Greece is credited as one of the greatest civilizations of all time. From the heroic stand of Thermopolaye to our innovations in philosophy and art, the achievements of Greece have carried throughout history. Despite those achievements, Greece has been dealing with invaders since the beginning of time. In 1453, the city of Constantinople fell to the power of the Ottoman Empire, after which nothing would be the same. The fall of the Byzantine Empire meant that Greece was once again vulnerable and at the mercy of foreign invaders.
For the next 400 years, the Ottoman Empire inflicted horrendous atrocities upon the Greeks in their occupation. Among these atrocities included mass raping, destruction of religious relics, and the seizing of sons to serve in the Sultan's army. After enduring these atrocities and having several failed attempts at freedom, our ancestors had enough.
Under the battle cry "freedom or death", our ancestors made a promise to God that they'd rather face St. Peter at the gates than bow to a Pasha again. For four years, they fought with the passion of our ancestors and won independence for Greece. Unfortunately, the fight was not over.
The Turks and Greeks have had tension for over a century, however, over the past 20 years there's been a relative amount of peace between the two countries. However, with the election of the new prime minister, things are once again turning hostile. Binali Yildirim, the new prime minister, reignited hostilities between the two countries, and where there was one peace, people are beginning to breathe uneasily.
The main conflict in the issue is over the Greek Islands. Turkey has been disputing for years that the islands belong to them, but now they are becoming more aggressive. Turkish fighter jets have been flying into Greek air spaces and just recently, Turkish fighter pilots harassed a Greek Army helicopter, forcing the Greek military to intervene and safely escort the chopper. Along with this, last month a chief advisor to the Turkish President made a direct threat to the Greek prime minister, promising to "break the arms and legs of any officers, of the prime minister or of any minister who dares to step onto Imia in the Aegean." Imia is one of the many islands in dispute between Greece and Turkey.
I am extremely proud of my heritage. I thought it was important to get the perspective of someone who has lived in Greece, so I decided to interview my Yiayia (grandmother). Both of her uncles were captives to the Turks during the Greco-Turkish War. One was murdered and the other was tortured horrendously.
Our ancestors fought the Turks in the war for independence and seeing Turkish flags in the streets of Athens when the Prime Minister was visiting made her extremely uncomfortable when she was a young girl. She went on to discuss that seeing the offenses of the Turkish government is devastating to her. She is very adamant, however, that the people of Turkey are not to blame for the actions of their government, and she went on to elaborate that we should not hate, we should only love and remember the teachings of Christ.
These disputes are serious matters, and the international community is remaining silent. As a 2nd generation American in my family, it is still hard for me to watch these events unfold. The aggression of the Turkish government is a painful reminder of the struggles our ancestors endured. Greece is a shell of its formal self, the government is weak and they're in an ocean of debt deeper than the Aegean. Yet we'll never forget our ancestors, and we will never forget their triumphs. The nine stripes on our flag represent the nine syllables in "Eleutheria H Thanatos" (Freedom or Death). My only hope is that the rest of the world will recognize what is happening.