18 September 2006

1016) Hatred and Propaganda in Greece Today / Brave Greek-Cypriot of Integrity: Tony Angastiniotis

The following appeared on Aug. 18, 2006 in the Opinions/Letters section of Pakistan Link, "the first Pakistani newspaper" on the Internet.

The author is Professor Nazeer Ahmed. As we can gather from the worde.org site, this Californian scholar is "a senior scientist, historian, and a former politician in India. He has held positions on noteworthy U.S. Department of Defense government projects, including design of the Hubble telescope." . .

Traveling Across Borders of Hate and History

History is a great teacher and a sign from the heavens to draw humankind towards divine presence. Unfortunately, nations have turned it into a compendium of self-serving myths, dividing themselves, and erecting borders of hate. The passions that erupt in the flames of war arise in the hearts of men and women. It is here, in the deep recesses of the human breast, that love and hate wage their battle and manifest themselves on the stage of history. The fuel that propels them is the perception of history, often self-serving, subjective and tailored to keep those passions alive.

Professor Nazeer Ahmed

There are many such borders of hate in the modern world: Bosnia-Serbia, Greece-Turkey, Chechnya-Russia, India-Pakistan, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Israel-Palestine, Israel-Lebanon. And the list keeps growing by the day. Often, these borders are trans-national. At other times, they exist within the same geographical entity.

That hatred is now institutionalized with governments feeding their nationals as well as the visitors to their borders with doses of prejudice about their perceived enemies. Hatred has now become embedded into tourism. Travel brochures deliver carefully crafted misinformation. Travel guides transmit it, sometimes in subtle tones and at other times brazenly.

I had the occasion to travel across one such border recently, that between the Greek and the Turkish worlds, where neighbors who live within a stone’s throw are separated by emotional chasms a thousand miles wide.

I have visited Turkey many times, enjoyed the hospitality of its beautiful people, savored its sumptuous foods and have marveled at the magnificence of its monuments. I have stood in reverence at the tombs of Mevlana Rumi and Ayup Sultan, Companion of the Prophet. The Bosphorus is where Asia and Europe meet. It is where the axes of three great world religions, Islam, Catholic Christianity and Orthodox Christianity intersect. If you disregard the hassles at the Istanbul airport, Turkey is a land one must visit at least once in a lifetime.

While in Istanbul I have spent days absorbing the Greek architecture of the Aya Sophia and the engineering marvels of the ancient underground Byzantine water reservoirs of Istanbul. What you see in Istanbul whets your appetite for Greece. So, on this visit I traveled to Athens. I was full of enthusiasm and curiosity. This was the land of Socrates and Plato, Aristotle and Alexander, Euclid, Herodotus and Demosthenes. The legacy of its civilization is claimed by the West and imbibed in the East. It sparked the Renaissance in Europe and was instrumental in the Mu’tazalite eruption in the Islamic world. The Greeks are also a handsome people, friendly, good natured with a love of Mediterranean food and wholesome music. But here the analogy with the Turks stops.

The Greeks and the Turks hate each other.

My first stop was at the Acropolis on which stands the Parthenon, a magnificent structure of engineering perfection. The Acropolis is a rocky hill with a commanding view of the area surrounding it. From ancient times it has been a location of a temple dedicated to whichever deity the local population believed in at the time. For this reason it is also called the sacred rock of Athens. The imposing Parthenon which dominates the hill was built by Pericles around 447 BC.

“The Turks were responsible for much of the destruction at the Acropolis”, started the tourist guide on the hill. “They built a store house here for gun powder which was hit by a shell during a siege by Venice in 1687. Many buildings caught fire and were destroyed”. This was a jarring prelude to a long litany of complaints about the Turks. As I followed the guide around, he pointed to every stone that was supposedly moved by the Turks from the temple to build a wall around the Acropolis. The historical fact is that the Venetians laid siege to Athens (1687 CE), bombarded the Acropolis, occupied it, and used material from the ancient structures to build a wall around the hill. When the Turks recaptured the town (1689) they reinforced the wall. The Greeks themselves tore down the temples of earlier civilizations to build their structures. Evidence of this may be found in the extensive underground water Cistern in Istanbul built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 532 CE.

The following day we took a taxi from Athens to Mykenia, a distance of about sixty miles. The Mykenian civilization (circa 1200 BC) was a forerunner of the Hellenistic civilization (circa 750 BC to 100 BC). The Mykenians were master builders, skilled craftsmen in the bronze age, advanced in the art of administration and used a numerical system based on alphabets. An understanding of the Mykenians is a must for anyone studying the classical Greek civilization.

“We were slaves of the Turks for four hundred years”, began the taxi driver’s version of history. “When they occupied Greece”, he continued, “many churches were destroyed and our culture was ruined”. The historical fact is that under the Milli system, the Ottomans gave complete autonomy to the Greeks (and other Christian Orthodox people in Eastern Europe). The Greek Churches were protected by Christian waqfs and administered by the Patriarch of Istanbul. This patronage enabled the Greeks living in the hills and those in the plains develop a kindred sense of belonging to a common heritage. Indeed, a sociologist may develop a plausible thesis that it was the Ottoman patronage under the milli system that ignited the consciousness of a unitary Greek nation among peoples of Greek heritage living in isolated islands and different parts of the mainland.

We proceeded on to Nafplion, the first capital of modern Greece. It was here in 1829 that the Greek rebels, incited and abetted by the British, declared their independence from the Ottoman Empire. The old city plaza is still there and the Turkish flavor endures. The jami masjid of Nafplion is now a museum, a fate better than those of other masjids in Greece that were converted outright to churches. But the Greeks have their eyes closed to the excesses that they committed. They have no recollection of their invasion of Turkey (1921-24) in which they killed, burned and destroyed much of Western Anatolia. It is an asymmetrical memory, which stores only what the Turks did to them.

We took the flight from Athens to Larnaca in Cyprus. This was a week before the Israeli onslaught on Lebanon flooded Larnaca with thousands of refugees. We visited the Sultaniye Tekke which dates back to the first Arab attempt to conquer Cyprus during the reign of Amir Muawiya, circa 670 CE. Larnaca had a sizable Turkish population until 1964. On Christmas night of that year, the Greeks invaded the Turkish quarters and slaughtered thousands forcing the Turkish population to flee north to what is today the Turkish Republic of Cyprus.

I wanted to make a telephone call from Larnaca (in Greek Cyprus) to Lefka (in Turkish Cyprus). I was firmly reminded by the receptionist at the hotel that there was no such place as Turkish Cyprus, and that it was “occupied Cyprus”. “You cannot make a call to occupied Cyprus from here”, she continued, “you must first call Turkey and from there the call is directed to Lefka”. A sadness consumed my heart as I realized that a bird could fly across a border in a minute but it would take a human voice a thousand miles to reach a neighbor. Cyprus is a small island but it is separated into two parts by borders of hate.

Greece and Turkey are not the only neighbors wherein the borders are sealed with suspicion, distrust and outright hatred. On a recent trip from Delhi to Sirhind on the India-Pakistan border, I noticed how complete was the obliteration of Islamic monuments (except Sufi tombs) in Eastern Punjab. Prior to partition (1947) East Punjab was more than one-third Muslim (as opposed to Western Punjab which was more than seventy percent Muslim). Today it is less than one-twentieth Muslim. One cranes ones neck in vain to see if there is a minaret here and there. The destruction was mutual across the border. Partition erected barriers of hate right across the heart of Punjab.

Sometimes the barriers of hate exist within a geographical or national boundary. Several years ago I visited the ruins of Hampi, the ancient capital of the Vijayanagar kingdom in the Deccan on the Tungabhadra river. It was here that the combined armies of the Bahmani sultans defeated the raja of Vijayanagar in 1565 CE at the battle of Tylekote. It was one of the decisive battles of history that destroyed a great medieval empire and replaced it with the (Shia Muslim) Bahmani sultanates. The (Shia) Safavids of Persia, who were at that time engaged in a fierce struggle with the Great Mughals for control of Afghanistan, saw a golden opportunity to circumvent the Mogul empire and made overtures to the Bahmani sultans for a common stand against the (nominally sunni) Moguls. It was this Persian interference into the affairs of Hindustan which provoked the Great Mughals and brought the Mogul armies hurling south into the Deccan, first under Akbar, and then under Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb. In any case, Hampi was destroyed in the battle of Tylekote.

“The Muslims destroyed Hampi”, began the guide, repeating this litany as he showed me each monument or every piece of sculpture lying on the ground. What was a power struggle between a raja and his neighbor sultans was now presented as a war based on religion. When I asked some pointed questions, the guide realized that I was a Muslim and his tone changed. I wondered how many thousands of ordinary folks who had no knowledge of history and whose only interest was to visit the ruins of an ancient city had received a poisonous dose of anti-Muslim tirades from this and other guides at the site.

History is an interpretation of events. It happens only once but is narrated in a hundred ways. In modern life, as tourism has increased and people travel in increasing numbers from one country to another, a subjective view of history has penetrated the tourist industry. Millions of tourists each year are bombarded with distorted versions of historical events and return home with the prejudices which are thrust upon them during the tours. Men and women of goodwill who strive to build bridges of understanding across religious and cultural divides would render a service if they worked together to reform the tourist industry so that history becomes a mechanism for healing not of hate.

Holdwater Reflects

"Occupied Cyprus"! Never in history has any government owned Cyprus, and Greek Cyprus is calling the legally-intervened north "occupied."

I am much in appreciation of Dr. Ahmed's humanistic sensibilities.

There was one omission in this wonderful article; Dr. Ahmed wrote, "The Greeks and the Turks hate each other." He didn't provide a single example of Turkish hatred.

I think he is well aware that generally speaking, Turks are not raised with hatred, and most Turks actually maintain a brotherly feeling toward those who make an industry of hating Turks (Greeks and Armenians, principally). Dr. Ahmed was probably attempting diplomacy with that statement, not wishing to shoulder the entire blame on the Greeks. (Yet if that is the case, I wonder if such statements should be made for the sake of diplomacy.)

Such was not his aim, but Dr. Ahmed was inadvertently continuing a great tradition of "Turkish defense"; it was because of the Indians and what would soon become the Pakistanis that WWI Britain's bigoted Lloyd George was persuaded to try the apprehended Ottoman officials (accused of committing an Armenian "genocide") fairly. (Because the English were fearful of riling up their Indian subjects.) I believe if the Indian delegation did not speak justly, the British would have had it in for the Turks, and most every detainee would have been found guilty. (This was the episode of the "Malta Tribunal," 1919-21; every single Turk could not even be charged, for lack of evidence, and they were all released.)

As brave Greek-Cypriot Antonis Angastiniotis has written, "Selective memory is necessary to maintain current policies, sadly the problem is that this attitude does not lead to reconciliation."

I have recently received a nice letter from a Greek in Greece, just one of the indications not every Greek operates from a knee-jerk anti-Turkish hostility. Yet, too many are indoctrinated by hatred... like the Armenians. (Or as Angastiniotis put it, "Since our childhood we were taught that the Turks were barbaric dogs.")

But another dimension to this hatred is that too many Greeks and Armenians who have moved to other nations take and cultivate these hatreds with them. We can see this level of irrational hatred in Internet forums, where Americans of Greek and Armenian ancestry, far removed from their "ancient homelands," whole-heartedly carry the banner of vicious hatred... all in the duty of what they think of as "patriotism."

An Armenian, Rafael Ishkhanian, (from "The Law of Excluding the Third Force," cited in Gerard Libaridian's Armenia at the Crossroads; Democracy and Nationhood in the Post-Soviet Era, 1991, p. 10) said it best, speaking also for too many Greeks:

"[T]o curse at Muslims and especially at Turks, to talk much about the Armenian Genocide, and to remind others constantly of the brutality of the Turks are all regarded as expressions of patriotism. Among the leaders of the past we consider those who curse Turks and killed Turks to be the most patriotic. Our most recent heroes are those who assassinated Turkish diplomats in European cities... [this] is the dominant mentality."

They then carry over this irrational hatred in the western nations they have settled in, use the positions of wealth and influence some have attained, and poison the minds of their non-Greek & Armenian countrymen. They stop anything that may come across as "positive" about Turkey. And their fanaticism can be so great, some of their countrymen of different heritage can get hit by the crossfire, winding up shell-shocked. (Most westerners, however, simply and mindlessly nod their heads in agreement and say, uh-huh, sure. Everyone knows the Turks are Terrible. This prejudice is what has made Armenian and Greek propaganda so easy to administer, along with the knowledge that the already politically-weak Turks are indifferent and let these matters go.)

© Holdwater
The source site of this article gets revised often, as better
information comes along. For the most up-to-date version, and
the related photos, the reader may consider reviewing
the direct link as follows:


Brave Greek-Cypriot of Integrity: Tony Angastiniotis

The following article regarding our favorite Greek(-Cypriot) of integrity, Antonis Angastiniotis, appears to no longer be at its original home, the site of the World Peace Herald (wpherald.com; the site operators must have had no idea what a rarity Mr. Angastiniotis is among his fellow Greeks, to have done away with such a valuable article.) TAT already featured this admirable man in the site's "Cyprus" page, but the word about him deserves to be spread to a wider audience.

'Let's tell the truth so we can apologize'

Cypriot filmmaker:
'Let's tell the truth so we can apologize'

By Christiane Sternberg
Cyprus International Press Service
Published October 20, 2005

NICOSIA —The hall of the Ataturk Culture Center is the home of a huge Turkish flag. Its luminous red color dominates the stage. For every Greek, it is a definite sight of pain. But Antonis Angastiniotis is not interested in acting on the animosities of past centuries still being nurtured today — not even on Cyprus, where Turkish and Greek communities live in different sections of the island separated by a no man's land.

Angastiniotis runs across the stage and does the most incredible -- he puts his hand onto the flag as if to swear an oath. A Greek hand touching the flag of the "dogs." It is a scandalous event.

"I want us all to finally live together in peace," he pleads. "Let us reveal the bloody past. Let us tell the truth so that we can apologize."

On this evening, his film "The Voice of Blood — Searching for Selden" was being shown before an audience for the first time. The documentary, which deals with the massacre that Greek Cypriots committed on their Turkish fellow citizens in 1974, is a moving piece of chronicle. In the film, Angastiniotis touches on a subject about which most Greeks insistently remain silent.

Not one Greek Cypriot came to the film's premiere. This means Angastiniotis is once more on his lonely way to fulfill his self-chosen mission as peacemaker.

Tony has what it takes to be a good demagogue. His dark eyes glow with enthusiasm while he untiringly runs across the stage, his arms raised to the audience. His voice resounds through the hall and heightens in the attempt to persuade the audience of his good intentions.

"I think it would be great, if my daughter married a Turkish Cypriot. For that I would invite all my Greek Cypriot friends." His daughter is one year old. Her father is an optimist working to make the world a better place.

In the Greek south, few take note of his big debut in the Turkish part of Nicosia. On the Greek side, the EU member state Republic of Cyprus, his film about the uncomfortable side of Cypriot history becomes a victim of the media's self-censorship.

All the television stations, even the public television station CyBC, had serious reasons for not broadcasting the documentary. We never received the film, the boss had no time yet to focus on it, there isn't enough time to broadcast it, the portrayal is not objective enough, and so on.

The disappointed filmmaker explodes when he hears such things: "They keep the murders secret for thirty years, and now they tell me I am not objective. They shoot hundreds of movies about Greek Cypriots who went missing during the Turkish invasion, but as soon as I make a film about the other side, it's me who is not objective?"

Almost no one in the south has seen the documentary, and only a few newspapers have even reported its existence. An anchorwoman of radio Proto read such an announcement, and then asked her listeners to discuss this "brazen decomposition of history."

What Angastiniotis hears at the coffeehouses enrages him: "They killed the Turkish dogs? Excellent, they deserved it!" He now avoids these traditional meeting points for men, and prefers to spend his evenings at home. "I can't argue with every racist fool."

Actually, his political roots lean rather to the right.

"In former times I used to be a nationalist, too," Angastiniotis admits. But an amazing change has taken place.

"I am 39 years old and since I was old enough to make my own thoughts they indoctrinated us with the Greek perspective: 'It's only the Turkish military invasion of 1974 which is to blame for the division of the isle. That's it!'

"But nobody ever told us that there was a previous massacre on the Turkish minority and that they had lived in enclaves since 1964 and that our soldiers took their Turkish compatriots as hostages and killed them — women, children, old ones."

Angastiniotis relates the story with tears in his eyes. It is no show; he is not standing on a stage now. He weeps as he retells the conversations he had with survivors.

"'They collected us men by trucks when the Turkish army moved closer,' Ali Faik tells with a faltering voice. 'When I came back I searched for my family. Nobody was there anymore. I had a wife and three children. My youngest daughter Selden was scarcely 16 days old. Later they found them all buried in a mass grave. The Greeks ploughed the corpses under with bulldozers in order to cover up the tracks.'

"After that their bodies were disinterred under the observation of the UN and the foreign press. In Atlilar and it's neighboring communities Murataga and Sandallar, 126 partially disfigured corpses were found. A woman still held her baby in her arms."

"When I discovered a huge mural painting in the north, which pointed on the mass graves, I had the same thoughts every Greek Cypriot has: Turkish propaganda!" Angastiniotis remembers.

"But then I heard these stories by old Turkish men. I asked the old Greek men at our coffeehouse and in the family: Is all this true? But none of them was willing to talk about it. They refused to remember, could you imagine that?"

The forgetfulness is no phenomenon that prospers only in the concealment. In an interview with the Arab newspaper Khaleej Times in September last year, Cypriot president Tassos Papadopoulos denied that Turkish Cypriots were killed between 1963 and 1974.

When Angastiniotis began work on the documentary, he was determined to get to the bottom of what had actually taken place. He had no money, no equipment and no earthly chance for fame and glory, but nevertheless he began to piece together the puzzle. A university media center in the Turkish north provided a camera and equipment.

He wanted to clear the south up with his inconceivable revelations — but the Greek Cypriot public had no interest in the annoying process of coping with the past. However, the Turkish media pounced on what they saw as the avant-garde of the enemy camp. He made it up to the front page of the Turkish newspaper "Hürriyet," and his film was broadcast on the Turkish Cypriot television channel BRT in prime time. That did not deepen the trust of the Greek side.

But it made Angastiniotis even more determined.

"I don't make half businesses. What is this film supposed to be shown in small clubs? This subject finally needs to be discussed in public. If our [TV broadcasters] don't want to show my documentary, I will send it to film festivals all over Europe. Then the truth will come to our country from the outside, and nobody will be able to shut his eyes before it."

Angastiniotis punctuates his words by pounding on the table, which does not belong to him. For the last four months, he and his family has been living with his wife's parents. They have no job and money to have their own home.

"I didn't last at my old job. After they caught on to what I was working on, my colleagues made racist remarks every day."

With a defiant move, the martyr of his free will strokes a black wisp out of his face. He doesn't cut his hair anymore, so as to remind himself every time he looks in the mirror of the oath he swore: "No comprising [compromising?] for a better life."

Now he bears the consequences out of the ignorance that hinders and constricts him in the south. He sallies with bag and baggage and leaves the Greek part of his home country. "I will resettle with my wife and the little one into the north."
Tony Angastiniotis

Tony Angastiniotis at right with probable film students

The University of Famagusta in the north has offered him a one-year position at its media centre together with a new home and unrestricted technical assistance for further projects. By accepting the offer, Angastiniotis becomes a complete traitor to his Greek compatriots.

Angastiniotis laughs off possible nationalistic acts of revenge against him. For his next film, he plans to deal with the murders that Turkish Cypriots committed on Greek Cypriots. And all that with the financial background of the Turkish part.


A few other articles about this remarkable filmmaker has appeared. In the site of the Eastern Mediterranean University of Turkish Cyprus, in an article entitled "Greek Cypriot Author explains Greek Cypriot Atrocities," a highlight:

"Tony said he never questioned what he was taught, believing that the Turks were barbarians and wanted to murder Greek Cypriots, until the borders were lifted two years ago when he decided to cross over and find out for himself.

As a result, he is despised by his own people, lost his house and has become a hunted man forced to travel like a gypsy."

And in an interview by Toplum Postasi, London's first Turkish newspaper, the "headline" is a powerful one:

"Selective memory is necessary to maintain current policies, sadly the problem is that this attitude does not lead to reconciliation."

Sure applies to the Armenian mentality.

Here's another highlight, with great ring of truth; after explaining that taking the job at the North Cyprus university was "a matter of survival, a source of food for my family, not a political statement," Angastiniotis elaborated:

"I regard the Turkish Cypriots as my own people because they are, and I think they have naturally accepted me in the community. Even those who may disagree with my views or my work they [have] always talked to me kindly and with respect. The miracle of hospitality is still in motion here. The only barrier is language, but those that don’t speak Greek usually speak English and I am trying to learn Turkish, but I admit it’s not an easy language. When I see all this kindness in them I wonder how on earth all this conflict began on this island of ours. Politics I assume."

© Holdwater
The source site of this article gets revised often, as better
information comes along. For the most up-to-date version, and
the related photos, the reader may consider reviewing
the direct link as follows:



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