I should preface by saying that I’m not part of the contemporary Turkey-hating Greek community. I travel often to Turkey, have business and friends there and enjoy my time eating, conversing and interacting with my Turkish friends and colleagues.
I also acknowledge that there was a massive genocide against Greeks, Armenians and other Christians in Turkey and successive Turkish governments– including the current one– have been brutal to the Greek community there.
But I don’t let historical fact and pain and suffering dictate my behavior. It happened and we can’t bring it back. We can (and must) remember the past, memorialize the dead and teach successive generations about what happened. But we must also let go of the animosity. Some prefer to keep this animosity. I don’t and I won’t.
Instead, we should speak out in a productive and civilized manner and target politicians, policy and government actions– and not an entire nation of people.
That said, there must be a psychological name for this— repeating a lie or falsehood over and over again to the point where you start believing what you’re saying. I’m not trained enough in the field to know what it’s called, but it definitely is a mental condition. Or maybe it’s just being delusional.
I’m referring to the messages that Turkish political leaders gave on Christmas, wishing their nation’s Christian minorities a festive and happy Christmas holiday, with all of this extra dressing thrown in.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on the day before Christmas: “I wish the Christmas festivity that our Christian citizens of different sects and churches celebrate, in accordance with their own beliefs, to reinforce a sense of unity and solidarity.”
Erdoğan should have stopped there. Greeks and other minorities would have said “thank you,” and that would have been the end of it. But he had to go on.
Describing Turkey as a “region nestling different cultures and beliefs in peace and brotherhood for ages”, Erdogan described Anatolia as a “basin of civilization where marginalization has found no ground”.
“Being opposed to all kinds of discrimination and racism, we consider the presence of different religions and cultures as a richness, in line with the values of our civilization,” he added.
At this point, I’m shaking my head and wondering if the stories I’m reading are from The Onion, or the Borowitz Report, two satirical news sites.
Erdogan also stressed in his loving Christmas message that it is a “matter of pride” for Turkey to be a place where all citizens maintain their lives “confidently regardless of their religion, belief or ethnicity.”
If Erdogan’s message wasn’t ludicrous enough, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had to add his two cents, also greeting his beloved Christians on their Christmas holiday.
“I celebrate the Christmas festivity of our Christian citizens and all Christians who contribute to our social life and with whom we live in peace, brotherhood and tolerance,” he said in a message issued by his press office late on Wednesday.
Peace? Brotherhood? TOLERANCE? Seriously guys?
By now I’m thinking that the entire Turkish leadership has been smoking some kind of ancient Ottoman fantasy pipe and they’re all just stoned out of their minds.
Davutoğlu went on to highlight the fact that Anatolia has hosted the best examples of “co-existence culture” throughout its history, as a cradle of several civilizations.
I think he missed the day in history class when they taught the years 1914-1922 when his predecessors orchestrated the annihilation of a millennia-old Christian presence of Greeks and Armenians, not to mention the fact that they burned down one of the greatest cities of the time.
Delusional Davutoğlu continued “With the historical understanding we inherited, we-then and now-regard our citizens from different beliefs, opinions and cultures as [source of] richness for our country, and appreciate that they embellish our social life.”
He added that Turks wished to live in “unity and solidarity” with groups of different beliefs and culture who, he said, “have lived together for ages on the same soil and shared the same destiny.”
Davutoğlu, who gave the order to his Air Force a few weeks ago to shoot down a Russian jet that might have crossed a few feet into Turkish airspace, also said he hoped 2016 would bring peace and happiness to all citizens of Turkey, as well as to all humanity.
I’m thinking “humanity” should have an asterisk next to it and Davutoğlu meant to exclude Russians, Turkey’s Greek minority, all Armenians, especially the Kardashians, Kurds and anyone who has set foot in the country of Israel.
Just a few reminders to the Turkish leaders about their nation’s “peace, brotherhood and tolerance” towards the Greek minority that Davutoğlu and Erdoğan might not recall in their delusional state:
In 1932, a Turkish parliamentary law barred Greeks living in Turkey from more than of 30 trades and professions, effectively sending most into poverty even though most were already successful. Greeks were excluded from tailoring and carpentry to medicine, law and real estate.
The infamous 1942 Varlik Vergisi tax that was imposed by the Turkish government targeted the country’s non-Muslims and ruined tens of thousands of Greek, Armenian and Jewish families. The tax led to multiple suicides as citizens who could not afford to pay the tax were forced to sell their belongings and properties in order to pay what was owed.
The death-knell of the Greek community— what was left of it— came on September 6-7, 1955, when anti-Greek riots took place— orchestrated by the government and military to rid the city of its remaining Greeks.
Over a dozen people died during the riots as a result of beatings and arson. Jews, Armenians and Muslims were also harmed. In addition to commercial targets, the mob clearly targeted property owned or administered by the Greek Orthodox Church. 73 churches and 23 schools were vandalized, burned or destroyed, as were 8 cemeteries and 3 monasteries.
Thousands of ethnic Greeks who lived in Turkey for generations left their properties and businesses and fled to Greece, but several thousand remained, refusing to abandon their lives in the nation they still called home.
In 1964, new actions by the government led to the forced exile of more than 25,000 Greeks— forced to leave the country— because they were perceived as threat to safety.
A 1971 law nationalized religious high schools, and closed the Halki Seminary which had trained Orthodox clergy since the 19th century, leaving the Ecumenical Patriarchate without a fresh pool of candidates to run the existing church-related institutions.
Meanwhile, illegal appropriation of properties have taken place over the decades. By 2007, Turkish authorities had seized thousands of properties and real estate of 81 Greek organizations as well as individuals of the Greek community, prompting several to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which has repeatedly ruled Turkey in violation of international law.
Discrimination and racism against Greeks in Turkey is closely implemented and controlled by the state. The curriculum contained primary and middle school textbooks includes phrases such as “we crushed the Greeks” and “traitors to the nation,” referring not to the neighboring country’s residents, but to ethnic Greeks who have lived in Turkey for thousands of years.
The Minority Rights Group International in 2015 stated that the curriculum of schools continue to depict “Armenians and Greeks as the enemies of the country.”
In a nutshell and in simple numbers:
Greeks who survived the Asia Minor Catastrophe and Pontian Genocide who remained in Turkey in 1922
Greeks permitted to remain in Istanbul following the Asia Minor Catastrophe and exchange of populations in 1923
Population of Greeks in Istanbul at the time of the 1955 riots
Population of Greeks in Istanbul in 1978, according to an official Turkish census of minorities
Population of Greeks in Istanbul in 2006, according to a report by Human Rights Watch
In short, the Greek population in Turkey is collapsing as the community is now far too small to sustain itself demographically, due to emigration, much higher death rates than birth rates and a century-old policy of official discrimination which continues today.
Merry Christmas President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Davutoğlu!