Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Greek Genocide in Thrace

Good luck and well done to the Pan Thracian Union of America, which is organising for 6 April outside the UN building in New York a commemoration to mark the genocide in the last century of Greeks in Eastern Thrace, Constantinople, Imvros and Tenedos. (See video above and go here, here and here for more information).

Historical pointer to the Greek Genocide: In reaction to two hundred years of humiliating military defeats, foreign domination and retrenchment of the Ottoman empire, Turkish nationalists from 1914 onwards embarked on a campaign to physically exterminate all non-Turkish/Muslim elements from Anatolia, Asia Minor and Thrace. Just like the Nazis blamed the Jews for Germany's defeat in the First World War, so the Young Turks attributed the prostration of the Ottoman empire to the 'minorities'. The outcome was the genocide of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. Modern Turkey was founded on genocide, its leaders were men who supported and committed genocide, the country's national ideology justified and is steeped in genocide. The Greek Genocide in Asia Minor, Eastern Thrace and Pontos, the pogroms in Constantinople, ethnic cleansing in Imvros and Tenedos and the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus, are all a result of the genocidal ideology that underpins post-Ottoman Turkey and is still a prominent feature of that country's makeup.

On the resentment and self-loathing at the heart of Young Turk and Kemalist ideology: I came across this article in the Turkish Daily News recently, by Oktay Eksi, repudiating the 'yearning' for the Ottoman empire cultivated by the Islamists and which could have been written 100 years ago by those Turks preparing genocide. Here's an extract:

'We wonder what the aim or "yearning" is of those attempting to install an "Ottoman fashion"

'Which of the 36 Ottoman sultans, excluding Mehmet the Conqueror, Selim the Brave, and Suleiman the Magnificent, can be remembered with respect and admiration for being far-sighted?

'Do you know of any other dynasty that allows its founders, in other words the Turkish people, to be quashed by minorities?

'Which dynasty, which lived a third of its entire history in degradation, can again be longed for?

'Let's try to endure its military defeats. Aside from the magnificent works of Architect Sinan [a Greek, by the way. JA], we don't know what else Ottoman history has contributed to civilization that can make us proud?

'Can we rationalize 600 years of history with Sinan alone?

'Don’t those who yearn for a return to the Ottoman era know that envoys from foreign countries were far more influential than either the Sultan or the government on very important issues during the last century of this period?

'Perhaps their failure to digest the basic principles of the republic that replaced this era lies at the heart of this yearning?'

Friday, 27 March 2009

Pro-Turk zealots taking over the State Department – and Europe too

Below is an article that appeared in today’s Phileleftheros regarding statements made by Philip Gordon during the Senate confirmation hearing into his proposed appointment as assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia. Gordon is a notorious pro-Turk zealot. Pro-Turk zealots seem to be taking over the State Department; not that here in Europe the Turkish sycophants are any less prominent. Yesterday, EU president, Jose Manuel Baroso, expressed the opinion to Turk president, Abdullah Gul, that Turkey’s EU course was independent of a solution to the Cyprus problem. Really? So, the fact that an EU candidate state refuses to recognise an EU member state and in fact has 40,000 troops stationed in that member state will have no bearing on the candidate’s application? (See report in Greek here).

Turkish occupation of Cyprus is just a ‘presence’
Washington: Turkish troops in the northern part of Cyprus do not comprise an ‘occupation’ force but are simply a ‘Turkish presence’, according to Philip Gordon, candidate for the post of assistant secretary of state for Europe, testifying yesterday before the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.

Gordon’s statement provoked strong reactions from Senators.

Senator Robert Menendez read out a previous statement made by Barack Obama, in which he referred to the need to end the occupation of Cyprus and asked Gordon if he agreed.

The former Clinton White House official and analyst for the Brookings Institute said: ‘The Turkish presence in the northern part of Cyprus is not accepted by the government of Cyprus and it is an issue for the negotiations [between Christofias and Talat] which we support.’

‘Therefore, you don’t consider it an occupation?’ asked the Democratic senator for New Jersey. ‘There are some experts and the government of Cyprus which considers it an occupation,’ replied Gordon.

During the confirmation hearing, Gordon said the upgrading of relations with Turkey was of vital national importance to America and he refused to take a position on the Armenian genocide.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Isocrates on Greek culture and race

In an exchange between an anonymous commenter and Hermes on my post More nonsense about Cleopatra’s ‘black ancestry’, the issue of Isocrates famous statement on Greek culture and race came up.

Anonymous wrote: ‘The Ancient Greeks (or at least the Athenians), as Isocrates famously proclaimed, came to consider Greeks those who partook of Greek education and culture irrespective of ancestry.’

Hermes responded: ‘This inference is absolutely incorrect and is a favourite of those forces of multiculturalism that want to foist on the Greek people their culture-destroying religion. Isocrates, not the Athenians, made this statement, and we cannot know for sure whether the majority of Athenians believed what Isocrates stated. We do know for sure that the Athenians had strict laws of citizenship which made it difficult for even a Greek of another city-state with one Athenian parent to claim citizenship. Also, Athenians were obsessed with the concept of autochthony which again runs counter to Isocrates.’

I want to add a couple of points.

Here’s what Isocrates actually said:

‘Athens has so far outrun the rest of mankind in thought and speech that her disciples are the masters of the rest, and it is due to her that the word “Greek” is not so much a term of birth as of mentality, and is applied to a common culture rather than a common descent.’

The statement appears in The Panegyricus, written in about 380 BC, seven years after the infamous King’s Peace, formulated by Sparta and Persia, had returned rebellious Cyprus and Ionia to Persian control and imposed Spartan hegemony throughout Greece. The Panegyricus is a passionate appeal for pan-Hellenic unity, a call to arms against Persia and a eulogy of Athens, which Isocrates believed the only Greek power capable of leading an expedition against Persia.

Isocrates advocates attacking Persia because it would: ‘exchange internal disputes for external war’, i.e. solve the problem of internal conflict (stasis) that plagued individual Greek states and Greece in general by directing Greek energies against a common enemy and opening the way for ambitious or disgruntled Greeks to colonise the east; ‘transfer the wealth of Asia to Europe’; be revenge for the Persian invasions of Greece in the previous century – ‘exact retribution for the insult done to the Greek race’, as the Greeks had previously accomplished when they destroyed Troy in retaliation for the kidnap of Helen of Sparta; liberate once and for all from Persian authority and menace the Greek states in Asia Minor; and fulfil the destiny of Greeks, which was to subjugate foreigners, who were racially and culturally inferior to Greeks. Greeks were free, belligerent and tough, while Persians were soft, effeminate and servile, according to Isocrates.

Isocrates goes on to argue that his native Athens is the city best placed to achieve pan-Hellenic unity and lead the campaign against Persia. Athens, Isocrates, says, is ‘the most ancient, the greatest and the most universally famed of all cities… But distinguished as is the basis which underlies it, there is closely connected with it an even clearer ground for honour. [Athens’] title to possession is not based upon the eviction of others or the acquisition of an untenanted wilderness, nor on forming a mixed collection of races. The distinction and purity of our line has enabled us to remain in unaltered possession of the land of our birth. We sprang from its soil, and can use the same names for it as for our own blood. We are the only Greek state which can properly call our land by the names of nurse, fatherland and mother. Any justifiable pride, any reasonable claim to leadership, any memories of ancestral greatness, must show some such racial origins to support it.’

Athens, therefore, is the most suitable leader of Greece because of its previous contributions to Greek freedom in wars fought against Persia; its cultural influence on the rest of Greece – here Isocrates echoes Pericles, who asserted Athens’ right to hegemony over Greece since ‘Athens is an education to Greece’; and, most significantly for Isocrates, because Athens’ citizens were, of all the Greeks, the most racially pure and homogeneous – the most Greek in blood. (This last point reveals the importance Greeks attached to parentage and descent).

Bearing all this in mind, Isocrates’ statement on the inclusiveness of Greek culture no longer appears so liberal; instead it becomes a radical assertion of Greek cultural superiority; a call to traditional Greek powers – identified by Isocrates as Athens, Sparta, Argos and Thebes – to recognise that the Greek world – those who share Greek culture and mentality – is much larger than Greece and consists of Greek cities and kingdoms that exist from the Pillars of Hercules in the west to Sinope on the Black Sea and Cyprus in the east; and a plea for this Greek world to be united under Athenian leadership, and such unity would not just be an end in itself but a means to successfully wage war against non-Greeks.

■ In 346 BC, Isocrates wrote another essay – To Philip – reaffirming his belief in pan-Hellenic unity and war against Persia. Spartan and then Theban hegemony had proved disastrous for Greece and disillusioned with the prospect of his native Athens leading a pan-Hellenic crusade against Persia, Isocrates urged Philip II of Macedonia to unite the Greek states and attack Persia. Of course, Philip did unite the Greek states – brutally and causing much resentment – but it was left to his son, Alexander, to fulfil Isocrates’ vision of a Greek expedition to destroy the Persian empire.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

With swords to cut their path, and in freedom to stay

In Radio Akritas, I’ve made available three songs by Yiannis Markopoulos from The Free Besieged, taken from the poem by Dionysios Solomos. Irene Pappas, Nikos Xylouris, Lakis Halkias and Ilias Klonaridis perform the songs.

‘The events that formed the starting point of [Dionysios Solomos’] The Free Besieged were the protracted siege and capture of Missolonghi by a Turkish army, later joined by Egyptian reinforcements. Missolonghi had been a centre of the Greek insurrection from the beginning of the war of independence… and had already successfully withstood an earlier Turkish siege in 1822 – an event that Solomos had already celebrated in his Hymn to Liberty in 1823. The second siege lasted from April 1825 to April 1826. When all food supplies had run out and there was no hope of relief, the besieged Greeks decided that some of the menfolk of fighting age should burst out of the gates and attempt to lead the women and children to safety… while the rest would remain to defend the town to the death. Realising that freedom could not be attained in life, they opted for freedom in death; like Kazantzakis’ hero Kapetan Michalis in his novel Freedom and Death, the besieged of Missolonghi abandoned the watchword of the Greek War of Independence, namely Freedom or Death, opting instead for Freedom and Death.’ (Mackridge, Peter: Introduction to The Free Besieged and Other Poems).

Absolute silence of the tomb
Absolute silence of the tomb prevails on the plain;
Singing bird plucks a seed, and the mother envies it.
Hunger has darkened their eyes, on them the mother swears.
The brave Soulioti stands to one side and weeps:
‘Poor sombre rifle, why do I have you in my hand?
How burdensome you’ve become and the infidel knows it.’

Mother, magnanimous
Upon these ashes they conjure you…
The word, the work, the meaning…

Mother, magnanimous both in suffering and in glory,
Even if in the secret mystery your children ever live
In contemplation and in vision, how privileged my eyes,
These eyes of mine, to glimpse you in the deserted forest,
Which all of a sudden enveloped your immortal feet
(Look) with leaves of the Resurrection, with leaves of the Palm!
The divine footfall of yours I did not hear, I did not see,
Serene as the sky with all the fair attributes it has,
Of which so many sides are revealed and so many hidden;
But, Goddess, I cannot hear your voice,
And am I to offer it straight away to the Hellenic World?
Glory be to its black stone and to its dry grass too.

Exodus: with swords to cut their path
And I see in the distance the children and the brave women
About the flame they have lit and have painfully fuelled
With well-loved articles and modest marriage-beds,
Not moving, not lamenting, not even shedding a tear;
And a spark touches their hair and their worn-clothes;
Come quickly, ashes, so they can fill their hands.

They are ready in the relentless flood of weapons
With swords to cut their path, and in freedom to stay,
On that side with the comrades, on this with death.

Like the sun that suddenly cuts through dense and sombre clouds,
It strikes the mountains on its slopes and there! houses in the verdure.

And from where the sun rises
To where it goes down,

I did not set eyes on a place more glorious than this small threshing-floor.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

More nonsense about Cleopatra’s ‘black ancestry’

I watched last night the BBC’s Cleopatra: portrait of a killer. The title of this so-called documentary is enough to tell you what a fatuous, shoddy, sensationalist, misleading and downright inaccurate piece of trash this was. Its central premise was that the skeleton of a young woman found in a tomb in Ephesus, Asia Minor, is that of Princess Arsinoe who, history tells us, was murdered on the orders of her sister, Queen Cleopatra VII. The programme then suggests that using evidence from a reconstructed skull – not the real skull, which was not found in the tomb – a team of forensic scientists, on the basis of the pronounced distance from the forehead to the back of the skull, which is a common feature of Semitic African and Bantu African skulls, believe that Arsinoe, and hence Cleopatra, could have had ‘African’ ancestry – and that this supports the ‘controversial’ (according to the programme) or ‘stupid’ (according to me) theory that Cleopatra was black.

Now, listening to the scientist in the programme – see video clip above – explain skull theory, it is clear that she is not asserting with any conviction that the skull – assuming, of course that it is an accurate recreation of Arsinoe’s skull – proves the African ancestry of Arsinoe and Cleopatra. In fact, the scientist says that the skull ‘looks more white European’ and that the long head shape is not only characteristic of Africans but can also be found in many other racial types.

And even if Cleopatra had some Egyptian blood – and I mean Coptic/Egyptian and not Bantu African – and this is at least a possibility since we know that Cleopatra’s mother – who was in fact also her aunt – was Cleopatra V, an illegitimate daughter of Ptolemy IX – then this does not make the Ptolemies an Egyptian let alone an African dynasty and there remain no grounds on which to call Cleopatra VII a ‘black’ or even an ‘African’ queen. The Ptolemaic dynasty, from start to finish, was overwhelmingly Greek in race and culture, and in fact Cleopatra’s, and the dynasty’s, downfall came about as she tried to resist Roman influence in Egypt (Cleopatra regarded the Romans as barbarian invaders) and, at the same time, extend ‘Hellenistic influence upon the entire Roman world, making Alexandria, not Rome, the capital of this immense empire’. (Vrettos, T. Alexandria, City of the Western Mind).

The programme regurgitates all the old salacious Roman and Western myths about Cleopatra, aimed to discredit her and the Hellenistic world. The queen is portrayed as licentious, devious, cold-blooded and cruel, when in fact we know Cleopatra was devoted to statecraft as well as to Greek arts and science and that she only ever had two lovers – Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony – who she beguiled not so much with her beauty but with her formidable intellect and charm – ‘the contact of her presence was irresistible’ (Plutarch). On the question of Cleopatra’s beauty, we also know – due to busts and coinage portraits – that not only was she not ‘classically’ beautiful – ‘her actual beauty… was not in itself so remarkable that none could be compared with her, or that no one could see her without being struck by it’ (Plutarch) – but she also most definitely did not have black features.

■ If you live in the UK, you can watch the whole of Cleopatra: portrait of a killer here, on BBCi player.

Clinton calls off Talat meeting

Following the 50-minute meeting that took place yesterday at the State Department between Archbishop Demetrios and Hillary Clinton – a meeting Demetrios described as 'warm and sincere' – Kathimerini, late last night, was reporting the following (my translation):

Clinton denies she's to meet Talat

'The American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not planning to meet with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in Washington in the next few days,' Panicos Papanikolaou, the president of the Cypriot Federation of America, told journalists. He added: 'After the strong reactions and right co-ordination [of Greek American leaders], it seems we have a positive result.'

According to Mr Papanikolaou, Mrs Clinton assured Greek American leaders that she is not planning to meet Mr Talat, and showed interest instead in meeting first with her Cypriot counterpart, Markos Kyprianou. This meeting will likely take place the next time the Secretary of State visits Europe.

On Friday, members of the Greek American community had sent letters to President Obama and vice-president Biden asking for their intercession to prevent the Clinton-Talat meeting.

Monday, 23 March 2009

The Alexander cult in Skopje

Below is a good article I came across yesterday written by Robert Marquand in the Christian Science Monitor on the bizarre nature of the nationalism gripping Skopje and its utterly absurd version of history and ethnicity.

In the article, the British historian Michael Wood has this to say:
'Alexander was the captain general of all the Hellenes. He spoke Greek. He went to war on behalf of the Hellenes. No one in the ancient, medieval, or modern world has disputed this. The FYROM state claim has no basis in history; it is a state-sponsored myth.'

The video above is the opening clip from Michael Wood's excellent BBC series – In the footsteps of Alexander; the whole of which is available on You Tube.

SKOPJE – As part of a stunning new homegrown ideology of history and identity based on Alexander the Great, this capital city's main square may soon boast a huge new statue of the ancient conqueror.

Two years ago, the national airport was renamed after Alexander, infuriating Greece.

In January, despite a recent Greek nixing of FYROM's NATO bid over the airport name, the ruling nationalists here changed the name of its main roadway to Alexander of Macedon Highway.

In FYROM, it is becoming all Alexander the Great, all the time. Ahead of Sunday's presidential elections, the ruling party's Alexander ideology is seen as fantastic, even by Balkan standards.

In an intense media campaign, locals are told that ethnic Macedonians [sic] are the proud direct descendants of Alexander, and thus a people responsible for spawning the white race of planet Earth, from the Caucasus 'to the seas off Japan,' according to a public service spot on national TV.

The 'Alexander-mania,' as critics call it, is partly a vote-getting strategy by the ruling party, known by its initials VMRO. Doubts exist as to whether party leaders actually believe the claims, but they are being sold as truth. The failure last spring to get a clear NATO invitation prompted fury in Skopje, and the Alexander campaign is seen as an effort to up the ante.

By pushing its thumb further into the already sore eye of Greece, both NATO and EU membership for the small, landlocked state remains in limbo. FYROM is also distracted from reducing tensions with its sizable Albanian minority community following a brief ethnic war in 2001, diplomats say.

The dispute with Greece, largely unchanged since 1991, centers on a fight over the use of 'Macedonia' as the country's name. Greece wants a name that doesn't include or at least deemphasizes 'Macedonia,' which Greeks say is their own. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia says its name is its own sovereign business. Negotiations have been endless.

For years, Greek demands were seen as cock-eyed and petty in diplomatic circles. Yet FYROM has been losing sympathy as it roars out heritage claims on Alexander.

'If the name is the condition of our survival, which it seems to be, we are very far from reaching our strategic aims: NATO and the EU,' says former FYROM Foreign Minister Denko Maleski. 'The new way of thinking about history is keeping tensions alive. We are a new nation, liberal and international, suddenly veering into the 19th century.'

A poll last month showed that 97 percent of ethnic Macedonians [sic] favored staying out of the EU if it meant compromising on the name.

'The name dispute is more than a bilateral issue between Skopje and Athens. It risks derailing the main strategy of both NATO and the EU for stabilizing FYROM,' says a recent report from the International Crisis Group.

Some diplomats frame Sunday's elections as a vote for a president who may push Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski for a name resolution versus a nationalist who would not. Right now, it appears that VMRO's George Ivanov, an architect of the Alexander discourse, is set to win big. The opposition is in disarray, and FYROM could end up with a one-party state.

'The entire nationalism hysteria, which only few question as most media get huge sums of money through government advertising, serves not only as a distraction from serious problems... but has created an atmosphere that makes compromise difficult. It reminds me a bit of the madness of Serbia in the '90s, though not on the same scale, when Serbs spoke of themselves as "the heavenly people," ' says Ana Petruseva, managing editor of Balkan Insight, in Skopje.

Indeed, Macedonia's bold claim to be the taproot of Western civilization is daily media fare.

Last summer, the government flew in members of Pakistan's Hunza tribe, considered lost descendants of Alexander, to tour the country. Startled and pleased Hunza were greeted at Alexander airport with flowers and treated like long lost cousins as they disported across the nation, cameras in tow.

Even 'God' has gotten involved. A nine-minute TV ad starts with a petition from FYROM to the heavens: 'Our neighbors distributed thousands of books across the world, containing false history and portraying a wrong picture about Macedonia... Only you know our pain.' The Almighty then responds: 'From you, Macedonians, descendants of Macedon, I conceived the white race. All that stretches to the seas off Japan is conceived from your genes.'

Sinisa-Jakov Marusic, a columnist for Balkan Insight, cheekily observed, 'So there you have it! What better proof than God himself?'

Beyond theatrics, the new program deeply troubles many scholars and intellectuals here – who are being sidelined – for its promulgation of myth as truth. The new taxpayer-funded Alexander ideology has no serious texts.

Unlike Serbia's Kosovo story, based on centuries of poetry and legend, the Macedonian ideology is being both invented and presented at the same time. There is no outside scholarly consensus, no textual tradition; the result is a kind of history-free history. The top-down, debate-free imposition of the new history is itself seen as illiberal and authoritarian.

The new program deeply troubles many scholars here. 'What is the content of "Alexanderization?'' asks Irena Stefoska, a Byzantine scholar at the Institute of National History here. 'Who knows? It is a new reading of history completely different from the previous, not done from an academic point of view, but from a purely political view.'

Alexander is considered one of the greatest military leaders of all time. Born in the Greek city of Pella in 356 BC, his conquests extended to most of his known world by the time of his death at age 32. He opened up Greek civilization from the Mediterranean to India, and is regarded as the first to link Europe, Asia, and Africa.

'Alexander was the captain general of all the Hellenes. He spoke Greek. He went to war on behalf of the Hellenes. No one in the ancient, medieval, or modern world has disputed this,' says Michael Wood, a historian and British filmmaker who has produced a work on Alexander and has another in the making.

'The FYROM state claim has no basis in history; it is a state-sponsored myth. I tell my Macedonian [sic] and Greek friends to ignore it,' Mr. Wood adds.

State archaeologists in Skopje and Athens, however, are busy unearthing ancient Hellenic artifacts, which are then presented as evidence of Alexander heritage. Advocates of this new history leap from the present day to ancient times, ignoring Ottoman, Slavonian, and Byzantine periods when the Balkan peoples migrated and mingled.

'The problem is that no one today can be the direct descendants of ancient civilizations,' says Ms. Stefoska. 'Macedonians [sic] are Slavs. Our Slavonic heritage is accepted by historians.'

Several years ago, VMRO officials claimed that FYROM's majority population had an ethnic Bulgarian or Slavic origin.

A chief fear here is a scenario of partition – of north Kosovo Serbs in the Mitrovica area joining Serbia proper, which could push FYROM and Kosovar Albanians into a union, breaking up FYROM.

So far, ethnic Albanians here have been patient over the FYROM-Greece dispute. Albanian parties are in the ruling coalition. Yet the patience may not be unlimited, senior diplomats say.

Artan Grubi, head of an Albanian civil society organization, says, 'Most Albanians will tell you they have nothing against building a Macedonian identity. But they don't want to suffer because of it. At the moment, the policies of this government are moving us further from Europe.'

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Greek Americans press Obama to overrule Clinton on Talat meeting

Below is the letter in full sent by luminaries of the Greek American community to Obama and Biden protesting the proposed meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and leader of the Turkish occupation regime in northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat (see background here). It's also worth pointing out that tomorrow (Monday), Archbishop Demetrios of America will be meeting Clinton at the State Department to discuss the Talat meeting and other Greek-related issues and that on Wednesday, Demetrios will be leading the traditional 25 March delegation to the White House in which the president will flatter Greece and Greeks for their love of freedom and the enduring friendship that exists between America and Greece, the contribution of Greeks to American society, blah, blah, blah. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Talat meeting, whether it will go ahead or not, given all the hope and money Greek Americans invested in Obama and Biden.

Another observation: this article (in Greek) suggests that the Turks are preparing to announce the reopening of the Theological School of Halki, which is the main seminary of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and which has been closed by the Turks since 1971. I'm only speculating; but if it is true that the Turks are going to allow Halki to reopen – something that both the US and EU have been pressing for – they may well have asked the Americans to boost Talat and the pseudo-state as recompense.

Dear President Obama and Vice President Biden
It has come to our attention that certain officials in your Administration are considering actions that are on the verge of extending the Bush Administration doctrine even further by establishing a Cyprus policy that contradicts both of your clearly articulated views on the issue. Please intervene before they cause America problems that will take years to correct.

Your Administration has not yet held high level contacts with either the President or the Foreign Minister of Cyprus. Thus, we are shocked to learn from a statement by the Turkish-Cypriot spokesman in Cyprus that they are now on the verge of establishing this Administration’s de facto recognition of an illegal entity in Cyprus’ militarily occupied area, while ignoring the internationally recognized Cyprus government. We understand that they plan to do this through high level Administration meetings with the leader of the pseudo-state before meetings with the President or Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus.

You said to us in 2007, Mr. President, that America was “able to rely on Cyprus in the War on Terror and we were able to rely on Cyprus during the Lebanon Crisis.” Cyprus again demonstrated its support for U.S. security efforts by recently stopping an arms shipment from Iran to Hamas at U.S. urging. The last time Cyprus took such an action, Syria retaliated by taking a step toward de facto recognition of the occupied area of Cyprus by establishing ferry boat service to the north. If the people in your Administration follow through with these meetings, particularly before meeting with the government of Cyprus, our country will have punished Cyprus in the same way Syria did, by taking a step toward de facto recognition of the occupied area.

We know that you want, as you said to us, a “solution to the situation in Cyprus…based on the rule of law, not on force, one that is based on UN resolutions passed on the Cyprus issue, and on the very principles and standards of the EU….” Yet, the occupied area of Cyprus, with which your people are aligning you, is an anathema to those principles -- forced into place by more Turkish troops on that little island than America has in Afghanistan. Such de facto recognition will further solidify Turkish insistence on unreasonable Cyprus settlement provisions that virtually all Democrats on the Senate European Affairs Subcommittee objected to and which even a majority of the Republicans on that Subcommittee called “unacceptable to western democracies” in a letter to President Bush.

We understand that the Administration supports Turkey’s eventual accession into the European Union, as does the Republic of Cyprus. Pursuing anything that suggests de facto recognition of the occupation regime would not only be contrary to countless UN Security Council resolutions, but it would perhaps force the Republic of Cyprus to reconsider its stance with regard to Turkey and the EU.

Please overturn these misguided actions by people in your Administration. The Greek-American community that has been so committed to your Presidency and Vice Presidency, and the hope that they believed it would bring to the militarily occupied nation of Cyprus, will be devastated.

Andrew A. Athens

Philip Christopher

Andy Manatos

Peter Papanicolaou

Nikos Mouyiaris

George Tsunis

Tasos Zambas

Endy Zemenides

Zenon Christodoulou

George Dovellos

Michael Galanakis

Friday, 20 March 2009

Clinton invites Cyprus occupation leader to Washington

In a previous post, I suggested that the statement US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released with her Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, concerning Cyprus, which called for the lifting of the 'isolation' of the Turkish Cypriots, was meaningless and didn't reflect an attempt by the USA to upgrade the status of Turkey's pseudo-state in the north; but it seems I was being naive and didn't appreciate how mind-bogglingly hypocritical, cowardly and base American foreign policy is.

Below is an article 
from yesterday's (Cypriot daily) Phileleftheros (my translation), which reveals that in an effort to boost the status of Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the Turkish occupation regime in Cyprus, Clinton has invited him for an official visit to Washington. The Phileleftheros article is also noteworthy for drawing attention to the fact that the chief architect of the US's efforts to upgrade the Turkish occupation regime in Cyprus is a Greek-American diplomat, Gregory Makris. With Greeks like these, who needs Turks?

Hillary does a favour for Erdogan and invites Talat to Washington

The leader of the Turkish Cypriots, Mehmet Ali Talat, will be in New York and Washington at the end of next week to meet with UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser James Jones.

An American official told Phileleftheros he 'couldn't confirm the information'; but another source said the meeting with Clinton is 'certain', even if Washington is now having second thoughts after receiving protests from Athens and Nicosia, who made it clear that any meeting with the occupation leader would be considered extremely provocative.

Nicosia is particularly annoyed that the Americans are boosting Talat and upgrading his political status while the US secretary of state has yet to meet her Cypriot counterpart and, indeed, the new American government has so far not invited any Cypriot official to Washington.

Nicosia considers the American move raises serious questions about America's motives and displays extreme bias, especially at a time when negotiations for a Cyprus settlement are in progress.

One American diplomat told Phileleftheros that Clinton's proposed meeting with Talat would send out the wrong message to President Christofias.

'Before Christofias was elected,' the diplomat said, 'we could have tried to justify such a move by saying the president was the hardliner Tassos Papadopoulos. But now the president is someone who has a fervent wish to find a Cyprus solution.'

According to reliable sources, during their recent meeting in Ankara, Turkish prime minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan asked Clinton, as a personal favour to him, to meet with Talat.

Clinton didn't exclude the possibility and agreed to discuss it with her advisers.

The same sources reveal that the US embassy in Cyprus, on the advice of Greek-American Gregory Makris, head of the embassy's political section, recommended that Erdogan's request be accepted, noting that such a meeting between Talat and Clinton would assist Talat in the internal politics of the pseudo-state.

Makris, who frequently speaks out against the president of Cyprus, is known to be a strong supporter of ending the so-called 'isolation' of the Turkish Cypriots. He mentions the issue in nearly all the correspondence he sends from Nicosia.

The Greek-American diplomat, in his private discussions, refuses to accept that the so-called 'isolation' of the Turkish Cypriots is a consequence of the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Dehellenising Cyprus and Clinton on Turk minority’s ‘isolation’

I want to expand a little on a couple of issues raised by Apostolos and Hermes in comments they left in these two Hellenic Antidote posts.

First, Hermes draws attention to this article (in Greek) on encouragement being given by the UK Labour MP Andrew Dismore to the creation of a bogus Cypriot national identity that would deliberately seek to marginalise if not eliminate Cyprus' and Cypriots' Greekness. Dismore is vice-chairman of the so-called Friends of Cyprus group, which consists mostly of UK parliamentarians but also counts journalists and academics as its members, and whose positions on the Turkish occupation are generally regarded as sympathetic to the Greek side.

In relation to Dismore and his support for a Cypriot national identity, it’s worth making the following points:

1. The Friends of Cyprus flatters to deceive, i.e. it pretends it is a caucus representing Greek Cypriot interests to the UK government, but its real role is the opposite: to convince Greek Cypriots of UK positions.

The nature of those involved with the Friends of Cyprus is revealed if we consider the career of Stephen Twigg, formerly Labour MP for Enfield, a marginal constituency in North London with a large Greek Cypriot population. As an MP, Twigg was an outspoken supporter
 of Cyprus; but when he lost his seat in 2005 he became director of the Foreign Policy Centre, a Blairite think tank, whose most high-profile intervention so far has been its ‘Turkey belongs in Europe’ campaign, which strongly advocates Turkey’s membership of the EU. Indeed, when the FPC launched its Turkey in Europe pamphlet last year, Twigg did the rounds of TV news studios and so on strongly promoting Turkey and its EU bid. From supporter of Cyprus to cheerleader for Turkey. So much for the Friends of Cyprus.

2. Since landing on Cyprus in 1878, the British strategy has been to dehellenise the island in order to control it better. The English wanted to create another Malta and a population that looked towards London, not Athens. Britain’s aim during the colonial period was to foster among Cypriots (though not the Muslim minority, who were encouraged to feel Turkish) an exclusively Cypriot identity stripped of its Hellenic essence and to persuade Cypriots ‘of the moral and material benefits of the Commonwealth connection’ and contrast this to the political and economic disadvantages of union with Greece.

To retain its influence and interests in Cyprus, the British continue to support the dehellenisation of the island. 

3. Allies, whether they like it or not, of British dehellenisation of Cyprus are the Cypriot communists, who've always believed that the Cyprus problem is one of alien and externally-imposed nationalisms and that a peaceful Cyprus is one in which Greek and Turkish Cypriots reject the identities and influence from their mother countries in order to construct a common Cypriot identity.

Communists in Cyprus would remove anything symbolising Greece from the island – national flag, anthem, holidays – and construct a history of the island that stresses the common struggles of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots – such as the resistance of peasants to high taxation under the Ottomans. The communists believe the Cypriot dialect is a national language in its own right, separate to Greek; and that even if Cypriots do share certain cultural characteristics with Helladic Greeks, this is no more significant than the shared cultural characteristics between Britons and Australians. 

The Cypriot communists are in government now and there can be no doubt that if Christofias and AKEL (the Cypriot communist party) had their way, they would try to build an artificial Stalinist-Skopjan style 'national' Cypriot identity.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that AKEL's anti-Greek agenda has never been secret and the only reason AKEL has managed to win elections at local and island-wide level is because of alliances it has created with smaller parties, EDEK and DIKO – both of which are nationalistic parties. No one forced EDEK and DIKO into alliance with AKEL and no one is forcing them to keep backing AKEL. (Indeed, the EDEK-DIKO-AKEL alliance has become increasingly strained – over Christofias’ handling of the Cyprus issue and AKEL’s determination to fiddle with the school curriculum, to rid it of ‘nationalist’ overtones and inject into it elements that encourage ‘peaceful coexistence’ with the Turkish Cypriots – and in my opinion it won’t be long before it unravels altogether).

On Apostolos’ points regarding the comments by the occupation regime’s pseudo-foreign minister, Turgay Avci, welcoming the joint statement by Hillary Clinton and Ali Babacan in which the US secretary of state and the Turk foreign minister called for the ‘ending of the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots’ – which is a euphemism for recognising Turkey’s puppet state in occupied Cyprus – I have this to say:

1. When Avci berates Greek Cypriots for thinking they ‘could keep Turkish Cypriots in peril forever under cruel oppression and international economic isolation’, this is not him being ignorant or provocative; this is him expressing the deep resentment, bitterness and inferiority complex that characterises the feelings of the Turkish minority towards Greek Cypriots and justifies to the Turks the atrocities committed against Greek Cypriots.

2. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Americans are strengthening their alliance with the Turks. I wrote here, more than a year ago, that Democrat foreign policy gurus, such as Richard Holbrooke, now Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, were ardent proponents of the US-Turkey alliance.

Speaking at a Brookings Institute lecture in 2007, Holbrooke stressed that Turkey and the USA are ‘indispensable allies’ and that Turkey is ‘a frontline state that stands at the crossroads of almost every issue of importance to the United States on the Eurasian Continent’.

3. Specifically on that part of the Clinton-Babacan statement relating to Cyprus, here’s what it says in full:

'Turkey and the US reiterated their determination to continue to support strongly a comprehensive and mutually-acceptable settlement of the Cyprus question under the auspices of the UN and in this context ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.’

While it is contemptible that the statement attempts to reduce the Cyprus issue to ‘the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots’; in fact it only calls for this ‘isolation’ to be lifted in the context of a settlement. The statement, therefore, does not appear to herald a change in America’s position on recognition of the puppet state in occupied Cyprus. This is not to say, however, that American foreign policy in the region does not continue to regard a fully-independent Cyprus as an obstacle to its interests and its ambition to elevate Turkey to the status of regional hegemon, with Cyprus under its sway.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Missing Greeks murdered and buried near St Hilarion castle

Below is a report I’ve translated into English that appeared in Politis newspaper on Monday. In the report, a Turkish Cypriot says that during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, he was eye-witness to the kidnap and murder of 17 Greek Cypriots, whose remains were then thrown down a well near St Hilarion castle, south-west of Kyrenia. It should be noted that the Turkish Cypriot terrorist organisation TMT took over the castle in 1964 and used it as a headquarters from which they controlled several Turkish villages and the main highway linking Kyrenia and Nicosia.

Seventeen Greek Cypriots buried near St Hilarion castle.
The remains of 17 Greek Cypriots missing since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 are believed to be buried in a well near St Hilarion Castle in occupied Cyprus.
These details have been given to Politis by a Turkish Cypriot, who told the newspaper that he witnessed 10 Turks (four of whom were Turkish Cypriots), led by a Turkish army officer, shortly after the first phase of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on 20 July, seize 17 Greek Cypriots from their homes in Nicosia and then execute and throw them down a well near St Hilarion castle.

According to the testimony of the Turkish Cypriot, 16 of the 17 Greek Cypriot men were civilians and only one was wearing a military uniform.

‘After hitting them with their guns and kicking them,’ the Turkish Cypriot said, ‘the Greek Cypriots were loaded into a truck, taken to a different spot and executed.’

The Turkish Cypriot added: ‘The bodies of the 17 Greek Cypriots were then thrown down a dry well near St Hilarion castle. At the time and for years after, the area was home to a Turkish army camp and, among all the Turks and Turkish Cypriots who served there, it was common knowledge that the well was the grave of 17 people.’

Later, the Turkish Cypriot eye-witness said, boulders either fell or were deliberately placed at the opening to the well.

According to the Turkish Cypriot, who preferred to remain anonymous: ‘The Turkish army left the area years ago, and St Hilarion is now one of the most promoted tourist attractions in the north. Imagine, tourists come and take photographs of the castle and underneath their feet there are the remains of Greek Cypriot missing. It is more than tragic.’

He went on: ‘Two of the four Turkish Cypriots involved in the murders live in [occupied] Kyrenia and one in [occupied] Nicosia. They live among us, we know them and what’s worse… some of them visit the free areas.’

As to the identities of the 17 dead men, the Turkish Cypriot could provide no details. He only knew that the 10 killers initially arrested the Greek Cypriot wearing a military uniform, then they snatched a group of five Greek Cypriots before taking away the rest.

Monday, 9 March 2009

The Palekythro massacre: more victims are buried

Above is a news item that appeared on Cyprus TV on Friday regarding the Palekythro massacre, which I’ve written about previously here. The murderers were three Turkish Cypriot teenagers from the neighbouring Turkish village of Epiho, who took advantage of the second phase of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on 14 August 1974 to descend on Palekythro first to steal livestock and farming machinery from Greek villagers before returning the next day to round up the elderly and the women and children, who were then systematically killed.

Of the 18 Greeks slaughtered, eight were members of one family, spanning four generations. They were Ioannis Mihail, 77, and his wife, Christina, 68, their son, Michalis, 42, and daughter, Margarita Liasi, 48, her three daughters, Eleni, 25, Christina, 23, and Iliada, 18, as well as Loukas Kkailos, aged 2, Margarita’s grandson. Two members of the Liasi family survived the massacre: Giorgios, 15, and Yiannoula, 27, Loukas’ mother. Another brother, Panayiotis, was serving with the National Guard at the time and was not in the village, while the father, Loukas Liasi, was away working in Libya. In the clip (with English subtitles), Giorgios and Yiannoula recall the massacre of their family. Also, see this
report (in Greek) in Simerini.

Below is the report from yesterday’s RIK news on the funeral. The poor quality of the sound (and my Greek) has meant that I haven’t been able to provide English subtitles for the whole clip. The images speak for themselves, however.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Plato, philosophy and death

More thanks to my reader from Seattle, Dr Michael Aristidou, for taking me to task over the update I provided regarding Ritsos and Plato in my post on Grigoris Afxentiou. I initially wrote this

A reader from Seattle wrote to me about Ritsos' poem to point out that the line

'Before my death I need this final piece of knowledge,

The knowledge of my own death, so that I can die'

reflects the heart of Plato's philosophy, which is, my reader writes: 'the study of death and knowing how to die'.

Michael, who is a maths professor and philosophy teacher, quite rightly insists on the precise use of language, especially in such important matters, and I am pleased to draw attention to the correction he suggests I make to my above statement, which is misleading inasmuch as it suggests that Plato's philosophy is the study of death and knowing how to die, when in fact Plato is saying that it is the role of philosophy to study death and investigate how to die. The corrected statement should read:

A reader from Seattle wrote to me about Ritsos' poem to point out that the line

'Before my death I need this final piece of knowledge,
The knowledge of my own death, so that I can die'

reflects the heart of Plato's definition (and essence) of philosophy, which is, my reader writes: 'the study of death and knowing how to die'.

I would also recommend Hellenic Antidote readers take a look at Michael's scathing review here of Clifford Conner’s A People's History of Science. The book appears to be part of that banal trend in modern culture that wants to minimise Greek creativity – in philosophy, science, politics and so on – suggest that Greeks merely imitated the achievements of other cultures and propose that the Greeks exalted place in the history of human civilisation is undeserved.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Grigoris Afxentiou: 'emanating from the depths of Greek history'

Today is the 52nd anniversary of the Battle of Macheras, the outcome of which was the death of Grigoris Afxentiou, EOKA's second in command, and the pre-eminent hero of the struggle to rid Cyprus of British colonial rule and unite the island with Greece. Previous Hellenic Antidote articles on Afxentiou are here.

Above is an excerpt from a Cyprus TV documentary on Afxentiou. You can see the whole of the documentary here. I've previously made available the clip, which shows footage from and describes the Battle of the Macheras, but now I've added English subtitles.

I've also translated the opening verses to Yiannis Ritsos' long poem: Farewell. The last hours of Grigoris Afxentiou in the burning cave.

As I've stated in a previous post, this poem, written in the same month as Afxentiou's sacrifice, reveals the hero’s ecstatic state of mind as for 10 hours under siege in his hideout he meditates on his life and on his decision to die. It is shocking to consider that during those 10 hours fighting, wounded, in pain, Afxentiou must have considered again and again giving himself up, imagined living and returning to his home and family, and yet he would not be deflected by love of life and instead remained committed to his own death. The whole poem can be read in Greek here.

Farewell. The last hours of Grigoris Afxentiou in the burning cave

The lies are over – yours and ours

The queen of flames approaches. You can't

Distinguish anymore if it's the mastic tree, the fern or thyme
that's burning. The fire approaches.

But I
must find time to distinguish

To see, to calculate, to think –
(About who? Myself? The others?) I must.
Before my death I need this final piece of knowledge,
The knowledge of my own death, so that I might die.

The other four have left. Farewell. What peace and quiet – as if
here a child was to be born or a martyr to die, and you're
to hear a huge cry (the child's or God's), a cry clearer than silence
Which will bring down the walls of the past, the future and the present, so you can recall, prophesy, live with, a timeless moment, everything. But nothing.

Update: A reader from Seattle wrote to me about Ritsos' poem to point out that the line 'Before my death I need this final piece of knowledge,
The knowledge of my own death, so that I can die'
reflects the heart of Plato's philosophy, which is, my reader writes: 'the study of death and knowing how to die'.

g Further update: Thanks to my reader from Seattle, Dr Michael Aristidou, for providing a clarification regarding my above statement on the nature of Plato's view on 'studying death and knowing how to die'

Michael points out that it is
Plato's conception of the role of philosophy and not Plato's philosophy as such that is concerned with 'studying death and knowing how to die'. A more accurate statement would read:

A reader from Seattle wrote to me about Ritsos' poem to point out that the line

'Before my death I need this final piece of knowledge,
The knowledge of my own death, so that I can die'

reflects the heart of Plato's definition (and essence) of philosophy, which is, my reader writes: 'the study of death and knowing how to die'.

Also see this post, Plato, philosophy and death.

Monday, 2 March 2009

The missing from the village of Strongylos

Regarding the 1,619 Greek and Greek Cypriot missing since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, it’s often said that this is a purely humanitarian issue that must be resolved to ease the pain of the families who have had to endure decades of not knowing the fate of their loved ones.

That the issue of the missing persons has a humanitarian aspect is undoubtedly true, but what is not true is that the massacre of prisoners of war and civilians – men, women and children of all ages – has no legal or political ramifications. In fact, those who repeatedly declare that the missing persons issue is solely humanitarian do so in order to divest the murders of their political content – the Turkish ambition to partition Cyprus was predicated on the ethnic cleansing of Greeks – and as a ploy to absolve the murderers of their crimes.
The article below by Elena Hadjigeorgiou-Ioannou recently appeared in Simerini and tells of how her father and brother were apprehended by the Turks in 1974 in the village of Strongylos, a mixed Greek and Turkish village in the Mesaoria, the region of Cyprus between Nicosia and Famagusta. She also demands – and this demand is being increasingly articulated by the relatives of the missing – that those Turks responsible for the abductions and murders be brought to justice. (My translation).

‘During the second phase of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus [14 August 1974], my family decided to remain in the village. The main reason we took this decision was because our Turkish Cypriot co-villagers implored us not to leave, telling us: “As you protected us from your soldiers, we will do the same for you.” The Turkish Cypriot mukthar assured us: “For them to harm you, they’ll have to kill me first.”

‘The next day, however, 15 August, it seems they forgot their promises. Five of our Turkish Cypriot co-villagers – M.Y., O.Y., S.A.E., H.A. and M.K.M. – armed and wearing uniforms, came to our homes and took away all the men aged 16 and over, among them my father, Loizos Hadjigeorgiou, 43, and my brother, Giorgios Hadjigeorgiou, 18, telling us they would protect them from the approaching Turkish army.

‘The next day, they told us that they’d taken the men to the neighbouring Turkish Cypriot village of Sinta for interrogation. On the 23 August, the first time we saw foreign soldiers in our village, a Turkish officer, who spoke very good Greek, promised us women and children that no harm would come to us from our Turkish Cypriot co-villagers. He also personally promised my mother that he would bring back the younger prisoners – my brother and two others.

‘On the 26 August, the day we were expelled from our village, the same Turkish officer went from bus to bus on which had been piled Greek women and children from our village and from the surrounding villages, looking for my mother. Finding her, he said to her: “Madam Maria, I didn’t keep my promise to you because your son has been taken to Adana [southern Turkey; picture above is of prisoners at Adana concentration camp]…”.

‘Most journalists, in the case of the Turkish actor
Attila Olgac, have asked for his arrest. Why haven’t they asked for the arrest of the five Turkish Cypriots who rounded up the men in Strongylos village? Their names are known to the Attorney General and the Committee on Missing Persons. Maybe one of the five has a bad conscience and wants to talk. And why has no journalist tried to track down the Turkish officer who came to our village in 1974, to find out if he was telling us the truth or if he too was playing with our pain?…

‘As a family, we want to discover what happened to Loizos and Giorgios Hadjigeorgiou and we also want to see those responsible for their fate brought before a court.’