no relatives in the islands to host them. The Italian Governorship had to chose between the humanitarian desire to help or to safeguard the peace of the territory. But Fascism’s rise to power was around the corner and change was about to come. I’d like present some of the policies enacted by the Italian administrators to respond to the humanitarian crisis that followed the Greek Genocide. The exodus deeply impacted the Dodecanese, its administration and population.
p style=”text-align: justify;”>Many refugees at first used family networks on the islands to reach safety, uncaring that the Dodecanese was under Italian control. Also, for some, the Dodecanese was closer than mainland Greece and the strong Italian military presence gave the refugees hope to find safety and shelter in the islands, mostly as a temporary stop before reaching Greece. But when the persecutions intensified and the end of the Greco-Turkish war brought a massive wave of fleeing civilians, the Italian administrators had to make difficult choices, with little direction from the central government, as the local documentation shows.
The rise of Fascism in 1922 lead to new directives and stricter policies, which had a specific agenda in mind: by law, only people who could prove ties to the Dodecanese at the act of occupation of 1912 had the right to stay in the islands, under Italian protection. Some found help and refuge, but at a cost: taking advantage of the forced relocation of the Anatolian Greeks to start distinguishing the Greeks of the Dodecanese from all the other Greeks, to separate them from the Greek National identity, was a functional first step towards the imperial vision of Fascism in the Aegean, of building a colonial, subjected identity.