Monday, 23 December 2013

The Art of Eternity: The Glory of Byzantium

Above is a good BBC documentary from 2007, The Art of Eternity: The Glory of Byzantium, presented by art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, which looks at the meaning, purpose, technique and changing nature of Byzantine art and iconography. In his quest to understand Greek Orthodox art, Graham-Dixon visits Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Ravenna and the Osios Loukas monastery in Boetia and correctly points out that the Byzantine artistic tradition is not just a historical phenomenon but a living cultural (and spiritual) experience.

*ADDENDUM: After posting the above, I watched a film Andrew Graham-Dixon made in 2004 on the dispute between Greece and Britain over the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

The film – provocatively called The Elgin Marbles – contains all the usual pathetic and specious arguments against the Marbles’ return; such as, the Marbles are not just part of Greek culture, they’re a part of world culture; the sculptures don’t have a national identity; Greek attachment to the Marbles is contrived, a product of Hellenic jingoism.

Indeed, Graham-Dixon suggests at one point that Greece’s desire to have the Marbles returned reflects an unhealthy nationalistic obsession with the fifth century BC.

‘There is a danger,’ Graham-Dixon says, ‘of plucking this one moment, this fifth century BC moment, out of the vast multicultural continuum of the history of the Greek lands and elevating it to canonical status. By wiping out the intervening two thousand years of history, there is a risk of disenfranching all sorts of modern Greek citizens – Jews, Muslims – whose cultures have also made a contribution to the history of modern Greece.’

After that nonsensical outburst, it’s hard to take Graham-Dixon’s film on Byzantine art seriously.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Byzantium: a tale of three cities, episode three

I wasn’t intending to watch or post on the third and final part of Simon Sebag Montefiore’s series, Byzantium: a tale of three cities, which deals with the history of the city under Ottoman occupation, but I succumbed. Montefiore’s not much of a historian and he trots out the usual nonsense about the Ottoman empire being a beacon of tolerance and multiculturalism, a claim made even more absurd by the overwhelming evidence he himself presents that reveals Turkish rule and rulers to have been mind-bogglingly perverse and sadistic from beginning to end.

* Click on links for episodes one and two.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Byzantium: a tale of three cities, episode two

Above is episode two of Byzantium: a tale of three cities, in which we are taken on a tour of Byzantine history from the Great Schism in 1054 through the Fourth Crusade in 1204 to the fall of the City in 1453.

* Click on links for episodes one and three.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Byzantium: a tale of three cities, episode one

Above is the first part of a three-part series currently being shown on the BBC called Byzantium: a tale of three cities. Episode one concerns the founding of the city up until the Great Schism of 1054. What’s striking about the show isn’t Simon Sebag Montefiore’s take on Byzantine history – which is fairly traditional – but the sight of the barbarians, and their barbarian ways, now occupying and disfiguring the city and the warning this should provide to any thinking Greek.

* Click on links for episodes two and three.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

On Athenian propaganda and the Battle of Plataea

Above is a video with Professor Paul Cartledge recently lecturing at the Hellenic Society on the Battle of Plataea (479 BC) – at which, a year after Thermopylae and Salamis, Greek forces routed the Persian invaders. Cartledge wants to explain why the massive barbarian empire was so determined to conquer tiny Greece and how it was that tiny Greece managed to defeat the Persians. Cartledge – a Spartan expert – is also interested in how Athens, as part of its aim to become the pre-eminent Greek state, usurped the glory associated with the victory at Plataea when it was the Spartans, as the leaders of the Hellenic Alliance and the most renowned Greek warriors, who deserved the most honour and credit for Greece’s salvation.

Monday, 9 December 2013

The phantom economic benefits of a bizonal, bicommunal federation for Cyprus

Below is a piece I came across here, which adds some flesh to the bones of my concerns, expressed in my previous post, arising from the attempt by the UN, EU and USA to sell an Annan-type solution to the Cyprus problem by suggesting the economic advantages that will accrue. The essential point is this: a bad, undemocratic solution – such as a bizonal, bicommunal federation – will create tension and conflict and prove an economic disaster.

The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce sees phantom economic benefits in an undefined solution
By Dr Aris Petasis*

The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce (CCC) inaugurated a campaign to inform us of the economic benefits of a ‘just and lasting solution’ [to the Cyprus problem]. The campaign is supported by the Development Programme of the United Nations (UNDP-ACT) and by the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce.  For the sake of brevity I will refer to the above three as CCC/TCCC/UNDP.

It appears that all three are in favour of a bizonal-bicommunal federal solution which is well-defined in the Annan plan that was supposed to solve the Cyprus problem; otherwise the United Nations (UN) would have not agreed to participate in this project. This campaign could have had any or more of the following aims: a) to simply promote the economic merits of a democratic solution; but, there is no logic in launching an expensive campaign to convince people that are already convinced on a common sense matter; (b) to convince those that, in the eyes of the above three, are ‘anti-solution’.  Again, it makes little sense to labor trying to convince rational people that a democratic solution that would see the occupation army leave Cyprus is better than no solution; and (c) to promote a bizonal-bicommunal federal solution as ‘fair and viable’ using phantom economic benefits as the thin edge of the wedge.  Only the third objective justifies a campaign.

The chamber of Psychiatrists & Psychologists of Cyprus could have easily mounted a similar exercise to explain the psychological benefits of a democratic solution; but they did not because they already know that people have enough common sense to understand the obvious (angst reduction with occupation troops departing, etc.) As professional psychologists they also know that rational people prefer freedom to occupation and security to insecurity. So, no need to mount a campaign.  

The ‘just and viable solution’ of the CCC/TCCC/UNDP campaign is confusing seeing that the term has been misused with varying and arbitrary interpretations and has now become cliché.  Indicatively, even the Annan plan was promoted as ‘fair and viable’ and in the process insulting people’s intelligence. To Turkey and the UN ‘just and viable’ has nothing to do with democracy (reminds one of chalk and cheese.)

Developed and viable economies rest on democratic polity, (for example, as in Germany and Switzerland) and not on racist concoctions of the bizonal-bicommunal federal type that fail to meet even the most basic democratic requirements. A bizonal-bicommunal federal solution will not generate any economic benefits to Cyprus. On the contrary, it will destroy Cyprus’ economy because of the uncertainty and the deadlocks that such a solution will constantly unleash leading to emigration from all communities. 

The CCC/TCCC/UNDP campaign supports that ‘a solution to the Cyprus problem will create conditions of security and stability’.  The opposite is likely to happen.  The constitutional provisions of a bizonal-bicommunal federal solution deliberately divide the country on ethnic and racial grounds through the creation of racially-based constituent states where one’s racial origins determines his/her position rather than ability and performance that are so critical to a well-functioning economy.

The CCC/TCCC/UNDP campaign adds that ‘access of vessels under the Cypriot flag to Turkish ports will result in the strengthening of Cyprus’ position’. Turkey is already obliged, through its own signature, to open its ports to vessels flying the flag of the Republic of Cyprus. Yet, Turkey refuses to recognize the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey’s position is that the Republic of Cyprus is a non-entity that needs first to dissolve itself and then morph into a federal union of two constituent ethnicity-based states within a bizonal-bicommunal federation. Also, Turkey never ceases to repeat that the only plan on the table is the Annan plan which has the dissolution of the Republic of Cyprus as central tenet. 

The three say that a solution will lead to the growth of areas such as ‘agriculture through the transportation of water from Turkey to Cyprus’. As Turkey will never abandon its ‘guarantor’ status within a bizonal-bicommunal federal solution, transporting water from Turkey will put Cyprus’ water supplies under threat.

The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce promotes phantom economic benefits for an undefined political solution (reference to ‘a solution’ is not enough.)  The CCC can better help Cyprus by leading a campaign to promote a democratic solution to the Cyprus problem on which we can then build our economy which for certain will provide prospects for all Cypriots.  

*Dr Aris Petasis is member of the Board of Trustees, International Fund, Moscow State Aviation University

Monday, 2 December 2013

A vision for the end of Cypriot Hellenism

The video above is part of a recent concerted effort from the EU, USA and UN to stress to Cypriots the alleged economic benefits of a so-called Cyprus solution, particularly in these times of economic malaise affecting both the free and Turkish-occupied parts of the island. In the video, Cyprus is imagined as a kind of Eastern Mediterranean Dubai, a base for multinational companies looking to penetrate the Middle East, a holiday and holiday home island, in the latter case offering up its land to wealthy northern Europeans, Arabs, Russians and Chinese. In particular, the video argues, Cyprus could take advantage of Turkey’s growing economic power by seeking to attract Turkish investment and importing Turkish goods. There appears to be no place for Greece in this vision of a globalised Cyprus, significantly tied to Turkey, in which Greeks would soon become a minority on a multinational, cosmopolitan island.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Karamanlis’ betrayal of Cyprus: ‘Greece cannot help you. You’re on your own.’

Above is an interesting item from RIK news broadcast this week in the aftermath of the death of former president of Cyprus Glafkos Clerides in which the prominent jurist Polys Polyviou talks about the period between the first (20 July) and second (14 August) phases of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

The three-week ‘ceasefire’ was supposed to allow peace talks to proceed in Geneva between Britain, Turkey, Greece and the two Cypriot sides, while in fact Turkey used the hiatus to build up its forces on the island in preparation for a more decisive military operation, the first operation having failed to achieve its objectives. It was during the Geneva talks period that the Americans – even if we accept their claim that they were ignorant of the Greek junta’s coup against President Makarios and impotent to prevent the first Turkish invasion – provided encouragement and diplomatic cover to Ankara to complete the forcible partition of Cyprus.

At the Geneva talks, Glafkos Clerides was chief negotiator for the Greek Cypriot side and it’s worth drawing attention to Polyviou’s recollection of the interaction between Clerides and Konstantinos Karamanlis, who had assumed power in Greece following the fall of the junta.

Prior to going to Geneva, Clerides visited Athens for consultations with the Greek government.

Polyviou – who was part of the Cypriot team – says that in Athens, Clerides met with Karamanlis and minister of defence, Evangelos Averoff.

Karamanlis said to Clerides: ‘The situation is exceptionally difficult. Our armed forces are in a chaotic and deficient state. I can’t predict what will happen, but I’m 70-80 percent certain Greece cannot help Cyprus.’

Karamanlis’ advice to Clerides was to prolong the negotiations in Geneva in order to give Greece time to influence the positions of the major powers, which were favouring Turkey. Clerides responded to Karamanlis that, in his view, in Geneva the Turks were going to demand partition and that, in the event of the Greek Cypriots not agreeing to this, would resume hostilities to bring about their aim. Clerides asked Karamanlis what Greece proposed to do should Turkey resume military operations against Cyprus.

Karamanlis’ reply was: ‘Glafkos, I can’t tell you anymore than I’ve already told you.’

With the Greek Cypriots unwilling to accept the Turkish demands for partition and the Turks not prepared to further delay their military plans, Turkey broke off the Geneva talks. On 14 August, the Greek Cypriot delegation flew to Athens to seek the support of Karamanlis and the Greek government against what seemed imminent Turkish attack.

In a dramatic meeting, Polyviou recalls Karamanlis telling Clerides: ‘Greece cannot help you. You’re on your own.’

To which Clerides replied: ‘Mr President, in the name of God, can’t you offer us anything at all? I appreciate you cannot send land forces; but can’t you at least send a ship, something, anything, to divert the Turks?’

Karamanlis: ‘Glafkos, we cannot do anything.’

Clerides: ‘So what did [Greek foreign minister, Georgios] Mavros mean when he told us in Geneva, “in a choice between dishonour and war, we prefer war”? Why did he tell us this?’

Karamanlis: ‘I don’t know. I’m not Mavros.’

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Werner Herzog and Cormac McCarthy on civilisation, tragedy and the end of the world

Good discussion in the above video on the links between art and science, the origins of civilisation and the end of the universe, involving Werner Herzog and Cormac McCarthy, during which the American writer responds to the charge that he depicts the world as ‘grim’ by saying: 
‘If you look at classical literature, the core of literature is the idea of tragedy. You don’t really learn much from the good things that happen to you. Tragedy is at the core of human experience. It’s what we have to deal with. That’s what makes life difficult and that’s what we want to know about, what we want to know how to deal with. It’s unavoidable. There’s nothing you can do to forestall it; so how do you deal with it? All classical literature has to do with things that happen to people they really rather hadn’t.’

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Χώμα που περπάτησα, γη που νοσταλγώ

Above is an uplifting video featuring supporters of Anorthosis – the sporting club from the Turkish-occupied Greek city of Ammochostos (Famagusta) – during a Challenge Cup volleyball match with the Turkish team Fenerbache played last week in Limassol. Regarding the history of Anorthosis and who and what it represents, it’s worth bearing the following in mind:

Anorthosis was formed in 1911 as a cultural and political organisation aimed at promoting and mobilising Hellenism in the Famagusta region of Cyprus and took its name from Eleftherios Venizelos’ rallying cry of Anorthosis (Regeneration) as he prepared Greece for the realisation of the Great Idea.

Anorthosis collected funds and sent volunteers to the Balkan and Asia Minor wars and, during the EOKA period 1955-59, the club played a leading role. EOKA stalwarts Kyriakos Matsis, Grigoris Afxentiou, Antonis Papadopoulous, Pavlos Pavlakis and Panagiotis Toumazos were all members of Anorthosis; and in 1958 the English blew up Anorthosis’ headquarters in Famagusta as punishment for the club’s EOKA connections.

Currently, Anorthosis is a club in exile, and the majority of its supporters – who come from the city of Famagusta, its satellite towns and villages, and the Karpasia peninsula – are refugees.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Golden Dawn, hysteria, hatred and two inevitable murders

It is no surprise that the hysteria and hatred directed at Golden Dawn, the attempt to categorise it as a criminal organisation and demonise and humiliate its members, in a country that has for forty years tolerated left-wing brutality and violence, in which recent calls for the ‘hanging of fascists’ were deemed legitimate, was going to result in the incident yesterday in Athens that saw leftist terrorists shoot to death two Golden Dawn supporters and seriously injure another. 

What nauseating hypocrisy that all those politicians and journalists who were last month jumping for joy at the arrest and incarceration of leading Golden Dawn figures, creating an atmosphere of loathing, polarisation and dehumanisation, now have the audacity to plead for national unity and calm. Last month’s state crackdown on Golden Dawn on trumped up charges designed to drive it from the political scene was never going to succeed so long as the reasons for Golden Dawn’s emergence remained unaddressed and now, with this predictable attack by leftist terrorists on Golden Dawn, we have a scenario where Golden Dawn, rather than being shown up for what it is – a party with little to contribute to the regeneration of Greece – is again dominating the political limelight, from which it will be able to enhance its public appeal by portraying itself as a victim of a corrupt and dishonest system.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Elytis on the heroic resistance of Greece

Above is a fascinating short from Finos Films capturing the liberation of Athens from German occupation in October 1944, while below is a repeat post with an extract from Odysseas Elytis’ poem From the Heroic and Elegiac Song for the Lost Second Lieutenant of the Albanian Campaign, followed by reflections from the poet on how his participation in repelling the Axis invasion shaped his poetry and view of Greece.  

From the Heroic and Elegiac Song for the Lost Second Lieutenant of the Albanian Campaign
Now the dream in the blood throbs more swiftly
The truest moment of the world rings out:
Greeks show the way in the darkness:
For you the eyes of the sun shall fill with tears of joy.

Rainbow-beaten shores fall into the water
Ships with open-sails voyage on the meadows
The most innocent girls
Run naked in men’s eyes
And modesty shouts from behind the hedge
Boys! There is no other earth more beautiful

The truest moment of the world rings out!

With a morning stride on the growing grass
He is continually ascending;
Around him those passions glow that once
Were lost in the solitude of sin;
Passions flame up, the neighbours of his heart;
Birds greet him, they seem to him his companions
‘Birds, my dear birds, this is where death ends!’
‘Comrades, my dear comrades, this is where life begins!’
The dew of heavenly beauty glistens in his hair.

Bells of crystal are ringing far away
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow: the Easter of God!

Elytis on his war experiences
As a reserve officer, the poet Odysseas Elytis was called up immediately after the Italian invasion and served on the Albanian front with the rank of second lieutenant in the First Army Corps. The translator Kimon Friar says of Eltyis’ war experiences that the poet ‘saw in the heroic resistance of the Greek people against superior odds, throughout their long history, a recklessness of spirit, a divine madness. In the spontaneous reaction of the Greek people to Mussolini’s invasion, he saw the victory of a beautiful rashness over self-calculation, an instinct that could distinguish between good and evil in a time of danger’.

In a letter to Friar, Elytis describes the impact of the war on his life and poetry:

‘A kind of “metaphysical modesty” dominated me. The virtues I found embodied and living in my comrades formed in synthesis a brave young man of heroic stature, one whom I saw in every period of our history. They had killed him a thousand times, and a thousand times he had sprung up again, breathing and alive. His was no doubt the measure and worth of our civilisation, compounded of his love not of death but of life. It was with his love of Freedom that he recreated life out of the stuff of death.

‘Later, with an order in my pocket, I set out to meet my new army unit at the front somewhere between the Akrokeravnia Mountains and Tepeleni. One by one, I abandoned the implements of my material existence. My beard became more and more unkempt. The lice swarmed and multiplied. Mud and rain disfigured my uniform. Snow covered everything in sight. And when the time came for me to take the final leap, to understand what role I was to play in terms of the enemy, I was no longer anything but a creature of slight substance who – exactly because of this – carried within him all the values of material life stressed to their breaking point and conducted to their spiritual analogy. Was this a kind of “contemporary idealism?” That very night it was necessary for me to proceed on a narrow path where I met repeatedly with stretcher-bearers who with great difficulty tried to keep in balance the heavily wounded whom they were bearing to the rear. I shall never forget the groan of those wounded. They made me, in the general over-excitement of my mind, conjure up that “it is not possible,” that “it cannot otherwise be done,” which is the reversion of justice on this earth of ours. They made me swear an oath in the name of the Resurrection of that brave Hellenic Hero, who became now for me the Second Lieutenant of the Albanian Campaign, that I would advance into battle with this talisman of my lyrical idea… Nothing further remained for me but to fulfill my vow, to give form to the Second Lieutenant of the Albanian Campaign on multiple levels woven together with the traditions of Greek history, but also involved – in particular – within and beyond death, in the Resurrection, the Easter of God.’

Saturday, 26 October 2013

John Cassavetes on the merits of Socrates

Above is a very funny clip from I’m Almost Not Crazy, the documentary on the making of John Cassavetes’ last film Love Streams (1984). In the clip, which is like a scene from a Cassavetes’ movie, Cassavetes and his cousin and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael passionately argue about the merits of Socrates over a game of backgammon. Below is an interview given by Phedon Papamichael to the Independent Film Quarterly’s Stuart Alson in 2006, in which Papamichael discusses working with Cassavetes.

Phedon Papamichael: My life with John Cassavetes
Being in the film business, sometimes I am asked to serve on the Jury at film festivals. If my schedule permits, I accept the offer


In March 2006, I flew 15 hours from Las Vegas to Cyprus for the their first annual film festival, Cyprus International Film Festival (CIFF). During this business trip I found such a gem. However it was not a film, as I had hoped and expected, but it was a person. Had I not served on the Jury Committee in Cyprus, I would never have met this man.

Phedon Papamichael is 84 years old. He had a film career in Los Angeles working on John Cassavetes’ films.

IFQ: You worked with John Cassavetes for 25 years on his films. What was your job in the film business and how did you get started?

PP: I started doing art design for theatre in France. When I came back to Greece, I met Jules Dassin. He said forget the theatre; let’s make movies. I said that I didn’t know what to do, but he said don’t worry. I did two movies with him, Never on Sunday and Phaedra. Then John Cassavetes came to our home to visit. He was my second cousin. He asked me to come to America to make movies together. I did not go right away, but eventually I did go and we lived together for 25 years and made movies.

IFQ: What was it like working together? 

PP: It was wonderful. I was in charge of art design and costumes. However, whatever movies we made – we made together. We shot and edited them together in the house where we lived. We had two moviolas in the garage.

IFQ: How did you distribute the films?

PP: Many times, we had no money. We would go to theatres and ask them to play the films and they could keep all of the money. Then in the middle of the night, we would go around town and hang posters ourselves. It was all about the art and the work. John Cassavetes was the first independent filmmaker. He did not want money from some moneyman or studio because he did not want them telling him what to do. Everything was done on deferments and everyone worked for free or for points.

IFQ: How did you fund the projects?

PP: John and his wife would do acting jobs and put the money they made into the films. Also if things were tight John would turn to the actors, like Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara, and say, ‘Hey you stingy Peter Falk, put 50,000 dollars in to the film so we can finish.’ And they would. It was all about the film, not the money and everyone wanted to work with John. Steven Speilberg was our production assistant. He would go and get coffee and run errands just to learn from John.

IFQ: What were your favorite movies that you made?

PP: I did not have a favorite movie. It was how we made certain movies that made them my favorite. I remember A Woman Under the Influence. We had no money at all. We had no money to feed the crew. We ate at McDonalds. But John said, ‘I don’t care we are going to make this movie.’ It was that type of adventurous independence that I loved. With Faces, it took us four years to finish the film. We would run out of money and John and his wife would take acting jobs and then come back and work on the film some more. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie was great fun too.

IFQ: What was the worst thing that happened when you worked with John?

PP: The worst thing that happened was one time we got into a fistfight with each other.

IFQ: What happened?

PP: When we had breakfast together that morning, John told me that he wanted something a certain way on the set and I disagreed. When he came to shoot, he saw that I had not done what he wanted. We got into an argument and I said I was leaving. He shouted, ‘No one walks off my set.’ Of course, the set was actually in our house. I went to leave and we got into a physical fight. I ran away and he tried to chase me but could not catch me. I called later that night after we cooled off. He said to come home. When we saw each other, we kissed and that was the end of that.

IFQ: What happened after John died?

PP: I tried to find someone else with the same love and independence to work with, but I could never find the same happiness. I tried Peter Bogdanovich and others, but it was never the same. 
I stayed in Los Angeles and worked on more films like the The Fabulous Baker Boys. I tried to help new people and give them advice, like Leonardo DiCaprio and others. He had a big party for me last time I went back.

IFQ: Why did you finally leave Los Angeles and return to Greece?

PP: Well, I just could not find anyone to work with who was like John. The last thing I did was with Charlie Sheen, Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage, Nick Cassavetes [John’s son].

 Everyone put in some money and we opened a beautiful production office called Ventura Productions. We planned to make films. We had great offices and receptionists, but everyone just used the place to hang out and party. We did make one film with Gérard Depardieu because he wanted to do a John Cassavetes’ script. 

But that was it, so I came back to Greece where I started my life. I spend time helping new people, when I can and when they will listen. My son [Phedon Papamichael II] and his success give me happiness. [Phedon Papamichael II is a cinematographer whose credits include: Walk the Line, Sideways, Identity, America’s Sweethearts, Patch Adams, and Poison Ivy]. 

IFQ: What advice do you have for new people starting in the film business?

PP: I tell them: If you have talent and you love that talent, then you should go for what you want and do not give up just because things don't go your way sometimes. If you have talent and do not love that talent, then don’t worry about it. I know many people who are talented but do not love their talent.

IFQ: What about stress?

PP: Stress is the worst thing for anyone. Stress can kill a person. You must keep your mind clear and deal with what is in front of you.

Monday, 21 October 2013

The 300 Spartans

The 300 Spartans (1962) – purporting to tell the tale of the Battle of Thermopylae – is pretty silly but not as bad as I remember. When I first saw the film a few years ago, it struck me as a shoddy piece of Cold War propaganda that would have also satisfied the Greek state (particularly the Royal Family and Royal Hellenic Army) – which was heavily involved in facilitating the film. I found the crude patriotic exhortations and calls for Greek unity under the leadership of a brave and benevolent monarch a little hard to stomach. However, watching it again, I enjoyed the spectacle and David Farrar’s portrayal of the inept and bewildered King Xerxes. ‘This is no answer. I’m surrounded by incompetent fools,’ he bellows at his generals after the Spartans, in probably the best scene in the film, infiltrate and set alight the Persian camp. Above is the trailer for the film, which you can watch in its entirety, and in good quality, here.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

How the EU funds Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus

Below are extracts from a paper published by Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorvich condemning the recent decision by the European Commission to prohibit EU funding of Israeli activity in territories it has occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, i.e. the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The two academics argue that the EU’s Israel Grants Guidelines discriminates against Israel and rely on their claim of double standards on the case of EU funding of projects in Turkish-occupied Cyprus. If, Bell and Kontorvich argue, the EU believes it is acting according to international law by denying funds to Israel deemed to be sustaining its occupation of Palestinian territories, then how can it justify its programme of grants and projects in Turkish-occupied Cyprus?

The extracts below are where Bell and Kontorvich refer to EU policy in Cyprus. You can read the whole paper here.

EU’s Israel Grants Guidelines: A legal and Policy Analysis.
On June 30, 2013, the European Commission adopted… a notice with Guidelines forbidding the allocation of European Union grants, prizes and financial instruments to any Israeli “entity” that has an address in the West Bank, Golan Heights, “east Jerusalem” or Gaza Strip…

Proponents of the Guidelines claim that they are mandated by international law. Supporters of the measure have uniformly echoed this justification: because the EU regards the territories as occupied by Israel, international law obligates it to ensure its monies do not support Israeli activities there…

The ill-considered Guidelines expose the European Union to considerable legal risk. The legal theory underlying the Guidelines, as promoted by European officials, is that Israeli “settlements” are illegal and that the EU must cut off grants that “support” settlement activity lest the EU be implicated in the illegality. However, the EU currently and openly supports similar “settlement” activity elsewhere in the world. For instance, the EU has a grant program specifically aimed at funding Turkish “settlers” of Northern Cyprus. If the EU is serious about the legal theory it is using to promote the Guidelines, it means that the EU violates international law with its grant programs in Northern Cyprus. Future challengers to EU policy in Northern Cyprus, as well as other occupied territories like Western Sahara, will use EU arguments regarding the Guidelines to convince courts to rule that EU policy violates international law.

The Guidelines forbid grantees to engage in activities – or be located in – the disputed areas. EU officials falsely argue that this is required by international law, a policy which falls in line with its opposition to potential Israeli claims of sovereignty in the disputed areas. Yet, in Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus, the EU operates a grant program aimed at Turkish Cypriot settlers who were transferred there by the Turkish government.

The North Cyprus program is only the most blatant of numerous EU programs that provide funds to occupation and settler regimes.

Case Study: The EU directly and indirectly funds Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus, despite regarding it as illegal.

The EU knowingly and purposefully gives direct grants, funding, etc, to Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus. The EU does so even though the EU regards Northern Cyprus as occupied (indeed, it is an occupation of an EU member state). The EU’s official policy is that Turkey must end its occupation, and the Turkish invasion was condemned by every international institution from the Security Council on down. Nonetheless, the EU maintains an entire program to direct funds to Turks in Northern Cyprus. They even put out a nice colorful brochure last year.

The grants are pursuant to a 2006 Regulation adopted by the EU to “end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community,” and allocated 259 million Euros over five years. The program now operates on a 28 million Euro a year allocation (even this small sum is roughly 0.8 percent of Northern Cyprus’s GDP).

EU-funded projects include study abroad scholarships; grants to small and medium-sized businesses for the purpose of developing and diversifying the private sector; various kinds of infrastructure improvements (iterate and telecom improvements, traffic safety, waste disposal, technical assistance to farmers); “community development grants”; funding to upgrade “cultural heritage” sites, etc. The EU program even puts on a musical concert.

Importantly, the vast majority of the Northern Cyprus inhabitants are Turkish settlers who arrived subsequent to the invasion in 1974 and who do not have EU citizenship. Yet, none of the Commission’s grant or contracting documents limit eligibility or participation to EU citizens.

Can one imagine a similar EU project in the West Bank funding Israeli traffic safety, or providing grants to Jewish West Bank residents for study abroad and grants to Jewish-owned small and medium-sized businesses. Could one imagine one funding Jewish cultural events in the West Bank?
The relevant EU resolutions and reports on the EU’s Northern Cyprus program make no mention of the international legal issues arising from this policy, though they do note the “difficult” or “unique” political context. One reason the EU gives for the funding is that it is preparing for reunification of an island that is technically in the EU. Yet, it is important to note that funding goes far beyond particular reunification projects, and gives grants to Turkish private business entities, and builds the infrastructure of the occupying government.

The EU’s own reports make clear that preparing for possible reunification is only one goal of the program, and general welfare-improvement goals dominate the considerations behind funding. The EU is doing exactly what it claims that international law prohibits when it comes to Israel.

The contradiction between the Northern Cyprus policy and the Israel policy is much starker. The Guidelines on Israel aim to regulate groups based in Israel proper and they go out of their way to make sure no money might be incidentally spent on “occupation.” Yet no such territorial restrictions are placed on EU funding to Turkey itself, despite the fact that Northern Cyprus’s economy is dominated by Turkish mainland-based entities and direct subsidies from Ankara. The EU funding of Northern Cyprus goes even further than that: it is a specific project entirely dedicated to funding occupation activities.

Indeed, the EU maintains an office in Northern Cyprus to oversee its over “1000 grant contracts… to NGOs, SMEs, farmers, rural communities, schools, and students.” This office liaises directly with the Turkish occupation regime in the territory (which styles itself as an independent republic, but neither the EU nor any other nation recognize it as such).

The Northern Cyprus program is more flagrant in another way. The Israel-related Guidelines make an exception for activities “aimed” at helping “protected persons,” i.e. Palestinians. The Northern Cyprus funding can not (and does not attempt) to claim this excuse, as i) the majority of the territory’s population is composed of mainland Turkish settlers; ii) the ethnic Greeks present at the time of occupation have all fled or been expelled.

The EU justification of the Guidelines is that it has no choice – the EU doesn’t recognize the disputed territories as part of Israel, and so no money can go there, and moreover, the EU has some affirmative duty to prevent money going there. The Cyprus program gives lie to this position. The Israel-related Guidelines are neither the legal nor logical consequence of Israeli activities, but a discretionary European political decision to impose a double standard on Israel.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

On a federation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel

This week Greece’s PM Antonis Samaras made a high-profile visit to Israel for an inter-governmental meeting where the burgeoning relations between Greece and Israel were evaluated (see video above). In light of these developments, Giorgios Malouchos, writing in To Vima, called for a federation between Greece, Israel and Cyprus. The piece, which I’ve translated into English below (read original here), is a little far fetched and here are some problems with Malouchos’ vision that immediately struck me. 

First, what exactly what does Malouchos mean by a ‘federation’? Surely, he doesn’t mean a political union.

Second, Syriza, which has a chance of forming a government in Greece in the near future, trapped by its anti-Zionism and fetishisation of the Palestinian cause, is instinctively hostile to Israel, meaning Israel must harbour serious doubts as to the long-term prospects of Greece being a reliable partner.

Third, Turkey, concerned by developments in the Eastern Mediterranean – not only the budding Greece-Israel-Cyprus axis but also the prospects of Greece-Egypt-Cyprus or even a Greece-Egypt-Israel-Cyprus axis – is making noise about reaching a Cyprus settlement as soon as possible. Of course, what Turkey means by a Cyprus settlement is something akin to the Annan plan, which would allow the Turkish Cypriots to use the powers they would acquire in a federated Cyprus to project Turkey’s interests, for example by vetoing any Cypriot participation in alliances involving Israel and/or Egypt.

A federation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel
By Giorgios Malouchos

Even if it’s been greatly delayed, Greek policy shows that it has at last realised the obvious: that relations between Greece and Israel shouldn’t only become closer as quickly as possible but should reach the point of an alliance; an alliance, indeed, that goes beyond deep co-operation and embraces the logic of a confederation or, why not, a federation.

A Mediterranean alliance between Greece, Cyprus and Israel will change everything for all concerned. Nothing divides the three countries. There exist no conflicts or rivalries. In fact, much unites them, with each country able to add something to the other and, together, to the whole.

A federation will allow the three states to jointly secure the exploitation of the massive hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. Thus, while Israel, arguably, has the best airforce in the world, its navy is less adequate. Greece’s navy, on the other hand, has the potential to become the most powerful in the region.

Also, Israel lacks strategic depth, something which Cyprus and Greece can offer it.

The strategic unification of an area that stretches from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Adriatic, will bring unprecedented developments with wide ramifications.

Furthermore, the Jewish and Greek diasporas, if they work in a deep and systematic way in pursuit of common goals, will emerge as key players in shaping American policy in the region.

At the same time, Greece, a member of NATO and the EU, would be able to extend its support to Israel in these forums.

Naturally, apart from an alliance in the energy field, there exists enormous potential for wider economic co-operation.

Grand politics today mean exactly this: will Greece dare to go down new roads that lead to new possibilities? Will Greece make a leap forward, act dynamically, change the agenda, and assert its capabilities? The creation of this triple alliance – perhaps even this federation – will contribute like nothing else to a reinvigorated Greece.

Do we dare, or will we remain satisfied with words and half-measures?

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

‘Behold the Greeks! They shit on you now and forever’

It’s often assumed that because Greek is the language of science, philosophy, poetry, the Christian religion, etc, that it might be lacking when it comes to its ability to be profane, vulgar, insulting and downright rude. Of course, this is not the case.

In his The Greeks and Greek Civilization, Jacob Burckhardt writes:
‘Right from the outset, the Greeks thoroughly understood kertomein, the ache in the heart that words can inflict. It is particularly associated with mockery of unsuccessful attempts and actions; Homer tells us of the victor’s jeering and the pain it gives to the vanquished; the reader hears the full accumulated bitterness of Odysseus in his justifiable vengeance on the blinded Cyclops, and the venomous mischief-making of Theristes.’
Burckhardt then goes on to say that in the post-Homeric age ( i.e. in what he calls the ‘Agonal Age’ of Greek civilisation – from the end of Dorian migration to the end of the sixth century BC – during which the nobility, reigning throughout the Greek world, disdaining commerce and manual labour, devoted itself to ‘the practice of arms or work for the games or the state’), verbal abuse (loidoria) became an artistic genre, a style, best represented by a poet like Archilochus, and his ‘impartial abuse of friend and foe’.

No doubt when we think of Greek rudeness and vulgarity we think most of Aristophanes, who wrote his comedies in the fifth century BC; but this essay by Maroula Efthymiou – Cursing with a Message: the case of Georgios Karaiskakis in 1823 – reminds us that the ability of Greeks to dish out vicious abuse survived into the modern age.

Karaiskakis, Efthymiou says, as well as being the ‘charismatic military leader of central Greece in the 1821 revolution… a brave and daring man of wit and invention’ was also ‘irritable and ambitious, proud and magnanimous, prankish and persistent, [and] notorious for his loose tongue and the brazen torrents of obscenities he uttered.’

As proof of his obscene torrents, Efthymiou draws attention to Karaiskakis’ address to the messenger of the silihtar Boda, the Albanian general in charge of a force of 5,000 Muslim Albanians who, in the spring of 1823, were confronting Karaiskakis’ forces in central Greece:
‘Come on, you shitty Turk... Come on you Jew, you pawn of the gypsies... Fuck your faith and your Mohammed. What did you think, you cuckolds...? You should be ashamed to ask us to sign a treaty with such a shitty Sultan Mahmud. I shit on him and your vezir and that Jew silihtar Boda, the whore.’
For Efthymiou, given that for hundreds of years Greeks had lived as second-class citizens in the Ottoman empire, ‘obliged to show respect and humility towards their social and political superiors’, the ferocity and vulgarity of Karaiskakis’ outbursts against the Muslim overlords were as much a revolt and an inversion of the status quo as the armed insurrection.

But more than a revolt against the Ottomans, Efthymiou says, Karaiskakis’ vehement language was also designed to define his own status, as a Greek, as someone who was no longer a subordinate and contemptible creature – a Jew, a gypsy, a Turk or a whore – but the heir to a glorious race and civilisation.

This assertion of the new state of affairs brought about by the 1821 revolution is exemplified by another outburst Karaiskakis made against the Turks:
‘You cuckolds! The ones you captured were your own men; they were Turks and Jews because that’s what rayas means. Behold the Greeks! They shit on you now and forever!’

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Golden Dawn: a very Greek phenomenon

There’s a lot of nonsense written about Golden Dawn, both by Greeks and the international media, the latter having a lurid fascination for the ultra-nationalist party and its activities. Two of the most popular assertions is that Golden Dawn is a Nazi party and that Golden Dawn’s success is a direct result of the economic catastrophe that has overwhelmed Greece. Neither of these contentions stands up to scrutiny. First, to characterise Golden Dawn ‘Nazi’ is to diminish the term and overlook the specific cultural, historical and political context that allowed for the rise of national socialism in Germany. Nazism may appeal to some in Golden Dawn, but the party draws most of its ideology from the authoritarian nationalist tradition present in Greece, which Christopher Caldwell (in this piece for the FT, published below) identifies with idealisation of Sparta, the Metaxas regime of 1936 and the military junta that ruled Greece between 1967-74.

As to whether Golden Dawn is a phenomenon of the Greek economic collapse, I’ve already written that the emergence of anti-immigrant, hyper-nationalist politics in Greece predates the economic crisis. Before it voted in favour of the troika bailouts, LAOS – several of whose MPs were frequently accused of being fascists and Nazis – had successfully mined the same terrain as Golden Dawn. Furthermore, we note that other countries that have suffered similar economic turmoil as Greece and with even more significant authoritarian traditions – Italy, Spain and Portugal – have not experienced a resurgence of the far right. Clearly, the far right requires more than economic collapse to sustain its appeal. Indeed, the fact that the far right has revived in Greece but not elsewhere in southern Europe suggests that Golden Dawn is a specifically Greek phenomenon with specific Greek causes. In particular, I would attribute Golden Dawn’s success not to Greece’s economic malaise, but to the evisceration and discrediting of the Greek state in the post-1974 era, in which the economic collapse is a symptom not a cause. Now, who eviscerated and discredited the Greek state after 1974 is another story.

Greece should crack down on crimes, not beliefs
By Christopher Caldwell

In mid-September, polls showed that at least a 10th of Greeks would consider voting for the nationalist and anti-immigrant Golden Dawn party. One of its MPs was looking the favourite to become mayor of Athens in next year’s elections. And at just that moment, a group of about 30 men, allegedly party sympathisers, surrounded a leftwing singer outside a café near the Athenian waterfront and killed him. The man who confessed to the deadly stabbing was a regular visitor at party offices in nearby Nikea.

There had been reports that Golden Dawn members bullied immigrants, extorted money from street vendors and showed traits of a paramilitary organisation. Too few people paid attention. But before dawn on Saturday last week, police dressed in balaclavas began arresting dozens of party members. Eventually, six parliamentarians, including the party’s leader and deputy leader, were arrested, along with several police officers.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of the New Democracy party is taking a gamble. There is a good case for attacking Golden Dawn robustly. But the criminal case must be strong – precisely because the government is not.

At least until the murder, Golden Dawn was becoming more popular. It helped patrol dangerous neighbourhoods and provide food and services for the poor. The unemployment rate in Greece is about 30 per cent. Golden Dawn benefits from not saying a kind word about liberal capitalism, while the government defends austerity plans imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the EU.
Golden Dawn’s foes call it neo-Nazi. Its members give straight-armed salutes, the Greek “meander” that is its symbol looks like a swastika, and investigators released photos of German military memorabilia allegedly found at the home of deputy leader Christos Pappas.

The party’s manifesto warns that Greeks are “in danger of becoming ethnically cleansed in their native homeland”. But leader Nikos Michaloliakos said this week: “I am not a Nazi.” There is no particular reason to disbelieve him. Alien though most Greeks find his ideology, it appears cobbled together out of elements in their country’s authoritarian past, not Germany’s. His role models are the Spartans, Ioannis Metaxas, the 1930s hardline anti-communist prime minister, and the anti-communist “colonels” who ruled until 1974.

That raises a more practical problem with tying the movement to Nazism: the constitution. Almost every foreign observer notes that not since the colonels has any Greek government moved against opposition parties in this way. Greeks remember that period as an abusive dictatorship.

Thereafter, Greece put into place strong protections for even the most unpopular views. Its constitution does not permit the outlawing of political parties, although it does allow banning criminal organisations. This is the tack the government is following. In going after Golden Dawn, prosecutors must distinguish between criminal violence, which is unacceptable in a democratic system, and ideology, which Greece has promised to respect, in all its occasionally disheartening variety.

The Greek state’s ability to do that is open to question. Certainly it is serious about proving Golden Dawn a criminal organisation. The National Intelligence Service has been tapping party members’ phones for years, and its recordings include several made around the time of last month’s murder. Leaked wiretap evidence is alleged to link prominent members to pimping, protection rackets and money laundering.

Worries about the strength of the case spread this week when judges ordered the release of three of the arrested MPs. One prosecutor said the party used a “Führerprinzip”, as Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party did. But doesn’t every organisation have a leadership principle? He noted that Golden Dawn is divided into a political and an operational wing, and added that Golden Dawn has weapons hidden throughout Greece. Might it have been wiser to wait until those caches were discovered before proceeding? Mr Samaras’s government risks looking opportunistic. It is pursuing legislation to suspend funding for parties charged with – as opposed to convicted of – crimes.

The government aims to ban Golden Dawn in all but name. That is why it 
is imperative to proceed based on what Golden Dawn has done, and not 
on what it thinks. Otherwise, there will be a temptation to examine the similarly “populist” message of the largest opposition party, the leftwing Syriza. Greece is admitting that its modern democracy lacks the roots to weather certain challenges. Such an admission may be the best course. The most precious asset governments have is credibility, and right now Greece’s government has more need of it than most.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The real reasons for the crackdown on Golden Dawn

Many right-wing supporters of prime minister Antonis Samaras must be asking themselves if the theory of the two extremes – which suggests that Syriza and Golden Dawn are equivalent in their willingness to deploy violence and extra-parliamentary means in pursuit of political goals – has now, with the crackdown on Golden Dawn, been abandoned. And if, rather than the more recent brutality of Golden Dawn, it isn’t the tolerance of leftist violence and terrorism since 1974 that has undermined the social and political fabric of the country; and given its support and sympathy for the murder and mayhem anarchist and far left elements have caused in Greece, whether Syriza is just as much a criminal organisation as Golden Dawn; and if it isn’t the case that the prospect of a Syriza government is much more of a threat to Greece than the thuggish antics of Golden Dawn.

In which case, supporters of Samaras must be wondering what has prompted the prime minister to go after Golden Dawn in the way he has, concocting a case – which many Greek legal experts regard as flimsy (see video above) – that aims to prove that the ultra-nationalist party is in fact a criminal organisation.

Dr Giorgos Filis, who teaches international relations at the American College in Athens, suggests in this article (in Greek) the following political and geopolitical factors must be taken into account when considering Samaras’ motives:

The increasing popularity of Golden Dawn had to be halted, especially given that 2014 is a year of local and European Parliament elections. Filis also suggests that the action against Golden Dawn is a useful means to divert public attention from the catastrophic economic situation and the new measures to come.

Furthermore, Filis says, it is not a coincidence that the moves against Golden Dawn took place at a time when Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos was visiting the USA and having important contacts with US officials and luminaries from the Jewish lobby and on the eve of the prime minister’s visit to the USA, where he will be having similar contacts.

Regarding Israel, which has obvious sensitivities to phenomenon such as Golden Dawn, on 8 October Samaras is due to visit Jerusalem to preside, with his Israeli counterpart, over the convening of the Greece-Israel High Level Cooperation Council. Filis also points out that Israel has a defining role in the unfolding energy and geopolitical developments affecting Greece and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean. Thus, Golden Dawn’s anti-semitism and neo-Nazi reputation couldn’t be allowed to derail or undermine this nascent Israel-Cyrpus-Greece axis.

Filis says the Greek government has every reason to clash with Golden Dawn and has, in fact, been preparing to do so for months, collecting relevant details, waiting for the appropriate pretext and the right alignment of external and internal political factors.

Friday, 27 September 2013

On cultural restoration, UN settlement negotiations and Golden Dawn in Cyprus

Some comments on events from this week.

First, following on from this post on Turkey’s assault on the cultural heritage of Cyprus, the short video above is well worth watching. It describes the latest efforts of Tasoula Hadjitofi to counter the systematic looting and trafficking of Cypriot cultural artifacts that followed Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Hadjitofi’s campaigning has resulted in many notable victories against the looters and traffickers and led to the restoration to Cypriot authorities of some of the island’s most important cultural works. Thus, this week, 18 years after she first discovered (in the possession of an elderly couple from Rotterdam) the looted icons from the iconostasis of Antifonitis Church near Turkish-occupied Kalogrea village, Hadjitofi had the satisfaction of seeing Dutch authorities return the works to Cyprus and to their rightful owners, the Church of Cyprus. (Of course, Hadjitofi’s efforts only scratch at the surface – 25,000 icons have been looted from churches and monasteries in occupied Cyprus – but the principle of restoration she is upholding is worthy).

Second, regarding developments in negotiations for a Cyprus settlement, it was announced this week that the Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis would be meeting next month with officials from Turkey. A reciprocal meeting will be held between Turkish Cypriot negotiator Osman Ertug and officials from Greece. For some reason, this development was described as a breakthrough. This is because, apparently, it will enable the Greek Cypriot side to directly talk with the only power capable of expediting a settlement, i.e. Turkey. However, I fail to see what it is that Mavroyiannis will be able to tell the Turks that will convince them to modulate their Cyprus policy, which as I keep repeating is based on a desire to bring the whole of the island within Turkey’s sphere of influence. Does anyone seriously believe that Turkey is in a mood to put another nail in the coffin of its dying neo-Ottoman foreign policy by retreating from Cyprus and abandoning its perceived interests in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Third, following on from events in Greece regarding Golden Dawn, which I posted on here; it might be of interest to some to watch the video below from Cyprus TV station Sigma. It involves an interview with Christos Christou, leader of ELAM (the National Popular Front), the sister party of Golden Dawn in Cyprus. The party doesn’t seem to have much traction on the island, with its candidate in last February’s presidential elections picking up 3,899 votes, or 0.88 percent of the total vote. In the interview, Christou denied ELAM was a fascist party and said its nationalism was inspired by figures like Ion Dragoumis and Pericles Yiannopoulos – this is a likely story. He also said that ELAM was particularly concerned by the amount of Muslim immigrants to Cyprus who, he feared, if granted citizenship at some stage, would collaborate with the Turkish Cypriot community on the island. And, finally, and following on from the point I made in my previous post on the likely endurance of Golden Dawn in Greek politics, the anecdote told by the interviewer, Panayiotis Dimopoulos, who is from Greece, regarding the Agios Panteleimonas district of Athens, is revealing. Dimopoulos says he is from Agios Panteleimonas and one of the reasons he left the area to come to Cyprus was because it had become a no-go area for Greeks, subject as they were to crime and harassment from desperate illegal immigrants, trying to survive in any way possible. However, he says, on visiting Agios Panteleimonas this summer, he noticed a dramatic improvement in the situation with locals once again feeling safe in their neighbourhood. When he asked locals to explain how this progress had come about, they told him it was down to the patrols and (sometimes violent) activities of Golden Dawn.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Golden Dawn is not going to go away

Helena Smith usually writes tendentious and inaccurate rubbish about Greece for the Guardian and much of this article on Golden Dawn is in the same vein. However, a couple of truths are mentioned at the end of the piece, and these are that despite the murder of left-wing musician Pavlos Fyssas and the vehement reaction to it – including an attempt by the Justice Minister Nikos Dendias to have Golden Dawn declared a criminal organisation – the fact is that Golden Dawn’s appeal, which currently has it as Greece’s third most popular party in opinion polls, is likely to remain in tact, if not fortified, and that this will reveal itself in local elections next year, when Golden Dawn may well take control of a number of councils across the country. (We should also bear in mind that because of a certain stigma attached to expressing support for Golden Dawn, the party’s poll numbers may not reflect the full extent of its popularity).

Smith’s article contains the following:
Although surveys have shown the vast majority of Greeks expressing outrage at Golden Dawn's tactics in the wake of the killing, polls have also revealed the party maintaining steady ground in the areas most affected by the economic crisis. One survey released on Monday showed the group sweeping Athens in municipal elections next year – prompting speculation that the government's crackdown on the group could backfire…
‘For the first time they are being given a huge amount of exposure and air time,’ said Alexis Mantheakis, a political analyst… ‘Before there was a media blackout and they rarely appeared on television. Instead of being deflated, all this coverage is boosting their image and boosting their support. The situation in Greece is much more serious than it seems.’
It is, therefore, wishful thinking on the part of Golden Dawn’s opponents to believe that the murder of Fyssas will result in a collapse of support for the party. Greeks were not in the dark about Golden Dawn’s predilection for violence and Fyssas’ brutal death has not presented them with a reality they were previously unaware of. Rather, Golden Dawn’s ferocity and militancy is part of its appeal to a large number of Greeks who feel sheer hatred for the political and intellectual establishment that has run the country for the last 40 years. Indeed, the unpalatable truth is that the more this political and intellectual establishment denounces Golden Dawn and tries to turn it into a scapegoat for the ills of the country, the more sympathy and support Golden Dawn is likely to attract.

*The video above is from Greek TV and has Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos denying that the alleged killer of Pavlos Fyssas was a core member of his party or that Fyssas’ murder was politically motivated. He also denounces the attempt by the justice minister to have Golden Dawn declared a criminal organisation.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Iannis Xenakis on Rome and Seneca’s Medea

Following my post last week on Greece under the barbarian rule of Rome and the influence of Greek culture on the Romans, I’ll take the opportunity to post something related to the subject using the composer Iannis Xenakis who, in his work, captures better than anybody the madness, terror and ‘ecstatic dream world’ that Nietzsche defines as characterising Greek tragedy.

In 1967, Xenakis was commissioned by the Theatre de France to write the music for a production of Seneca’s Medea. Xenakis scholar Nouritza Matossian (an Armenian from Cyprus) says:

‘Xenakis had often wondered how the music of ancient Greek theatre might have sounded, how the actors, chorus and musicians might have chanted the text and played the aulos and in [Medea] he provided his solution. He treated the instruments as voices and the voices as instruments to create an implacable work, extending the language phonetically with whispers and hisses, repeated phrases and even banging stones. The atmosphere is archaic, with a setting which is both raucous and primitive.’

Regarding the work, Xenakis says that when he was approached to write it:

‘I hesitated because I knew Seneca as a pseudo-philosopher, an imperial courtier, and above all a Roman who sought, like all Romans of that period, to emulate the ancient Greek masterpieces.

‘But in reading the Latin text written in the first century AD I was seduced by its violent sonority, its barbarity, so I agreed.’

Above is Xenakis’ Medea in full, while below is a clip from Matossian’s 1990 BBC documentary on Xenakis, Something Rich and Strange.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Thoughts on Cyprus settlement talks emerging from an exchange with James Ker-Lindsay

A couple of points emerged from a recent twitter exchange I had with James Ker-Lindsay regarding Turkey’s rejection of a Greek Cypriot confidence-building proposal that would see Turkey restoring Varosha to its lawful inhabitants in return for the opening of Famagusta port under EU auspices and Cyprus lifting its veto over certain chapters affecting Turkey’s EU accession process.

James Ker-Lindsay is an LSE academic specialising in the politics of south-eastern Europe and with a particular interest in the Cyprus issue, which he is frequently referred to as an expert. However, I find his approach to Cyprus seriously flawed and deeply patronising, preferring as it does to pin the blame on the island’s division on competing ethnic nationalisms – i.e. the Greek and Turkish nationalisms that swayed Cypriots at the end of British colonial rule and during the first years of independence – and de-emphasising analyses of Cyprus’ downfall that assert the central role of cold war machinations – the American factor; Britain’s cynical and vindictive attempts to manage its decline as a global power; and Turkey’s Cyprus policy, fuelled by post-Ottoman paranoia, resentment and belligerence, and which continues to regard the island as indispensable to its national interests. (I have previously noted that Ahmet Davutoglu’s Neo-Ottoman foreign policy sees Cyprus, regardless of the presence of Muslim Turks there, ‘as positioned at the heart of Turkey’s Lebensraum [living space]’.

Indeed, this failure to grasp Turkey’s malevolent role in Cyprus – a role that explains more than anything why Cyprus has been divided for 39 years and will continue, in my opinion, to remain divided for the foreseeable future – is unforgivable. (Claire Palley goes so far as to say there is no Cyprus Question. There is a Turkey Question, which is in fact a continuation of the Eastern Question).

Regarding the twitter exchange, it was prompted by a comment by Andrew Duff MEP that Turkey’s rejection of the Varosha proposal indicated Turkey wasn’t interested in a Cyprus settlement – preliminary talks for which have just resumed with fully-fledged negotiations expected to begin in October. Ker-Lindsay, essentially accepting the Turkish line, responded to Duff by saying that bringing up the issue of Varosha return was a distraction from the aim of achieving an overall settlement.

At this point I joined the debate and noted that there exist UN resolutions on Varosha that provide the proper context for assessing the issue. These are UN Security Council resolution 550 (passed in 1984), that:
Considers attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the United Nations
and UN Security Council resolution 789 (passed in 1992), that calls for:
With a view to the implementation of resolution 550 (1984), the area at present under the control of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus be extended to include Varosha.
I also pointed out the agreement on Varosha reached in 1979 between Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and then president of Cyprus, Spyros Kyprianou, which states that:
Priority will be given to reaching agreement on the resettlement of Varosha under UN auspices simultaneously with the beginning of the consideration by the interlocutors of the constitutional and territorial aspects of a comprehensive settlement. After agreement on Varosha has been reached it will be implemented without awaiting the outcome of the discussion on other aspects of the Cyprus problem.
Clearly, then, the Turkish side has agreed that the return of Varosha should not be held hostage to an overall deal and the city’s resettlement can and should go ahead before other elements of the Cyprus problem are resolved. In these circumstances, by putting Varosha return on the table, the Greek Cypriot side is not creating a distraction, but asking Turkey to prove it is sincere in wanting a wider Cyprus settlement by abiding by UN resolutions and the Kyprianou-Denktash deal signed 34 years ago.

(Indeed, Turkey’s cynical approach to treaties and agreements is well known and the 1979 Kyprianou-Denktash deal is no exception. Rather than implement the 1979 deal and hand over Varosha to the UN in preparation for return to its lawful inhabitants, Turkey has followed its usual tactic of making an agreement and then, before honouring its signature, demanding from the other side even more concessions – which amount to full realisation of its goals. In the case of Varosha return – supposed to be unconditional and not tied to an overall settlement – Turkey has not only extracted from the Greek Cypriot side concessions related to Famagusta port and the opening of EU accession chapters, but has insisted on more, specifically the opening of the illegal Tymvou airport to international traffic, a move the Greek Cypriots have rejected since it would amount to recognition of the pseudo-state in the occupied areas).

Apart from insisting to Ker-Lindsay that the Varosha issue be put in its correct context, I also pointed out to him that the reason Turkey was against its return was not because it was a distraction from an overall settlement but because Turkey was worried by any momentum returning Varosha might produce; momentum that would cause Turkey to lose control over negotiations on a wider deal.

A successful Varosha/Famagusta port deal might create expectations and pressures from the international community that Turkey would be unable to resist and jeopardise the kind of overall Cyprus settlement it wants, which is one in which Turkey’s occupation of the island is not ended but legitimised, in which division is enshrined not overcome and in which Turkey’s continuing presence and influence on Cyprus is not removed but institutionalised. Because Turkey knows that such a deal will never be freely negotiated by the Greek Cypriot side, Turkey’s Cyprus talks strategy continues to aim at either bludgeoning the Greek Cypriots into accepting Turkey’s preferred deal or, failing this, scuppering the talks, to prove they are ineffective and going nowhere, and then declaring that an Annan-type deal should be imposed from above or the pseudo-state be afforded international recognition.

Of course, one way for Turkey to prove such an assessment wrong is by agreeing to the Varosha proposal. The fact that Turkey has dismissed it out of hand shows that Turkey, as Andrew Duff correctly observed, is not interested in a reasonable Cyprus settlement and, in fact, regards genuine reunification and reconciliation on the island as antithetical to its perceived national and geostrategic interests.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Greeks under the rule of barbarian Rome

Above is the final episode in Michael Scott’s BBC series Ancient Greece: the Greatest Show on Earth. (Watch part one here and part two here). Episode three looks at how Greek theatre fared as Rome emerged as a dominant military and political power and Greece and Greek cities and kingdoms lost their independence. It’s not a bad programme, but I find the Romans to be insufferable barbarians, on about the same level as the Seljuks and Ottomans.

Regarding what happened to Greek literature under the Romans, I was reading an essay by Peter Bien from The Greek World: Classic, Byzantine and Modern, in which Bien says the following:
‘It would be a mistake to think that Greek literature died with Greek liberty. Menander’s marvellous comedies of manners, the plays that, by way of Plautus and Terence, set the first theatrical example for the Renaissance, for Shakespeare and for Moliere, were… the growth of an age politically hopeless. Polybius, through whose history we know that Scipio wept over Carthage destroyed, was a Greek hostage. The historical analysis of Tacitus and of Livy depend on history written by losers, by generations of sarcastic Greeks. Machiavelli rediscovered and transfigured their style, mostly through Tacitus and Livy, and Marx read Machiavelli. Clarendon in his History of the Great Rebellion goes back for this style to the same ancient historians. Shakespeare transcribes Plutuarch’s Lives at times almost word for word.’
I’m curious as to which ‘sarcastic Greeks’ Bien is referring to.

Regarding Plutarch, Bien adds:
‘Plutarch’s drawing of Romans is much more effective than his gallery of Greeks. The Greeks lived longer ago, and he knows less about them. The death of Cicero, the suicide of Cato, and the story of Antony and Cleopatra are written in brilliant dryness. It was Plutarch’s sense of tragedy, not that of the tragic poets, that Shakespeare drank in.’
Bien also has this to say:
‘The greatest hero of late Greek literature is Jesus Christ. The gospels are in Greek because the entire eastern Mediterranean world in their time had been Hellenized since before Christ, and one of the thrills and shocks of the gospels is that mixture of cultures. In spite of their linguistic awkwardness, or because of it, they are powerful pieces of simple writing such as Greek had never encompassed before.’

Monday, 9 September 2013

Reflections on a twitter exchange with Ozdil Nami

I had an exchange with Ozdil Nami on twitter, which might be of interest.

Nami was last week appointed ‘foreign minister’ in the coalition ‘government’ in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus. He is an ‘MP’ with the leftist Republican Turkish Party and was a senior aide to former leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat.

My exchange with Nami began when I was irked by his assertion that awarding the Olympic Games to Turkey in 2020 would ‘send a strong message of peace and reconciliation to this war-torn part of the world’.

I suggested to Nami that if Turkey was interested in being seen as a paragon of peace and reconciliation, then perhaps it should end its occupation of Cyprus. Nami retorted that Greek Cypriots could have ended the presence of Turkish troops on the island in 2004 by accepting the Annan plan. There then followed an exchange on the merits of the Annan plan with Nami suggesting if the plan was as bad as I was making out then why would the current president of Cyprus, Nikos Anastasiades, and the then government of Greece have supported it? I argued they did this not because of the intrinsic merits of the plan, but because they feared rejection of it might lead the way to an upgrading of the pseudo-state in occupied Cyprus and the international isolation of the Republic of Cyprus. I further pointed out to Nami that it would be a mistake for the Turkish side to assume, in forthcoming negotiations on a Cyprus settlement, that because Anastasiades had backed the Annan plan in 2004 he would be amenable to a similar plan now. (I have discussed Anastasiades’ motivations for saying ‘Yes’ to the Annan plan in 2004 and why these no longer exist in 2013 in more detail here).

The most interesting part of the exchange for me was when I asked Nami – regarded as a moderate and progressive in the Turkish Cypriot community – whether he supported the notion that in a federal Cyprus, Cypriots would be able to live, work and own property in any part of the island, i.e. in both the Greek and Turkish components of the putative federal state. I asked him this question because the Turkish Cypriots’ strict interpretation of the bizonal element of a federal Cyprus – an interpretation that was reflected in the Annan plan – would seem to preclude certain residential, employment and ownership freedoms to Greek Cypriots. The Turkish side has insisted – and the Annan plan confirmed this – that quotas and restrictions be applied to Greek Cypriots wishing to settle, work and own property in that part of Cyprus to be run by the Turkish Cypriot constituent state. I wondered, therefore, if Nami would recognise that Turkish Cypriot insistence on a rigid form of bizonality – which smacks of ethnic separation, or apartheid – was intolerable to modern political thinking and contemporary notions of human rights and was one of the main reasons why Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan plan.

In fact, Nami did say he agreed with my proposition that in a federal Cyprus, Cypriots should be able to live, work and own property anywhere on the island. This somewhat took me aback since I don’t see how this affirmation of fundamental freedoms can be reconciled to bizonality, because for bizonality to work in the way Turkish Cypriots want, they must, at all times, be numerically superior and own the majority of property in their constituent state; a scenario that is impossible to guarantee if human rights regarding settlement, employment and ownership of property are applied.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Greek drama and the decline of Athens

Above is the second part of Michael Scott’s series Ancient Greece: the Greatest Show on Earth, which traces the central role of comic and tragic theatre in the culture and politics of ancient Greece. In the first part of the series – Democracy – (see it here) Scott established the links between tragedy and democracy in Athens, while in part two – Kings – he examines how theatre spread throughout the Greek world and changed in content and purpose with the decline of Athens in the aftermath of its defeat in the Peloponnesian war and the emergence of Greek kingdoms, such as Macedon. It’s a good narrative and there’s some interesting detail and points but, again, the British talking-head classicists are a dull lot, with the exception of Oliver Taplin. In fact, what is most exciting in the series is the travelogue element. Greece always looks stunning and Scott visits some evocative sites, such as the Syracuse stone quarries where 7,000 Athenian prisoners were held after the disastrous Sicilian expedition in 413 BC and Chaeronea, where the Macedonians led by King Philip the Great defeated an Athenian-led force to claim control over Greece in 338 BC.

* See part three of the series here.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The conflict of interest between Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots and what this means for Cyprus negotiations

Kutlay Erk is a leading figure in the leftist Republican Turkish Party that yesterday became the senior partner of the ‘government’ in the Turkish occupied region of Cyprus.

Last week, Erk, according to the Cyprus Press and Information Office, speaking in occupied Nicosia, made these comments about the relations between the Turkish minority in Cyprus and Turkey.

‘On the issue of the Cyprus problem, the Turkish Cypriots have their own vision and targets and Turkey has its own vision and targets.’

Erk went on: ‘The target of the Turkish Cypriots is to exist on this island, while Turkey wants to have influence in the Eastern Mediterranean and has the target of being active and influential in Cyprus because of the fact that the energy pipelines are congested in the area.’

Erk concluded: ‘We [the Turkish Cypriots] often see ourselves as living here for our ability to maintain Turkey’s interests. Our target must be to live in this geography, not to protect Turkey’s interests.’

Let’s decode what Erk is saying here.

Turkey wants to exert control over the whole of Cyprus as part of its policy to assert its influence and authority in the Eastern Mediterranean.

To do this, Turkey cannot countenance the Republic of Cyprus – or any other Greek-controlled entity – flourishing in the Eastern Mediterranean. Abolishing the Republic of Cyprus is something the Annan plan would have done and explains why Turkey was so enthusiastic about its adoption.

For the Turkish Cypriots, on the other hand, the kind of unwieldy, conflict-ridden Cypriot state envisaged by Annan, in which they would play the role of ‘maintaining Turkey’s interests’ by restraining the ability of the Greek Cypriots to exercise sovereignty, is not so attractive.

The optimum solution for the Turkish Cypriots is a clean partition and recognition of the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’. But this outcome, while satisfying the Turkish Cypriot desire to live separately from Greek Cypriots, given Greek opposition and the international climate, is not feasible. Thus, Turkey, to undermine the ability of the island’s Greek population to exercise sovereignty in Cyprus and realise its ambitions to be a dominant presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, must infiltrate the government of Cyprus and make it impotent to resist Turkish interests. It is this role of ‘protector’ of Turkey’s interests in a putative federal government of Cyprus the Turkish Cypriots are increasingly reluctant to play, if it means at the same time having to emerge from their self-imposed isolation and take part in a state, institutions and society with the island’s Greek majority. Turkish Cypriot frustration with Turkey does not mean, as some naive Greek Cypriots would like to think, that the Turkish Cypriots want to abandon Turkey – and Turkey to abandon Cyprus – and come closer to Greek Cypriot positions on what a reunited Cyprus might look like. In fact, in many ways, it means the opposite, which is why President Anastasiades has been saying recently that, regarding Cyprus negotiations, it is the intention of his government to find ways to bypass the Turkish Cypriots and talk directly to Turkey.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Democracy as a tragic regime

Ancient Greece: The Greatest Show on Earth is a documentary from the BBC and the Open University on Greek drama, presented by Michael Scott, whose recent two-part series Who were the Greeks? I posted on here and here. In this programme – the first of three in the series – Scott looks at tragedy and democracy, arguing that the two are intimately connected and it is no coincidence that tragic theatre emerged at the same time as democracy in Athens. It’s not a bad programme, despite the appearance of a number of leading British classicists, who are a bland lot with nothing particularly exciting to say.

The Greek philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis is also concerned about the connections between tragedy and democracy, asserting that democracy is a ‘tragic regime’ and that tragedy is so connected to the rise of democracy in Athens that it makes more sense to refer to Athenian rather than Greek tragedy. Castoriadis arguments on tragedy and democracy are contained in two of his essays. One is The Greek Polis and the Creation of Democracy, contained in Politics, Philosophy and Autonomy; and the other is Aeschylean Anthropogony and Sophoclean Self-Creation of Man, which is from the collection of essays Figures of the Unthinkable, which is available to download here.

There’s also an essay critical of Castoriadis’ work on tragedy and democracy by Nana Biluš Abaffy, which can be read here.

* See part two of the series here and part three here.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Attila 74: the evil fate of Sysklipos village

Following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, 27 persons were listed as missing from the Greek village of Sysklipos in the Kyrenia district. It is not only the large number of victims – 27 from a village of less than 400 – that shocks but also the fact that those who must now be regarded as murdered by Turkish forces were almost all elderly. The average age of those killed in Sysklipos was 64, with the oldest being Andreas Violaris, who was 83-years-old when he was slain.

Invasion and occupation
Despite the ceasefire agreed on 22 July – two days after Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus – attacks continued on Greek villages just outside the Kyrenia-Nicosia bridgehead the Turks had established, and on the morning of 26 July, Sysklipos was shelled and raided by Turkish forces. Trying to avoid the Turkish assault, a chaotic evacuation ensued in which most of the villagers fled in cars, by bus or on foot. Some 35 villagers, however, mostly elderly and/or infirm, were unable or unwilling to abandon their homes.

Later in the day, a group of four Greek Cypriot commandos, led by second lieutenant Savvas Pavlides, was ordered to go to Sysklipos and raise a Greek flag over the village school. This was supposed to be in preparation for acting president of Cyprus Glafkos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash passing through Sysklipos to establish Greek and Turkish positions as part of the ceasefire agreement.

Pavlides recalls that on entering Sysklipos, he encountered a frightened old man desperate to escape the village but not knowing which route to take to avoid the Turks. Pavlides directed him to safety and then went further into Sysklipos, where he completed his mission with the Greek flag and observed that homes throughout the village had been broken into and looted. Pavlides then proceeded to the village spring where he came across another villager, whom he later identified as 78-year-old Christodoulos Kamenos, carrying two pales of water. The two men had the following conversation:

Pavlides: What are you doing here? What are you doing with those?
Kamenos: We have some animals in the yard and I need to give them water.
Pavlides: But haven’t you realised what’s happening all around you?
Kamenos: What can I do, my son? My wife is blind. We’re at home. All the old people in the village are still here.
Pavlides: Why don’t you leave?
Kamenos: We can’t walk. There are no cars. The Turks came through the village and looted the houses, and we don’t know what to do.

Turkish shelling resumed the same day and Pavlides and his men were forced to leave Sysklipos and return to their unit in the hills on the western outskirts of the village. The Turks re-entered Sysklipos and rounded up the 35 residents who had stayed behind, initially detaining them in a camp outside the village, before allowing them to return to the village, where the 35 decided, for their own security, to stay in groups of five and six in each other’s homes.

First wave of killings
Between 26 July and 3 August, Turkish forces occupying Sysklipos subjected the 35 trapped villagers to a campaign of mistreatment and murder. During this period, fearing the worst, up to 10 villagers escaped, hiding in fields during the day and travelling at night, to get to the government-controlled areas of the island.

One of those murdered in the first wave of killings was 52-year-old Maria Christodoulou. Three of her four children had left Sysklipos with relatives following the initial Turkish shelling and foray into the village, while her husband, Andreas, and one of her daughters remained with her. On resumption of the Turkish shelling and increasingly concerned about their daughter, Andreas and Maria decided that the girl had to be taken to safety, and since this could only be done on foot, it was agreed that she should be escorted by her father, while Maria, who was blind and couldn’t follow, would be left behind. Maria Christodoulou was murdered by the Turks on or around 2 August 1974 and her remains were exhumed in Sysklipos in 2011. She is the only missing person from Sysklipos whose remains have been recovered.

The massacre of the 14
The climax of the killing in Sysklipos seems to have occurred on 3 August at the home of Evgenios Sofokleous and his wife Elli. Sheltering with the couple were two of Evgenios Sofokleous’ children from his first marriage – 20-year-old Andreas Evgeniou and his 11-year-old sister – along with 11 other villagers, four of whom have been identified as 82-year-old Iraklis Hadjinikolaou; 60-year-old Charita Kanarini; 72-year-old Anastasia Kamenou; and her husband Christodoulos Kamenos – the 78-year-old man Savvas Pavlides had encountered at the village spring on 26 July.

This group of 15 had been at the Sofokleous’ house from 30 July, where they were regularly visited by two Turkish soldiers and a Turkish Cypriot mujahid. Each day, hoping to placate the Turks, Evgenios Sofokleous would offer them coffee and fruit. On 3 August, the Turkish Cypriot mujahid made a final visit to the 15. In the evening, another group of Turkish soldiers came to the house. They separated the men and the women into two rooms, and raped the women.

What happened next to the 15 is described in Erol Mütercimler’s book Cyprus, Island for Sale: Unknown Aspects of the Peace Operation, which was published in Turkey in 2009.

In it, Mütercimler quotes from the diary of Colonel Salih Güleryüz, commander of a special‐forces unit stationed near Sysklipos.

Güleryüz writes:
3 August 1974: we were informed that 14 Greek Cypriots residing at Sysklipos village were killed the previous night. This was done by an artillery junior officer, two commandos and two [Turkish Cypriot] fighters. Statements were taken from the soldiers late into the night. Early in the morning of the next day 4/8/1974, my schoolmate, the head of the ordnance corps, Corporal Mahmud Boyouslou, arrived. We went together to Sysklipos and found the house where the Greek Cypriot civilians had been killed. They were killed by fire from automatic weapons. Eight persons were on armchairs and chairs, covered in blood, with perforations in the chest and head. There were five other dead persons, men and women, on the ground. Near the entrance to the house, sitting on an armchair, there was another corpse, which had been beheaded.’
The only survivor of the carnage, according to Güleryüz, was Evgenios Sofokleous’ 11-year old daughter. She was found dressed up in the coat of a Greek Cypriot soldier and was being forced to serve breakfast to Turkish soldiers occupying the village. Güleryüz says the girl had been raped.

As already noted, of the 27 Greek Cypriots listed as missing from Sysklipos, only the remains of Maria Christodoulou have been recovered. Turkish Cypriot journalist Sevgul Uludag, who has investigated the fate of the missing from Sysklipos, says that a Turkish Cypriot informant has told her that there is a mass grave of Greek Cypriots in the neighbouring Turkish village of Krini, while other reports suggest a burial site in a field between Sysklipos and the occupied Greek village of Agios Ermolaos, but no excavation work has been done to ascertain the veracity of these claims.

Uludag also notes that the 11-year-old girl who was raped and witnessed the murders of her father, stepmother, brother and 11 others, was eventually handed over to UN peacekeepers and transferred to the free areas. She has never recovered from her ordeal and has spent a large part of her life in psychiatric hospitals. Meanwhile, Uludag says, one of the Turkish Cypriots involved in the Sysklipos killings, a certain K. from Kyrenia, is known to regularly recount his role in events, a role he is said to be very proud of.

Currently, Sysklipos is barely habitable. Greek refugees who’ve visited their village since restrictions on crossings were eased in 2003 report that most homes are in ruins, with only some 95 Turkish Cypriots (originally from Sarama and Meladeia in the Paphos district) living in Sysklipos, which they’ve renamed Akçiçek, meaning ‘white flower’. The village cemetery, which was intact until recently, has now been desecrated, presumably as a means to discourage refugees from visiting Sysklipos and dreaming of return.

* Thanks to Loukia Borrell (@LoukiaBorrell) for her help in the researching of this piece. Loukia Borrell’s family is from Sysklipos and her grandparents are missing persons Christodoulos Kamenos and Anastasia Kamenou, to whom her novel Raping Aphrodite is dedicated. Visit Raping Aphrodite’s Facebook page here.