With increasing frequency in recent years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statements regarding Greece are not only increasingly exasperating, but also more threatening. They often contain naked threats of violence.
One of his worst statements, if not the worst, was made yesterday when speaking to members of his party.
“The Greeks,” he said, “who resort to any means to stop the refugees from entering their country, who are drowning them or killing them with live fire, should not forget that they themselves may need some compassion one day.”
This statement admits several interpretations.
First of all, it could be a reference to the 1922 Disaster, when our ancestors really needed the mercy of others after the tragic end of the Greek expedition to Asia Minor, with many trapped in the flames during the burning of the great city of Smyrna by the Turks. For the most part, those fleeing the flames and the sword, including women and children, were shown no mercy.
To be sure, it is not clear whether the Turkish President is referring to those unexpected, but frequent, hardships in life that lead people to situations of extreme difficulty – the earthquakes that often plague our region or an epidemic like the coronavirus the world is now confronting that could cause countries to turn to their neighbors for assistance – or to something specific: to a horror he intends to unleash on our people that will force us to seek the mercy of others.
Whatever he meant, however, the fact that he left it undefined is unacceptable. Good neighbors, let alone statesmen, do not speak that way.
Moreover, we cannot fail to take this statement by Erdogan seriously, for the reason that his references to the past have proven not to be accidental – even if they seem outrageous at the time. Usually, sooner or later, the actions he threatens with are implemented.
The current issue is proof of that, for he had long warned that he would “open the gates” to migrants if Greece and Europe did not meet his demands.
And he did it.
Of course, the issue of how to deal with migrants is one thing, and suggesting that we too might become refugees and need compassion is something else altogether.
This brings to mind the response, reportedly, of Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Donald Trump – who had asked the Greek Prime Minister “what would happen if you lost?” (a war against the Turks) – to which Mitsotakis reportedly replied: “We will not lose, Mr. President.”