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Columnists

The Dictator and the Cry and Demand of the Greeks

In light of the aggressive and irrational statements emanating from the Turkish dictator and warmonger Erdogan it is important to recount his record.

Erdogan has a history of political extremism and radicalism that goes back decades in Turkey. He was once a follower of Islamist leader Necmettin Erbakan and was elected Mayor of Constantinople in March 1994. Upon being elected Mayor, Erdogan planned a visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Erdogan made reference to the gate at the Patriarchate which has been closed since Saint Gregory V was hanged from that gate on Orthodox Pascha 1821 following the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence. Erdogan announced that the Patriarchal gate would be opened just for him. After strong protests from Greece, Erdogan backed down, but his radicalism was very much in evidence then and we can see that his public statements and policies have not moderated since 1994.

Several years after being elected Mayor, Erdogan was forcibly removed as part of a crackdown by the secular military establishment who cited a radical poem written by Erdogan.

That crackdown came after the 1997 ‘silent coup’ which forced Erdogan’s aforementioned leader (Necmettin Erbakan) to resign as Prime Minister. The political party which Erdogan belonged to was ‘Refah’ and was replaced by the ‘Virtue’ party which was banned like its predecessor. Erdogan then formed the Justice and Development Party which he led to victory when he was elected Prime Minister in 2002. By 2014, Erdogan became President. Erdogan survived a coup in 2004 and yet another in 2016.

The former coup was led by the military leaders who followed the ideology and teachings of Mustafa Kemal the dictator who died in 1938 and who as General in 1922 presided over the burning of the city of Smyrna and the genocide of Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians in Anatolia. In 2016, the coup was led by a rival Islamic faction which had taken over the military in the years following the failed 2004 coup. Having survived the upheavals in Turkish politics Erdogan was no longer restrained as Turkey’s leader.

In 2016, he purged all opposition in Turkey and became more powerful than ever.

Erdogan is an admirer of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet who conquered Constantinople in 1453. He has long made the anniversary of the fall of Constantinople a public celebration and made clear his intent to convert Saint Justinian’s Aghia Sophia cathedral into a Mosque. This was achieved during the summer of 2020. Erdogan’s recent statements comparing present day Greece to Byzantium in 1453 is disturbing. It is apparent that he sees himself as the successor to Sultan Mehmet and has made threatening statements that the Greeks have not learned from their history.

The Turkish President’s threats are not limited to the Greeks. In 2011, a Turkish flotilla from occupied Cyprus nearly started a war with Israel. Erdogan has insulted Israel on numerous occasions. In 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian plane over Syria that could have led to a third world war. When the Kurds of Syria were heroically fighting the Islamic State with their American allies, Erdogan threatened to invade Syria, which could have led to a shooting war between Turks and Americans. Over the past decade, Israel, Russia, and America have responded by appeasing Turkey.

In 2017, Erdogan’s bodyguards in Washington physically assaulted Armenian and Kurdish demonstrators. This led the late Senator John McCain to demand the expulsion of the Turkish Ambassador to Washington. For a brief time it seemed that Turkey’s Erdogan was attracting attention. Sadly – for Erdogan – attention has diminished as American and European officials turned their attention exclusively to Putin’s Russia.

Turkey’s threats against Greece continue. The Turkish President has attacked and insulted Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis in a very personal way that is beneath the dignity of a head of state. Turkey has assisted the aggression of Azerbaijan against Armenia which has led to war crimes against Armenians and Turkey is again looking at invading Syria. Ankara has been using well known jihadists affiliated with Al Qaeda to fight against the Armenians in Artsakh and has been using them to support his allies in Libya, with whom he is seeking to divide the Mediterranean Sea.

It is problematic that the western media is not paying attention to the plight of Armenia, Greece, Cyprus, and the Kurds. The Erdogan government in Turkey is an international
menace and should be treated as such by the civilized world. On a visit to Athens in 2017, Erdogan demanded a revision of the Treaty of Lausanne. Turkey is now demanding the demilitarization of the Greek islands.

For Greece to agree to demilitarize would be to forfeit the islands as the regime in Ankara believes it is entitled to the islands that were ceded by the Ottoman Empire to the Italians in the early part of the twentieth century. That these islands are part of Greece as a result of international treaties is of no interest to the expansionist tyrant. Even worse, that the islands are populated exclusively by ethnic Greeks is of no concern to the dictator.

Erdogan did not come from nowhere. His movement is the latest incarnation of Turkish radicalism. His movement displaced the racist Kemalists who in turn overthrew the Young Turk movement. Despite certain ideological differences, all these movements are in full agreement in their attitudes toward Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Jews, and Arabs. The Turkish Republic refused to acknowledge the genocides of the Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians. It also sponsored pogroms against Orthodox Greeks and at different times invaded Syria and Cyprus.

Before Erdogan defeated them, the Kemalists in Turkey made clear their loathing for Erdogan and his followers. Erdogan made very clear his contempt for them as well. Yet, despite the hatred that Erdogan and his followers have for the Kemalists, they do not hesitate to praise the extermination of the Christians by the Kemalists. The western powers are largely responsible for Turkey’s dysfunctional politics.

What the west has condemned in other countries, it has subsidized and fully supported in Turkey. Turkish politicians and officials that preceded Erdogan have made similar threats against Greece and Cyprus. Deranged and now deceased politicians such as Suleyman Demirel and Bulent Ecevit made threatening remarks about Greece and Cyprus, as did Erdogan’s mentor Necmettin Erbakan. Turkish officials have never hesitated in reminding the Greeks of the exterminations of 1922 even as they officially maintained an official policy of genocide denial.

Tansu Ciller who is still alive and was once Turkish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, openly endorsed the slaughter of Greek Cypriot protesters Tasos Isaac and Solomos Solomou in 1996. It should not be surprising then that the climate of racial and religious hatred that was cultivated in secular Turkey continues to prosper in Erdogan’s Turkey.

When have Turkish policies as they apply to Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, or Kurds ever been opposed in a serious way by the democracies?

The failure to oppose the secular Kemalists in Turkey was justified on the grounds that Turkey was a counterweight first against the Soviet Union, and then against Iran, Iraq, and Syria. What is the excuse for the West overlooking Ankara’s open support for the Islamic State and Al Qaeda? The authoritarian regime in Ankara today has been crushing all political dissent and is pushing for war against Greece. The governments of Greece and Cyprus, and all Greek communities worldwide should stand like the Greeks of 1940 to say ‘oxi!’ – no! to Erdogan and ‘oxi’ to American officials such as Victoria Nuland who are willing to sacrifice the Greek populations of the islands and Cyprus in order to appease the Turks in the name of long outdated and discredited views about Turkey being either an American ally or a strategic asset.

The regime in Turkey represents a threat not only to Greece and Cyprus, but to America and the world as well. America and the West must wash their hands of this dictator and his genocidal ambitions. The threat emanating from Ankara should not be ignored any longer. This is the cry and the demand of Greeks one hundred years after the burning of Smyrna.

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