A video of the ceremony held in Fry, Kassos on June 6th and 7th, 2019, in memory of the 1824 Kassos Massacre.
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The island of Kassos, a gem of the Aegean Sea, unknown by all but the most discerning of Greek island travellers. Positioned between the larger islands of Crete and Karpathos, with the Aegean Sea to its north and the Libyan Sea and Egypt to its south, its size belies its role in the history of the modern Greek state and the Greek shipping industry.
In the early 1800s, it had a population of 7,000 and was renowned for its shipbuilding skills and seafaring spirit, with a fleet of over 100 ships, 15 of which were armed fighting vessels.
On May 1st 1821, Kassos was the first of the Dodecanese islands to join the revolution against Turkish domination. Even before this, its fleet had been supporting neighbouring Crete’s struggle for freedom, attacking Turkish ports and cutting off supply lines between Turkey and Turkish-controlled Greek territory.
The Turks resolved to rid themselves, once and for all, of this troublesome island and early in 1824, an Egyptian fleet attacked Kassos with cannon fire but was repulsed by the courageous islanders. They returned in greater numbers, and on June 7th 1824, after 2 days and 2 nights of relentless bombardment, Kassos was overwhelmed by a force 20 times larger than the combined Kassiot and Cretan defenders. In the ensuing 24 hours, 500 men and boys were massacred, over 1500 women and children were taken into slavery, and the riches and resources of the island were plundered and taken back to Egypt, including all but 2 of the island’s previously proud fleet.
While the island recovered to some extent, the move from wooden sailing ships to steam, and migration to other parts of Greece, Egypt and the United States sealed the fate of the island. Even in exile, the Kassiots continued their maritime traditions, becoming captains of many a Greek vessel and building shipping empires which still dominate Greece, and even the EU, to the present day.
Today there are just over 1,000 inhabitants. However, the exodus of the past has created a diaspora of Kassiots and their descendants with a passion for their home island and, every year, more and more are returning.
On June 7th each year, the islanders, the returnees, and the few tourists, take part in the commemoration ceremony of the 1824 Massacre. Although an extremely sad time, the ceremony is also a celebration – a celebration of the spirit and determination of the people of Kassos, and their descendants, to overcome the domination and subjugation of a proud people by a foreign power.
This video shows scenes from the commemoration ceremony on June 6th and June 7th 2019.
Video and script copyright ©2019 Alan King and inAid Ltd