Are Turkish citizens afraid of Greece?

Greeks and Turks: A Difficult Friendship

My grandmother lived in the northern Greek city of Ioannina. She was a wonderful woman who loved me very much and loved to cook for me. The only strange thing is that every time I wanted to play football rather than finish up at lunchtime, she threatened: Eat your plate empty, otherwise the Turk will come and kidnap you! Perhaps that was one of the reasons why I still carry a few pounds too much with me to this day.

It was only later that I began to understand Grandma's threat: Ioannina was not awarded to Greece until 1913 in the wake of the Balkan Wars. Until then, my grandmother was a citizen of the Ottoman Empire. Whereby: "Citizen" is the wrong word. The ruling Osman family needed no citizens, no self-confident "Citoyens", but obedient subjects.

At some point the Greeks no longer wanted to accept this and rebelled against the rule of the Ottomans. The uprising was not only successful - it also became the founding myth of the modern Greek nation.

Common Ottoman history: the Fethiye mosque in the city of Ioannina, which has only belonged to Greece since 1913

Every nation exaggerates with its founding myth. People prefer to ignore their own atrocities and show their own achievements in a good light. That was probably also the case with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1922 or the proclamation of the German Empire in 1871 - not to mention the smart Swiss who simply invented Wilhelm Tell's apple shot.

Myths and Historical Facts

In Hellas, the myth goes that the brave Greek soul triumphed over the outnumbered Turks with the support of the Orthodox Church. In terms of the result, that also seems to be true. But every enlightened citizen should know that Greek independence would hardly have been enforceable without external support, for example without the destruction of the Turkish-Egyptian fleet by the great powers at the Battle of Navarino in 1827.

With military escort: the Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis on its way to the eastern Mediterranean

Perhaps that is why the politicians in Ankara today believe that Greece has always been the spoiled child of the West. In Athens you see it the other way around: Turkey is so spoiled that it is still being supplied with weapons by NATO, even though it is militarily occupying half of Cyprus, has marched into neighboring countries, has elected a nationalist leader as the majority procurer in parliament and, on top of that, a dispute over it Gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean are being pulled off the fence with NATO partner Greece.

Empty phrases and politics

The usual phrase is that Greeks and Turks want to live in peace with one another, only the politicians thwarted them. I don't know if that's true. But I have often seen that many people on both sides of the Aegean feel a kind of longing for one another and find each other easily - be it through the music, the food, the humor or the shared pleasure in Weltschmerz.

Greco-Turkish controversial apple: Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, once an Orthodox church, is now a mosque

In his highly acclaimed film "Politiki Kouzina" (German: cinnamon and coriander, Turkish: Bir tutam baharat), director Tassos Boulmetis tries to portray the suffering of the Istanbul Greeks without ignoring the Turkish sensitivities. His symbolic figure is the Greek Fanis, who was expelled from Istanbul in the course of the Cyprus crisis in the 1960s and who is looking for social connections in Athens - but is insulted by his own compatriots as a "Turk", that is, as a "does not belong".

Longing and bitterness

The individual becomes the plaything of political interests, the majority remains silent. Everyone is sad about what happened, but they don't do much to change the course of fate. In Hellas, "Politiki Kouzina" was celebrated as a great emotional cinema that leaves longing, but also bitterness. Perhaps a stimulus for politics: less emotional cinema, please, all the more rational thinking.

The "Green Line" in Nicosia separates the Republic of Cyprus from the Turkish-occupied north of the island

In the recent past, great feelings in bilateral relations did not end well. In the early 1970s, during the military dictatorship of all places, all of Greece sang the story of the two friends Jannis and Mehmet, who drink wine together in Istanbul and philosophize about God and the world.

God and Allah

"You believe in God, I believe in Allah and yet we both suffer," muses Mehmet. A little later the Athenian military put a coup on Cyprus, Turkey feels called to invade and occupies half of the island - a clear breach of international law that continues to this day. Jannis and Mehmet have nothing more to say.

Let us be rational so that our feelings for one another get a solid foundation. Should the Greeks and Turks get into a military conflict again, the two peoples would be the big losers.

Politicians instead of nationalists

Let's be brave too. Even the former arch-enemies Eleftherios Venizelos and Kemal Ataturk did not hesitate to negotiate a Greek-Turkish confederation in the eastern Mediterranean. The concept is unlikely to be enforceable - if only because it goes hand in hand with the old Turkish fear of the division of the fatherland.

Nevertheless: Developing future concepts is always better than military saber rattling. To do this, however, you need talented politicians, not nationalists as majority procurers. And last but not least, you need enlightened citizens, self-confident "citizens" on both sides of the Aegean.