Thursday, 30 September 2010

Papadopoulos and Christofias: the patriot and the fool. And recalling Tassos Markou

There’s some controversy in Cyprus and Greece at the moment regarding the stupid comments made by President Christofias at the Brookings Institute, during which he stated that both Greece and Turkey ‘invaded’ Cyprus in 1974. I don’t want to get into the details of why this comment is so ridiculous other than to point out that Christofias is an idiot and his English appalling and his comments have to be understood in this context. (See here for full transcript).

I did, however, want to compare the embarrassing comments from Christofias with those I found recently made by Christofias’ predecessor as president, Tassos Papadopoulos, speaking at a Cyprus Federation of America event in New York in September 2004 (a few months after the ‘NO’ vote against the Annan Plan) which was held to honour Tassos Markou, who fought the British as an EOKA leader, the Turkish Cypriots in 1963 and the Turkish invaders in 1974, since when he has been missing. I believe Papadopoulos’ comments below are a truer reflection of the sentiments of Cypriot Hellenism than the communist claptrap Christofias comes out with.

It is a difficult and solemn task to address you at this event bestowing honour on Lieutenant General Tassos Markou. It is he, who has the right to judge us for everything we have done or failed to do, in defense of our homeland and national freedom, due to his accomplishments and ethos.

It is not we, who bestow rightful honour to a true fighter of freedom and virtue, such as Tassos Markou, for it is we who are honoured by our participation in this event.

On the morning of the 15th of August 1974, we lost trace of the heroic, then Colonel Tassos Markou, and from that moment he joined the ranks of the martyred missing persons.

It is for this reason that I would firstly like to address the relatives of the Lieutenant General; his wife, his two children, his sisters and brothers; who since August of 1974, along with thousands of other relatives of the missing, have been enduring the drama of the uncertainty of their fate.

Feel blessed and find comfort in the knowledge that a member of your family is unique amongst the unique, as he is endowed with all the virtues that justify a person as Greek.

Feel blessed and find comfort in that you had the joy of living together with and close to such a man, even for those few years between his manhood to the day he became a missing person.

For we should be conscious and always remember, that life is not measured by its length but by its intensity. It is not how few or many years we live that matters, but rather the content we give to our existence and with how much intensity and conscientiousness we define our journey and our dedication to virtues, ethos, and ideals.

The ancient saying ‘it is the greatest virtue to defend one's homeland’ was pivotal in the life of Tassos Markou.

And for us Greeks, there is no greater ideal than faith in freedom and dedication to our homeland.
He believed in this with fervour and intensity and this ideal became a beacon that guided his life and journey.

Both in words and deeds he proved himself to be conscientious to the principle and guidelines of life, that he himself with virtue voluntarily selected as his way of life, both in the way he fought and lived.

The hour he chose to remain and fight for his ancestral land at Mia Milia in the defensive line and not to retreat, he was acting in accordance with his guidelines of life. At that moment of decision he called upon and concentrated all the history and greatness of Hellenism in such a way that even if he lives a thousand years more, that hour will remain his finest.

His actions and his life, and not I, are the infallible witness that he dedicated his life to the service for his homeland and the defense of his forefathers’ land.

In 1954, while still an adolescent, and a pupil at the Greek gymnasium in Famagusta, he envisioned serving his homeland as a soldier and studying at the Evelpidon Military Academy. After the start of the EOKA liberation struggle and while the colonial power was searching for him for his involvement with EOKA, he managed to escape to Athens and realize his dream and enlist in the Evelpidon Military Academy.

Before graduation he heard the call of his own struggling homeland and returned to Cyprus in 1958, during difficult times for the freedom struggle, to serve as the head of the Kythraia contingent once again as select amongst the selected.

I don’t intend to refer to his biography or to enumerate his national actions.

First of all because his overwhelming personality and accomplishments are too large to be condensed in this narrow confines or to the few minutes that I have at my disposal for a speech bestowing honour to such a great son of Cyprus and also because I know that the enumeration of virtues and his heroic behaviour, conflicts with the sense of modesty that distinguishes those who are celebrated more for their actions and less for the praise of others.

It is this remarkable and unique man, that the Cyprus Federation of America had the wise idea and commendable initiative to honour by organizing this event on the occasion of my presence in New York. I warmly congratulate the President, the Council and the members of the Federation for their idea and decision to honour the distinguished fighter and soldier Tassos Markou, thirty whole years from the day that his anxious voice was heard for the last time on his walkie-talkie from the first line of defense at Mia Milia, outside Nicosia, on 15th August 1974.

I met him for the first time in November of 1958, when we were together for a short time in a Nicosia hideout during the EOKA struggle. Ever since then, I became connected to him with a close, true, unshakeable friendship that was always accompanied with mutual admiration and honest, open communication.

I met him for the final time on the 30th of July 1974, in Nicosia, which was suffering from the coup d’etat and the invasion and had become a city of pain and anguish.

I remember as if it were yesterday – our dramatic meeting and conversation and his last words still ring in my ears “Goodbye my brother. I am leaving now and going to the front. I do not think you will see me again.”

During those dramatic moments of the Turkish Cypriot insurrection of 1963, he proved himself to be a worthy soldier, a unique leader and a brave fighter who voluntarily undertook and accomplished the most risky of missions.

Those who know him and served with him in the National Guard, those who know him as a senior officer and as a man, speak of his integrity. They characterize him as a man of principle, dedicated to his ideals and beliefs, who had an unwavering and uncompromising boldness of opinion in what he believed to be correct and true towards persons of authority and others.

Dedicated in the carrying out of his duties, that he always accomplished in full, even to the point of treating himself harshly. Simultaneously humble, approachable and humane towards his inferiors and his soldiers who adored him as a decisive leader and stable supporter in their personal and private problems.

His lithe stature, nobility of personality, and the ethos he exuded spontaneously from his simple presence and beauty, compete only with the beauty of his soul and virtue. The peak of his contribution was his stance during the 1974 coup d’etat and the invasion.

When the coup d’etat broke out, he left with permission from his unit in Kythraia, anxiously seeking support to avoid the worst that was to follow, as he correctly predicted and foresaw, i.e the Turkish invasion.

It was a concise and correct judgment that the invasion was previously agreed on and what Cyprus was facing was a predetermined scenario for the partition of Cyprus. He fought with bravery and with all the strength he had, even when he was alone and helpless against the coup d’etat, against the force of the Turkish invader and even when he knew he did not have the ability or hope of overcoming them.

He fought for freedom, democracy and legality against the coup d’etat of the treacheous junta.
He remained where his homeland called upon him to be. And there he remained. And since then he is missing.

The enemy has passed but remains in Cyprus, as an aggressor and occupier for thirty whole years. And we, the betrayed and unjustly treated Greeks of Cyprus seek for thirty whole years the fundamental, natural and obvious right to live freely in a reunited homeland without occupation troops, without settlers, without the walls of separation, without refugees, missing and the enclaved. We seek simple justice and simple justification.

Some accuse us of being rejectionists and unrealistic when we refuse to accept the absurd and unfair, that they characterize as, supposedly, ‘fair’ and ‘uniquely balanced’ resolution of the Cyprus problem.

They use as a threat the suffering and difficulties that will arise, supposedly, because the great majority of our people decided on the 24th of April to say ‘NO’ to a Plan which as it was did not secure a workable and viable solution.

They say that they respect the democratic right of the People to decide their fate. But when the large majority of the people, 76%, freely, democratically and fully-informed voted ‘NO’, in deed and words they do not respect the verdict of the people or the majority of the people. On the contrary they mock the decision and exercise psychological terror upon the great majority of the people or they just project real or invented dangers that are incited, supposedly, from the ‘NO’ vote in order to indirectly promote a ‘YES’.

They don’t say however, as honesty and conscientiousness of word and deed requires, how much the same and worse dangers and difficulties would have been avoided or would have been worse and multiplied if we had voted ‘YES’.

Voting ‘NO’ the people did not reject a solution to the Cyprus problem. They did not vote against the reunification of our homeland. They rejected this specific Plan, which amongst other things perpetuated divisive tendencies and institutions instead of bringing about reunification and unity.

We are committed and dedicated to a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution that would bring about the reunification of our homeland which would be workable, viable and make a reality the gradual rapprochement of the communities in Cyprus, the social and economic reunification and which will not institute the division of the communities and institutions.

Those who threaten with dangers and who describe the products of their own fears as realism, seem to be unable to be inspired by the example of the life and struggle of people such as Tassos Markou.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

I managed to catch Werner Herzog’s latest film, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? which is a masterpiece and possibly the best film I’ve ever seen at capturing and portraying the essence of Greek tragedy, the madness, terror and ‘ecstatic dream world’ that Nietzsche identifies.

The film is based on a true case of matricide committed in San Diego in the 1970s and concerns the descent into insanity of the killer son; an insanity prompted to an extent by the young man’s participation in a production of Aeschylus’ The Eumenides, in which he plays Orestes, on the run after slaying his mother Clytemnestra. Herbert Golder, a classicist at Boston University, co-wrote with Herzog the superb screenplay, full of demented poetry. Above is a clip from the film, in which the director of The Eumenides is explaining the play to his cast.

The film received a limited cinema release; it was only on for a week or so at one cinema here in London, but I managed to download it as a torrent form Pirate Bay, here.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Bulgarian PM gives thumbs down to Neo-Ottomanism

Interesting article here from the Sofia News Agency regarding how, during a Turkish-hosted dinner for Balkan leaders in New York, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov snubbed Turkish president Abdullah Gul’s efforts to present his country as unrivalled hegemon in the region and himself as sultan of a re-emerging Ottoman empire. The article says that Borisov was ‘the only one of the leaders who did not rise to welcome the president of Turkey’, which means that Greece’s FM Dimitris Droutsas, who was also at the event, did tug his forelock, though, at least, he didn’t go as far as Fyrom President George Ivanov and Albanian PM Sali Berisha who both, apparently, ‘rushed to hug’ their  master as he arrived at the dinner.

Syria uses Fyrom to get back at Greece over Israel ties

Below is a report from AFP, which reveals that the Syrian Arab Republic has recognised Fyrom as ‘Macedonia’. Clearly, this is some sort of retaliation for the developing relationship between Greece and Israel. Greece has been close to Syria, where there is a large Greek Orthodox community, which sees itself as part of the Byzantine ecumenae; but, it seems, times are changing.

SKOPJE — Syria has become the 129th country to recognise ‘Macedonia’ under its constitutional name ‘Republic of Macedonia’ despite the long-running name dispute with Greece, the two countries said Friday.

According to a joint statement [Fyrom] Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki and his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem said they had established diplomatic ties to open “more opportunities for bilateral cooperation”.

The agreement was signed in New York where both ministers were attending the United Nations General Assembly.

Syria is now the 129th state to recognize [Fyrom] under its constitutional name despite Greek opposition since [Fyrom] declared independence in 1991.

Greece fears that the name ‘Macedonia’ implies territorial pretensions towards its northern province of the same name. It has managed to successfully block [Fyrom’s] integration into the European Union and NATO.

[Fyrom] president Gjorge Ivanov also met Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on the sidelines of the UN meeting.

The rare meeting between the two leaders was aimed at establishing trust between the two countries, but they did not directly discuss their dispute,  [Fyrom] media reported.

Turkish general admits campaign of provocations in Cyprus

Turks have always sought to justify the invasion of Cyprus by suggesting it was designed to save the Turkish minority on the island, which they say had been under attack since 1955 – but particularly since 1963 – from Cypriot Greeks hell bent on uniting Cyprus with Greece. Of course, this is typical Turkish falsification; but so unwaveringly have Turks been pushing this line that not only do they believe it, but many Greeks, both in Cyprus and Greece, have also come to accept that our side mistreated the island’s Turks and, as such, that we share the blame for Cyprus’ tragedy and must take punishment for our ‘crimes’ in the form of submitting to Annan-type plans.

The truth of the intercommunal clashes in Cyprus is, of course, not one of Greek persecutors and Turkish victims; but of provocations by Turkey aimed at setting Cyprus’ communities at each other’s throats and promoting Turkey’s goal of ethnic and geographical separation on the island.

And just to prove that the intercommunal violence in Cyprus in 1958, 1963 and 1967 were not attempts by Greek Cypriots to wipe out the Turkish minority and achieve unhindered their dream of Enosis, but provocations by Turkey designed to pave the way for partition, we have had this week retired Turk General Sabri Yirmimbesoglou, who served in Cyprus in the 1950s and 1960s in his country’s Special Warfare Department, admitting to Turkish TV that ‘to stir up the Turkish Cypriots, we carried out sabotage, such as the burning of mosques, and then blamed this on the Greek Cypriots. This was the modus operandi of the Special Warfare Department. In Cyprus, we burned mosques.’

It should be noted that outbreaks of intercommunal violence in Cyprus often started with bombs going off against Turkish ‘targets’, mosques, newspaper offices, etc, which were blamed on Greek Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots would then riot, attack homes and businesses belonging to Greeks, who retaliated. The Greeks, being better armed and more numerous, would often overwhelm Turkish Cypriots, who cried ‘massacre’ and then demanded Turkey’s protection, i.e. Turkey pursued a deliberate policy of exposing Turkish Cypriots to danger so that they could then use their (exaggerated) plight as proof that Cyprus’ communities could not live together, that Turkish Cypriots were being subjected to ‘genocide’ and that Cyprus had to be partitioned.

Also noteworthy is the fact that Yirmimbesoglou cut his teeth in the Turkish security services helping organise the Constantinople pogrom in 1955, which began with Turkish agents bombing Mustafa Kemal’s childhood home in Thessaloniki, blaming this on Greeks, and false claims that Greeks were massacring Turks in Cyprus, and culminated in a two-day orgy of violence and destruction targeting Constantinople’s Greek community, an event Yirmimbesoglou boasts ‘was a Special Warfare [Department] job. It was a magnificent operation. And it achieved its aim.’

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The heroic Bernard Knox

The great classicist Bernard Knox has died, aged 95. Read an obituary here, which contains this defence of Greco-Western culture and repudiation of multiculturalism:

‘Today our literary curriculum is under attack by educational reformers who... are planning to abolish the cultural tradition on which the West’s sense of its unity and identity is founded. They propose, in the name of multi-culturalism, feminism and political correctness, to replace such patriarchal and racist texts as Homer, the Bible, Plato, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe and Flaubert with works that will presumably direct the eyes of the young forward to the new world of universal sister- and brotherhood.’

I strongly recommend Knox’s book, The Heroic Temper, an eminently readable account of the tragic hero in Sophocles, which includes a fascinating theory that suggests the rise and fall of Oedipus is a metaphor for the rise and fall of Athenian empire and society.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Cyprus sends out warning over direct trade with pseudo-state

Turkey’s EU accession is being held up by its refusal to implement the Ankara protocol, which would involve it opening its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic. Turkey has said it will only implement the protocol if the EU adopts direct trade with the pseudo-state in occupied Cyprus.

Now, in order to overcome this stalemate – prevent the EU ‘losing’ Turkey – Turkey’s backers in the European Commission and European Parliament have decided they will try to force through direct trade with the pseudo-state so that Turkey can meet its obligations regarding the customs union with Cyprus. This would, in effect, ride roughshod over the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and give significant legitimacy to the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ – giving it the status of a Taiwan. The Cyprus problem would effectively be solved, entirely in Turkey’s favour; which is why in today’s Cyprus version of Kathimerini, Markos Kyprianou, Cyprus’s foreign minister, is explicit about what the government of Cyprus will do if the EU goes ahead with this attempt to formalise the partition of Cyprus: it will put an end to Turkey's EU membership talks. (Read the whole article in Greek here).

‘Our position is that this regulation leads to the complete separation of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, particularly regarding economic and trade issues… In fact, those who support the regulation will undermine Turkey's EU prospects. Because, if it passes, the Republic of Cyprus will no longer be able to consent to the opening of chapters [of the EU acquis communautaire] for Turkey, since a catastrophic decision will have been taken against us. And this is a message we are giving to our partners…

‘If some people believe that by advancing the direct trade regulation, they will be helping Turkey, the truth is that they will achieve directly the opposite result. Adopting the direct trade regulation will lead to the complete freezing of chapters that refer to Turkey. And instead of helping Turkey, they will harm that country.


And at the same time, will the effort to solve the Cyprus problem be over?
‘We have said repeatedly that the adoption of the regulation will torpedo the talks [between Greek and Turkish Cypriots], make them irrelevant. I want to stress that, as I’ve made clear to our partners, that the issue is not trade between the Turkish Cypriots and the EU. That can take place in a legal fashion, and to this we can give our consent and find ways forward. That which is unacceptable for us is the attempt to ascribe to the pseudo-state a legal status and the violation of the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus. I also believe that the proposal of the European Commission for direct trade is illegal. And if, despite our hopes, the proposal moves forward, in the end we will refer the matter to the European Court [of Justice].’

Friday, 10 September 2010

Greece can’t save itself

I read the commentary below in yesterday’s English edition of Kathimerini regarding the state of Athens, a city I know well and have lived in, albeit prior to the latest phase of the decline the article describes. Since I haven’t been to Athens in about six years, I can’t confirm first hand if what the piece says is true or an exaggeration; but what I can say is that the problems described – illegal street vendors, stray dogs and so on – don’t actually require that much imagination or effort to solve and most normal societies would swiftly act to solve them. Except that Greece is not a normal society and imagination and effort aimed at serving the common good are absent, which is why anyone who thinks that by rigidly implementing the strictures of the IMF, EU Commission and ECB, Greece will be reborn and develop a recognisably modern, sophisticated, European economy and society, has no idea how low Greece has sunk and how incapable it is of saving itself.

Athens a city on the skids
Almost everything about downtown Athens would make one think that it is a city in a developing country, and the situation does not seem to be getting any better.

It seems that there is a beggar on every street corner and you see stray dogs milling around and occasionally attacking the odd passer-by. Then there’s the sight of hundreds of street vendors taking up the sidewalks and promenades with their illegal wares laid out on bedsheets.

The situation is completely unacceptable and makes a mockery of any efforts to boost revenues from tourism. It is ridiculous to talk about Athens as a prime tourist destination when, as a city, it seems to be doing its best to frighten tourists away.

The responsibility for the sorry state of the country’s capital lies squarely on the shoulders of the City of Athens and the government. If they do not take some measures soon to improve the standard of living and the appearance of the city, they will be responsible for the decline of one of Europe’s most historic capitals.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Christopher Hitchens: still arguing

Unfortunately, Christopher Hitchens is dying. He has cancer of the oesophagus that has spread and, consequently, a poor prognosis. Hitchens cut his teeth as a journalist back in the 1970s writing about Cyprus for the New Statesman and the New Left Review, and his book on the Turkish invasion of the island, Cyprus: Hostage to History, remains the best exposition of the US conspiracy to destroy the Republic of Cyprus and partition the island. Hitchens is also a self-declared philhellene and a campaigner for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, especially in the book: The Elgin Marbles: should they be returned to Greece?

Anyway, I wanted to point to the good piece Hitchens has written in Vanity Fair on his illness, The Topic of Cancer, and draw attention to an interesting interview he has given to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the first part of which is above. The other five parts of the interview, which are mainly about anti-Semitism, are here. Hitchens is a polemicist and stylist, not an academic or theorist, and the arguments he makes regarding the Jews, anti-Semitism and racism are often flawed, but his eloquence and seriousness shine through.

* For more on Hitchens and Cyprus, read this post.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Turkey urges Greece to drop claims to Greece

‘It’s quite simple, Dimitris, if you stop claiming Greece is Greek, if you surrender the Aegean to us, then we won’t go to war with you and take your territory by force. Can’t you see this hang up you have with sovereignty is out of date and your interests are best served if you recognise the power and authority of Turkey? Resistance is futile. Please see reason. If you become subservient to us, then there will be no limits to the friendship we can build between Turkey and the Rum millet.’

This is essentially what Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said would prompt Turkey to remove Turkey's casus belli against Greece. Read this for confirmation.

And all this at the same time as the saccharine expressions of goodwill from Davutoglu and Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas (see video above), made at the Greece v Turkey group game at the World Basketball Championships currently being held in Turkey, which, unfortunately, Greece lost 65-76, last Tuesday – it would be Tuesday. Typically, although the Turks played well, Greece has a better team and only went down because of mistakes and self-inflicted wounds.