A few miles inland from the southwestern coast of Turkey, a town called Kayakoy remains in ruins, a stones throw from Rhodes and long ferry ride across the Aegean from Athens. Ninety years ago, in a sweeping ethnic and religious cleansing, its long-time Greek inhabitants were uprooted and moved out of Turkey. They left behind a picturesque Anatolian village of once-grand churches, squares, and water fountains, all piled onto the hillside of the Taurus Mountains.
Once, its Greek Orthodox residents worked as small traders and harvesters of fruits, wines, and jams, all while lived side-by-side with their Muslim Turkish neighbors. But today, the 350 stone abodes are crumbling and desolate. The roofless houses make for a pockmarked cityscape, but still boast their original stone hearths, storage cellars, latrines, and cisterns to collect rain water. Where did everyone go?
In the early 1920s, after years of bloodshed brought by World War I, came the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, which included, along the western front, the Greco-Turkish War. By 1922, warfare had fizzled out but violence targeting foreign populations in Turkey and Greece was on the rise. To halt the animosity against Greek residents of Turkey and Greece’s Turkish inhabitants, the countries agreed to a large-scale citizens swap. They signed onto a peace and population exchange agreement, called the Treaty of Lausanne, which called for more than one million Greek Christians in Turkey and some 500,000 Turkish Muslims in Greece to be swapped back to their countries of ethnic origin.