Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Soul Kicking, part two: Radio Akritas

Here’s another clip from Yiannis Economides’ Soul Kicking (Psychi sto Stoma: 2005), a reworking of Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck. (I initially posted here on the film last month).

In this scene, the unfortunate Taki finds himself owing money to the formidable Popi, who’s not best pleased. Indeed, there is nothing more frightening than an angry Greek woman. The whole film can be seen here.

Posting the clip also gives me the chance to make available in Radio Akritas the four rembetika songs that constitute the soundtrack to Soul Kicking. The songs are:

1. Gyftopoula sto hamam,
by Giorgos Batis (There’s a version of this song sung by Glykeria in Radio Akritas);
2. M' eheis magemeno, by Dimitris Gogos;
3. Trava re manga kai alani, by Kostas Skarvelis; and
4. Se xehasa den se pono, by Kostas Skarvelis.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Christos Anesti!

Χριστός ανέστη εκ νεκρών,
θανάτω θάνατον πατήσας,
και τοις εν τοις μνήμασι,
ζωὴν χαρισάμενος!

Christos anesti ek nekron,

thanato thanaton patisas,

ke tis en tis mnimasin,

zoin charisamenos!

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And to those in the tombs
He has given life!

The Christos Anesti hymn sung at Easter celebrating the moment of Christ's resurrection is the most important and beautiful revelation of Christianity and poignant expression down the centuries of the Greek desire for the rebirth of our race and nation.

Kali Anastasi to everyone; and particularly to Stavros at My Greek Odyssey.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Politiki Kouzina: the Greeks of Constantinople

See here for same clip with English subtitles

Above is a clip from Tassos Boulmetis' film, Politiki Kouzina (2003), concerning a Greek family from Constantinople, expelled in 1964. It’s a good film. Hermes and I had a small exchange about it here. In the clip, Savvas relives the worst five seconds of his life when the Turkish police told him that he and his family were to be deported from Constantinople and that he could avoid this fate if he were to become a Muslim. So in love with the City was Savvas, so distraught at the prospect of leaving it, that for five seconds, Savvas says, he thought about the Turk's offer.

Watching Politiki Kouzina reminded me of something I wrote quite a few years ago on the Greeks of Constantinople following the publication of a Human Rights Watch report called Denying Human Rights and Ethnic Identity: The Greeks of Turkey. I dug the article out and am reprinting below:

“Today’s Greek community in Istanbul is ‘elderly and frightened,’ their fear related to an ‘appalling history of pogroms and expulsion’ suffered at the hands of the Turkish government. Their numbers have declined from 110,000 at the time of the signing of the Lausanne Treaty in 1923 to about 2,000 today.

These statistics of long-term ‘ethnic cleansing’ are cited by the US human rights organisation Human Rights Watch in its recent report on the plight of the Greek population in Istanbul and on the islands of Imvros and Tenedos.

For Nikolaos Atzemoglou, president of the Constantinopolitan Society in Athens, who was forced to leave the city Greeks still refer to as Constantinople in 1966, the report ‘puts an end to Turkish attempts to distort the facts by alleging that the Greek Orthodox minority left its homeland voluntarily and that they are welcome to return if they desire to do so’.

The exodus of Greeks from Turkey is usually associated with the events of 1955 and 1964.

In 1955, on September 6 and 7, violent anti-Greek riots took place in Istanbul. The American Consul-General informed the US Department of State that the destruction was completely out of control. ‘I personally witnessed the looting of many shops while the police stood idly by or cheered on the mob,’ he said.

A British journalist reported that the Greek neighbourhoods of Istanbul looked ‘like the bombed parts of London during the Second World War’.

Fifteen Greeks were killed and damage estimated at US$300m was inflicted on Greek property.

George Lefkaros, then a 10-year-old, recalls that ‘the front of every Greek house was marked in chalk with a cross. Excited groups of 100, 200 people were trying to break into our homes, our schools, our churches. They were shouting against Greeks. The next day in the street, there was a carpet one metre deep of debris and goods from Greek shops’.

The next major event in the lives of the Greeks in Turkey occurred in 1964. On March 16, the Turkish government began expelling ethnic Greeks who had Greek citizenship, on the grounds that they were dangerous to the ‘internal and external’ security of the state. These people were Greeks who had been born in Turkey but who had elected to retain Greek citizenship; some had never been to Greece.

In the years that followed, thousands of other Greeks who held Turkish citizenship left the city and settled in Greece or other parts of the world.

As well as pogroms and expulsions, the Turkish authorities tried to challenge the ethnic identity of the Greek community, choosing education as the battlefield.

Lefkaros recalls the methods used by the Turkish state trying to enforce its authority in Greek schools. ‘Before the start of the school day, Greek students from the ages of six to 18 were obliged to sing the Turkish national anthem. When the Turkish teacher came in to the classroom, we had to stand up and sing another anthem; very militaristic, that “we are Turks, we are the first in the world, nobody can stop us”’.

History lessons, always given in Turkish by a Turkish teacher, were, according to Lefkaros, ‘a propaganda exercise. We were taught that all races were derived from the Turkish race, that the Turks were the first people in the world, that every civilisation is a Turkish civilisation. Even Homer was a Turk. Alexander the Great, we were taught, was a Turk.’

Today, according to Lois Whitman of Human Rights Watch, the Greeks in Turkey are still subject to police harassment, restrictions on free expression and are denied religious and ethnic rights.

‘Not since our first report into Turkish human rights in 1982 have we encountered so many people afraid to talk to us, or who would talk only anonymously. This is the first report we have issued on Turkey in many years in which we have had to disguise the identity of almost every person who talked with Human Rights Watch,’ Whitman said.

Greeks in Istanbul who met the Human Rights Watch team looked over their shoulders apprehensively, afraid their conversations were being observed. A principal of a Greek school continually asked a teacher to lower her voice as she described the problems faced by the Greek children. A businessman shook with fright as he related conditions and concerns. Some Greeks who were asked by intermediaries to meet Human Rights Watch in Istanbul spoke of being harassed by police, called in and threatened.

One businessman reported that he had left Turkey in 1980 because of psychological pressure.

‘The chief of police called me into his office in Istanbul and gave me coffee and cigarettes, then said: “It would be better if you leave, since you have a daughter. We won’t shoot you, but maybe a car will hit you while you’re out walking.”’

Human Rights Watch found that such intimidation continues. One man reported being visited recently by a member of the secret police, who put his gun on the table in front of him and questioned the man for three hours about the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the committee for the Greek hospital.

Education is still subject to Turkish interference. Orthodox priests are banned from entering Greek schools. Morning prayer is outlawed. Greek textbooks and encyclopaedias are not permitted in classrooms.

According to Lois Whitman: ‘The Greek children who attend Greek schools cannot speak Greek freely or learn about Greek history. The teachers who are supposed to be allowed by the Treaty of Lausanne to come from Greece to Turkey are either not allowed in, or come late in the year.’

However difficult life was, and still is, for the Constantinopolitans, loyalty to their ancient Greek city is intense. Greeks had lived in the city for 2.000 years before the Turks arrived and Constantinople is still the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, spiritual leader of the world’s 300m Greek Orthodox Christians.

Constantinopolitans on being forced out of Turkey had to abandon homes and businesses. Bank accounts were frozen. They arrived in Greece as refugees. But most have flourished in their adopted country. Barred from public service in Turkey, most brought with them business skills that have stood them in good stead.”

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Cyprus: remembering the basics

Michalis Firillas, a columnist with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has a timely article here, which reminds us that any progress to finding a ‘solution’ to the Cyprus problem is largely dependent on confronting Turkey’s malevolent strategic interests on the island and more widely in the Eastern Mediterranean and Balkans; and as such acknowledges that Turkey will likely prove to be the most significant obstacle in this current round of Cyprus settlement negotiations. The idea that the Turkish Cypriots have the authority to independently negotiate the future of Cyprus with the Greek Cypriots, Firillas correctly points out, is fanciful.

Below is a sample of what Firillas writes:

‘Ankara is actively working to delegitimize the Republic of Cyprus, whose establishment it backed, whose constitutional status quo it claimed to seek to restore by its invasion, and whose territorial integrity it guarantees (at least on paper). Similarly, Ankara has consistently and aggressively Turkified the Turkish Cypriot community, by an infusion of tens of thousands of immigrants from mainland Turkey. How then is it possible to negotiate solely on the bicommunal level, ignoring the dominant role that Ankara plays on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots, as well as at their expense?’

Friday, 18 April 2008

The Divisions of Cyprus, by Perry Anderson

Cyprus is, in truth, an anomaly in the new Europe. Not, however, for reasons Brussels cares to dwell on. This is an EU member-state a large part of which is under long-standing occupation by a foreign army. Behind tanks and artillery, a population of settlers has been planted that is relatively more numerous than the settlers on the West Bank, without a flicker of protest from the Council or Commission. From its territory are further subtracted – not leased, but held in eminent domain – military enclaves three times the size of Guantánamo, under the control of a fellow member of the EU, the United Kingdom.
(Perry Anderson: The Divisions of Cyprus)

Perry Anderson has been for the last forty years one of Britain's leading left-wing intellectuals and historians. In the latest issue of the London Review of Books, he has written a breathtakingly brilliant essay on Cyprus, its modern history, from 1931 to the present day, which rejects the discourse on the Cyprus problem that views it as a spat between uncivilised rival ethnic groups in the grip of a primitive nationalism and sets the conflict in its correct colonial, post-colonial, geopolitical and cold war context.

As such, Anderson concentrates on the role in Cyprus of Britain, Greece, Turkey, the USA and, more recently, the EU and the UN – who, through a combination of malevolent conspiracy, arrogance, spite, negligence and disdain, have contributed, in one way or another, to Cyprus’ tragedy.

Anderson has produced a stunning, Thucydidean indictment of the cruelty, indifference and malice of the strong, in which he reserves his most withering criticism for Britain, its consistently destructive role in Cyprus, and for Lord David Hannay, Britain's special representative to Cyprus during the Blair government, the ‘brains’ behind the reviled Annan plan in 2004. Anderson's contempt for post-war Greek politics and politicians is only slightly less vitriolic.

Read the whole essay here. Below is a taste of what Anderson writes.

‘From the beginning, colonial rule had used the Turkish minority as a mild counterweight to the Greek majority, without giving it any particular advantages or paying overmuch attention to it. But once demands for Enosis could no longer be ignored, London began to fix its attention on the uses to which the community could be put.’

‘[For] Karamanlis, whose historical raison d’être was sentry duty in the Cold War… Hellenism was essentially for public consumption, to keep domestic opinion quiet: for the regime, it was anti-Communism that counted, and if there was a conflict between them, Enosis would be ditched without compunction.’

‘The postwar Greek state… started out as a British protectorate and continued as an American dependency, culturally and politically incapable of crossing the will of its progenitors. Greek Cypriots were often to charge its political class with betrayal, but the spinelessness of so many of its ministers and diplomats was structural: there was no inner core of autonomy to betray.’

‘The brutality of Turkey’s descent on Cyprus, stark enough, was no surprise. On previous occasions, as well as this one, Ankara had repeatedly given advance warning of its intentions. Political responsibility for the disaster lay with those who allowed or encouraged it. The chief blame is often put on the United States… but though America’s role in the dismemberment of Cyprus is clear-cut, it is Britain that bears the overwhelming responsibility for it.’

‘A fourth edition of the UN plan was adjusted to meet Turkish demands, and a final, non-negotiable version – Annan V – was announced on the last day of March. A jubilant Erdogan told his people that it was the greatest victory of Turkish diplomacy since the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, sealing Kemal’s military triumph over Greece.’

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Cyprus: the anti-nationalist discourse

Angelique Chrisafis (left) had an article in yesterday’s Guardian concerning the discovery of the remains of her uncle in a mass grave 34 years after he’d gone missing during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Her uncle was from Komi Kebir in the Karpasia region of the island and was one of 1,619 Greeks missing since 1974. In the last two years, UN investigation teams have been excavating the remains of some of the missing and revealing that the Turkish army or Turkish Cypriot terrorists cold-bloodedly slaughtered them.

Chrisafis hints at the barbaric frenzy unleashed by the Turks in Cyprus in 1974, though in true Guardian style she is reluctant to call things by their name and instead wishes to accuse all sides of atrocities, an inevitable outcome, she says, of Greek and Turkish nationalism, which, she goes on, are alien to Cyprus and were imported to the island.

The ‘analysis’ of the Cyprus problem that blames competing nationalisms for the conflict, equates the goals and essence of Greek nationalism with Turkish nationalism, and asserts that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots suffered equally and that therefore neither side can legitimately have sole claim to justice, is increasingly prevalent in discourse on Cyprus, and is nonsense. Here are a few reasons why:

Atrocities on both sides
It is absurd to equate the losses suffered by Turkish Cypriots in the intercommunal clashes in 1963-64 and 1967 with the losses suffered by Greek Cypriots as a result of the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.

Richard Patrick writes that in the 1963-64 clashes ‘approximately 350 Turk-Cypriots [and] about 200 Greek-Cypriots and mainland Greek [soldiers] were killed’.

Patrick also states that in this period 20,000 Turkish Cypriots were displaced, mostly from mixed villages, representing one-sixth of the Turkish Cypriot population. They fled, Patrick says, as a result of: Greek Cypriot action; fear that a Turkish invasion, regarded as imminent, would make Turkish Cypriots vulnerable to Greek reprisals; and deliberate self-isolation at the instigation of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, which wanted Turkish Cypriots to separate themselves from Greek Cypriots and gather in (armed) enclaves in preparation for partition.

In the 1967 fighting, in Kophinou/Agios Theodoros, anti-Greek British writer Nancy Crawshaw, says 27 Turks and two Greeks were killed. This fighting stopped when Turkey threatened to invade the island and only held off after US pressure and the Greek junta withdrew a contingent of 10,000 Greek soldiers from the island.

The 1967 crisis proved to the Greek Cypriot leadership that Turkey was serious about invading the island, that the Greek junta would be powerless or unwilling to stop an invasion, and that a less belligerent approach to Turkish Cypriot terrorism was necessary. As such, between 1967 and 1974, there was a significant improvement in relations between Greeks and Turks on the island, with 1,300 Turkish Cypriots returning to homes abandoned in 1963 and more preparing to do so.

As for the consequences of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974: 4,000 Greek Cypriots were killed, 1,619 were abducted, constituting the missing, who it now transpires were massacred, taking Greek losses close to 6,000.

Some 200,000 Greek Cypriots – 40 percent of the island’s Greek population – were forced from their homes and made refugees. More than 1,000 Greek women, of all ages, were raped, often gang-raped.

As for Turkish Cypriot losses in 1974, these are harder to determine, but it is estimated that 788 terrorists were killed, and in the most notable massacres of civilians around Maratha, Santalaris and Tochni, some 180 Turks lost their lives. Five hundred Turkish Cypriots are regarded as missing from 1963, 1967 and 1974, though this number includes those killed in the aforementioned massacres. Rape of Turkish Cypriot women was isolated. Turkish Cypriot journalist Sevgul Uludag in her book on massacres and mass graves in Cyprus, mentions one case of rape against a Turkish Cypriot woman. Forty thousand Turkish Cypriots – one-third of their population – moved to the north of the island after 1974; but this was at the behest of Turkey, which now wanted to consolidate the Turkish Cypriot puppet state it was planning to establish in the occupied areas.

Equating Greek and Turkish nationalism
The goal of Greek nationalism on the island – enosis – was aimed at ending British colonial rule and not at the Turkish Cypriots. Had enosis been achieved, there is no reason to believe that the Turkish Cypriots would have had to endure violent repercussions

On the other hand, the goal of Turkish nationalism on the island – taksim/partition – was predicated not only on the ethnic cleansing of Greek Cypriots from the north of the island but the movement of Turkish Cypriots living in southern and western Cyprus the other way. Turkish nationalists knew this kind of ethnic cleansing could only take place through the fomentation of ethnic strife and the ultimate intervention of Turkey. As such, ethnic violence was initiated, encouraged and, indeed, desired, by the Turkish Cypriot nationalist leadership.

Imported nationalism
Greek nationalism was not imposed on Cypriots or imported from outside.

Nostos has written about the significant contribution of Cyprus to the Greek War of Independence in 1821, the 1,000 volunteers who fought for Greek liberty, particularly at the siege of Athens. Indeed, since 1821, large numbers of Cypriot volunteers have fought in every single campaign waged by the ethnos. Also worth mentioning is Ioannis Karatzas from Nicosia, an associate of Rhigas Pheraios – the proto-martyr of the Greek revolution. Karatzas was executed with Pheraios by the Turks in 1798. All of which proves that Greek Cypriots helped shape the revival of Greek national consciousness as much as having been shaped by it.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Grigoris Afxentiou: Greek hero, part three

Last month, I wrote posts (here and here) about the pre-eminent EOKA hero Grigoris Afxentiou and made available a clip from a Cyprus TV documentary about his life and martyrdom at the Battle of Machairas.

Above now is the whole of the Cyprus TV documentary.

Staying with EOKA: in a comment I made in an exchange with Apostolos in this post, I gave the following quote from an article, which looks at the Cyprus emergency from a military strategic/guerrilla warfare point of view:

'[As] Bernard B. Fall said in the Naval War College Review, Winter 1998, The Theory and Practice of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency:

"Remember that the British fought in Cyprus, and seemingly had everything in their favor. It is an island half the size of New Jersey. The Royal Navy, which can be trusted to do its job, sealed off the island from the outside. There were 40,000 British troops on Cyprus under Field Marshal Sir John Harding, and his opponent, Colonel George Grivas, had 300 Greeks in the EOKA. The ratio between regular troops and guerrillas was 110-to-1 in favor of the British! After five years the British preferred to come to terms with the rebels."'

Now, of course, it is remarkable to think of the odds EOKA was fighting against and the success it had; but one or two things should be clarified.

The 300 Greeks in EOKA probably refers to those armed fighters under the direct guidance or control of Grivas. The point being that there were many facets to EOKA and that essentially it was a mass movement, so that someone printing leaflets, making available a safe house, hiding or transferring weapons or even taking part in a demonstration could be considered and would consider themselves to be part of EOKA.

Also, the failure of the British to defeat EOKA militarily reveals not so much the bravery and cunning of the Greeks and the cowardice and incompetence of the British; but how the Cyprus emergency proved to the British – and to the world in fact – that they, the British, no longer had the stomach to defend their empire, were no longer prepared to take the measures or suffer the losses that would have crushed EOKA and the civilian population that supported it as, for example, the French were (more) prepared to do in Algeria. The EOKA war, 1955-59, was a nasty affair but it was not Algeria. The British gave up their empire fairly meekly.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Dominikos Theotokopoulos

The film of the life of the great Cretan painter Dominikos Theotokopoulos, El Greco (2007), can be seen here.

It is, unfortunately, a bad film, unwatchable at times, poorly conceived and disastrously executed, one of those horrible international co-productions – Greek, British, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian – doomed to failure by its desire to appeal to the lowest common denominator, involving, worst of all, a fatal dose of cheap Hollywood values and, for some reason, largely spoken in English. Make a Greek film about Theotokopoulos or a Spanish film about El Greco, but don't try and be all things to all men.

Still, the scenes involving Titian are funny, I enjoyed the Cretan music and dancing, the filmmaker's love for Theotokopoulos and Crete is admirable and infectious, while the reproductions of Theotokopoulos’ work are stunning. They remind us what great art is and what it is for and give us the confidence and the right to reject the rubbish that constitutes the majority of contemporary art and the impostors posing as today’s artists.

A note on Nikos Kazantzakis and Theotokopoulos.
The ‘Greco’ in Kazantzakis’ Report to Greco is, of course, his fellow Cretan Theotokopoulos, while in his book on Spain, Kazantzakis describes Theotokopoulos as the ‘vehement taciturn Cretan’, whose ‘life had been strange, his words few and like the blows of an axe’ and who replied to the Inquisition in Toledo when it demanded to know why he was in Spain: ‘I do not have to give an account of myself to any man.’ Kazantzakis also quotes Theotokopoulos saying of Michelangelo: ‘A good man, but he didn’t know how to paint.’ Of Theotokopoulos’ spirit, Kazantzakis writes it was ‘pierced by light on the one side, pitch dark on the other; unapproachable, on the heights of endeavour, where, as the Byzantine mystic said, lies the starting point of divine madness.’

Needless to say, the kind of man Theotokopoulos was according to Kazantzakis is not the man depicted in the film – delicate, confused, emotional.

The painting above is The Death of Laocoon at Troy.
An extensive collection of Theotokopoulos’ paintings can be seen here.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Attila 74: the rape of Cyprus

Above is Michalis Cacoyiannis’ documentary film Attila 74: the rape of Cyprus made in the immediate aftermath of the Greek junta/EOKA B coup against President Makarios and the barbaric Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Cacoyiannis’ film concentrates on the conspiracy to bring down the Republic of Cyprus and the effects of the invasion, the tragedy of the refugees and the missing persons. The film is in English and Greek, with subtitles as appropriate.

Attila, for those who don’t know, was the codename (appropriately) given to the operation to invade Cyprus by the Turkish armed forces.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Ledra Street again

The Ledra Street crossing has opened once more after 'police' of the Turkish occupation regime withdrew from the neutral zone and the Cyprus government received assurances from the UN that such violations would not take place again. Newspapers in Cyprus this morning reported that the Turkish Cypriot 'police' were acting under instructions from the Turkish occupation army and not from the Turkish Cypriot political leadership. This is plausible; and we should expect to see more of this nonsense from the Turkish pashas in the next few months as they seek to undermine attempts to reunify the island. (Report in Greek, here).

Also worth mentioning is a judgment in the Nicosia courts yesterday in which Vasiliki Zechiris, a refugee from the Turkish-occupied village of Karmi in the Kyrenia district, was awarded damages of 194,000 euros against the British couple, Barbara and Bruce Weedon, who have been living on her property since 1999. (Report in Greek, here).

Since the Turkish authorities eased crossing restrictions into the occupied areas in 2003, Mrs Zechiris attempted on three occasions to visit her property in Karmi but on each occasion she was met with a volley of abuse and invective from the Britons who refused Mrs Zechiris access to her home, threatening her, telling her to leave and declaring to her that 'this is Turkey'.

The judge decided that the Britons were illegally occupying and exploiting Mrs Zechiris' property. 'The defendants', the judge said, 'completely ignored the human rights of the appellant to her property. With their behaviour they caused her enormous distress, pain and grief, negatively impacting her way of life and inducing in her a sense of injustice. While Mrs Zechiris and her family live today as refugees in poverty in the free areas of Cyprus, the defendants enjoy illegally the fruits of her labour.'

The British couple refused to attend the hearing in Nicosia and Mrs Zechiris’ lawyers will now apply to the British courts for the judgment to be executed, as happened in the case of Linda and David Orams, another British couple found guilty by the Cypriot courts of illegal possession and exploitation of Greek refugee property in Kyrenia. This case is now before the European courts.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Ledra Street update

Ledra Street was closed again 8:30pm Cyprus time, after the Turkish occupation regime violated the agreement that had led to the crossing being opened. Turkish occupation 'police' began patrolling in the neutral zone, where only UN personnel were permitted, forcing the Republic of Cyprus government to close the checkpoint. This is not untypical of the Turks: agreements they sign are, invariably, not worth the paper they're written on.

Ledra Street crossing opens

A sixth crossing point between the free and occupied areas of Cyprus was opened today on Ledra Street, the main thoroughfare in Nicosia.

As I said in a post last month: ‘it was the Turkish Cypriots who first put up barricades on Ledra Street; initially in 1958 as part of the “from Turk to Turk” campaign aimed at preventing Turkish Cypriots from shopping at Greek shops. The barricades were taken down in 1960, but erected by the Turkish Cypriots, in collusion with British “peacekeepers”, again in 1963 when Turkish Cypriots stepped up their terrorist campaign to partition the island and ethnically cleansed Greeks and, particularly, Armenians from the Turkish quarter of Nicosia’.

I also pointed out that in an attempt to give the occupation regime the attributes of a state, the Turks insist Greek Cypriots show passports or other identity documents to cross into the occupied areas. This procedure will continue to apply at the Ledra Street crossing.

Naturally, Greek Cypriots resent having to show passports to travel in their own country, and many refuse to do so and forego the chance to visit the homes, land, villages and towns from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1974 following the Turkish invasion of the island. Those Greek Cypriots who do cross into occupied Cyprus will, in most cases, only do so once, sickened and distressed by the settlement in their homes and villages of Turkish colonists or Turkish Cypriots who were relocated to the north at the behest of Turkey after 1974; the building on their land of hotels, villas, holiday complexes, casinos and so on; and the crude attempt to wipe out Greek culture in the occupied areas – for example, the destruction of churches or their conversion into mosques.

To be fair, most Greek Cypriots who return to their homes – those that have been left standing that is – often meet no resistance from Turkish Cypriots when they ask to look around. Turkish settlers feel more threatened by Greek Cypriots returning to their properties, but many understand the obvious need refugees have to revive memories of their homes and the lives that were led there. Those most hostile, confrontational and insensitive to Greek Cypriot refugees’ pilgrimage have been British expatriates who have taken over usurped Greek properties, particularly in the Kyrenia district, to build their 'dream holiday homes'. I suppose these people don't like to be reminded that they are thieves and crooks.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

With friends like these…

Usually, I can't stand smug, self-obsessed, self-appointed demystifiers of Greek national ideology, such as Alexis Papachelas who writes for Kathimerini and is a commentator on Skai TV, who repeats in article after article that Greece has been unreasonable and extreme in the pursuit of its causes and if only it had shown more restraint and common sense then Hellenism would not have suffered the setbacks it has suffered in the last 50 years. This analysis is absurd, because the truth is that Greece's failures in the last 50 years stem from lack of boldness, fear of conflict and an unwillingness to resist the pressure of its patrons. Greece, in fact, has been too moderate in pursuit of its national interests and the result has been capitulation and the diminution of Hellenism.

Turkey has not been so reticent to defend its national interests. It took the risky decision to invade Cyprus in 1974 and having succeeded in its aims benefited from increased national self-confidence, while Greece's blundering in 1974 lost it not only the right to claim Cyprus but also the national prestige necessary for a healthy and progressive society.

Anyway, on Sunday Papachelas had an article in Kathimerini, (Greek here, English here), in which, for a change, he made some valuable points; specifically that Greek-American relations, already strained by Greece's flirtations with Russia and lukewarm response to the so-called 'war on terror', are deteriorating fast, are in fact on collision course in the Balkans, where US plans exclude Greece and Greek national interests, as evidenced by America's backing for the pathetic little rump state of Skopje, which has the childish audacity to want to call itself 'Macedonia' and expects an invitation to join NATO on its terms. (See background here).

But so what, Papachelas rightly asks, if America is putting pressure on Greece to give in to the ultranationalist Turkophile gangsters and terrorists-in-waiting who run Skopje? Greece doesn't have to bow to the Americans. This isn't the 1950s or 1960s, when Greece was ruled from the US embassy in Athens. The sky won't fall in if Greece tells the Americans – and their Skopjan lackeys – to take a hike. As Papachelas says:

‘It is very likely that at the [NATO] summit in Bucharest the Greek prime minister will be facing a tough adversary in the USA. And this will be when we will all have to reflect upon the other aspect of Greek-American relations, the one in which Greece, a European country with its own interests, has nothing to fear from American displeasure. Just as they don’t need us, so we don’t need to worry about them getting angry.'

Now that's a myth worth exploding: that Greece to pursue its national interests must always find itself in step with America.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

EOKA’s struggle for Enosis

EOKA (Εθνική Οργάνωσις Κυπρίων Αγωνιστών, National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters), under the leadership of Giorgos Grivas-Digenis, began its struggle to liberate Cyprus from British colonial rule and unite the island with Greece with a series of bomb attacks targeting government installations on 1 April 1955. The text below is from the leaflet disseminated in Cypriot villages and towns by the organisation to coincide with the beginning of the campaign:

With God’s help, with faith in our righteous struggle, the support of all Hellenism, and the help of Cypriots, WE START OUR FIGHT TO RID OURSELVES OF THE BRITISH YOKE, having as our motto that which our forefathers left as a sacred heritage, ‘WITH YOUR SHIELD OR ON IT’.


From the depths of the centuries, looking down at us are all those who glorified Greek history in preservation of their freedom, the soldiers of Marathon and Salamis, Leonidas’ 300 and the fighters of the Albanian epos. Looking down at us are the fighters of 1821, who taught us that freedom is only won with BLOOD. All of Hellenism is watching us, anxiously and with national pride.

Let us show with our actions that we will surpass them.

The time has come to show to the world that, even if international diplomacy is UNJUST and COWARDLY, the Cypriot soul is brave. If the conquerors do not want to grant us our freedom, we will take it ourselves with our own HANDS and BLOOD.

Let us show to the world one more time that Greeks will not tolerate slavery. The struggle will be difficult. The tyrant has the means and numbers.

We have the SOUL. We have JUSTICE on our side. That is why we will WIN.


Look at the result of your work. It is a disgrace that in the 20th century people have to shed their blood to win their FREEDOM, this holy gift for which we fought on your side, while you claim you fought against fascism and Nazism.


Wherever you are, listen to our voice.