Turkey: nationalist vandalism and community resistance on Antigoni/Burgazada, Istanbul

On Sunday afternoon, Turkish nationalist ‘vandals caused damage [Βάνδαλοι προκάλεσαν φθορές]’ to a Rum (Greek Orthodox) church in Istanbul. Around ten (15-to-18-year-old) Turkish youths went to Antigoni/Burgazada (one of the Princes’ Islands), ‘invaded [εισέβαλ[αν]]’ and caused ‘minor damage [μικροφθορές]’.

The residents of the island ‘caught the youths… and took them to the island’s police station, where they were set free because of their age [συνέλαβαν τους νεαρούς… και τους μετέφεραν στο αστυνομικό τμήμα του νησιού, όπου και αφέθηκαν ελεύθεροι λόγω ηλικίας]’.

Members of the Istanbul Greek minority have commented that ‘the religious and nationalist fanaticism that is cultivated by various circles in Turkey, amongst them government circles, is the instigator of this attack [ο θρησκευτικός και εθνικιστικός φανατισμός που καλλιεργείται από διάφορους κύκλους στην Τουρκία, μεταξύ αυτών και από κυβερνητικούς, είναι ο ηθικός αυτουργός αυτής της επίθεσης].’

That appears to be a paraphrasing of the Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans’ statement: ‘Religious and nationalistic fanaticism that is promoted by various circles in Turkey, some of which are adjacent to the current government, is the instigator of this attack….’

Obviously, the immediate concern is the need for violent nationalists and racists to be punished. But the Federation has also pleaded for the Turkish government to fight nationalist and racist violence by fighting the underlying causes of nationalism and racism. And it has identified the most urgent need: an end to nationalist history teaching, which currently naturalises nationalism, racism and violence against minority communities.

The Federation wants the Turkish government to start undoing the brainwashing of majority society ‘by removing from school books the ignorant of history negative reports against non-Muslim Communities’.

Perhaps the best place to start building an anti-nationalist society would be through the teaching of the history of the Princes’ Islanders and the lionisation of that community’s generations-long resistance against division, exclusion and destruction.

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