Erdoğan’s Threats Against Greece and the Levantine Greeks

Recep Tayyip Erdogan Greece

Growing up in Syria in an Orthodox Christian family who survived a series of massacres that targeted the Christian community in the Levant after the Greek Revolution in 1821 and during the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s, we Levantine Greeks have always looked at Greece as the citadel of the Eastern Christianity.

The Levantine Christians did not have a homeland – Lebanon was viewed to be the homeland of Christians for a while, but soon, the  realized how it came to be dominated by radical Palestinian organizations in the 1980s and currently by Iranian proxies like Hezbollah.

A significant number of Lebanese Christians, especially the Greek Orthodox and Catholics, have emigrated and fled the country.

Although Greece is located in Europe, it is viewed as an Eastern country for us, especially we Greek Orthodox, Melkite Greek Catholics that follow the Patriarchate of Antioch in Syria and Lebanon, the Jordanian and Palestinians who follow the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and all of us known locally as Rûm, which translates as Eastern Roman (Byzantine) or Greek.

We have always heard from our grandparents stories about the heroic victories of our brethren in Asia Minor, which is nowadays modern Turkey, and the Greek Islands.

We grew up struggling with our fears and weaknesses that comes from the systematic massacres and the laws that treat us as inferior by listening to how the patriotic Rûm of the Ottoman Empire were able to achieve major victories against the Ottoman army and create the first country for the Rûm, Greece, to be the bulwark of Eastern Christianity and an ideal for all of us.

Now, the remaining Christians who stayed in Syria and Lebanon are looking with great concern and even horror at the continuous threats that Turkey is posing against the Hellenic Republic and the breach of its airspace, while the West is idly standing by.

If Greece, who is an EU member, a NATO country, and the first country to gain independence from the Ottomans, and despite all of that its still suffering from the imperial Turkish and Islamist aspirations, then what would the dwindling community of Eastern Christianity feel?

The West should not look at its relation with Greece from only narrow short term state interests, but from an ideological point of view.

Western civilization has been influenced vastly by the Byzantine civilization: Greece, Cyprus, and the Levantine Christians are the inheritors of this civilization.

The Western world must speak up clearly to Turkey and show what are punitive measures that can be taken against it if it continues to breach Greek sovereignty by flying its military jets over the Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea.

Ankara’s policy with the West has always been about sending up trial balloons. They tried it in the Armenian region of Artsakh, and in the Syriac and Kurdish region of Ras Al Ain in 2019.

Those trials ended in Turkey’s favor.

Before the invasion of the Syriac Christian and Kurdish region of Ras Al Ain in Syria, Erdoğan asked to demilitarise the region and America brokered this agreement, which was known as the “safe zone”.

They then pushed its Christian and Kurdish allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to destroy all the defensive fortifications to pave the way for the Turkish invasion in 2019 that displaced all the Christians and Kurds.

Now we are hearing the same calls from Turkey to demilitarise the Aegean Islands, an area known to the world by its natural beauty and our historic monasteries and churches.

The US and the West must not fall to these tricks!

We, as Levantine Christians, are the first responders to all these Turkish aggressions.

The tales of our grandparents are still vivid in our memories and have planted constant fear in our hearts. That’s not Turkophobia – that’s reality that is backed with numbers and the evidence of genocides.

Do not let history repeat itself!

Once Turkey sees a gesture of weakness, nothing will stop them from ethnically cleansing all of the Aegean region from its indigenous Greek Christian population, as they did it Cyprus, Istanbul, Antioch and Mardin; and as they are still doing it in Syria.

The West needs to act and prove to the millions of eastern Christian communities that it stands for its values, and that they have an ally that they can rely on.

Hadeel Oueis, senior research fellow at the PHilos project.

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor