How the Greek diaspora rallied to defend the 1821 War of Independence 

Campaign in Moldavia and Wallachia. Alexandros Ypsilantis crosses the Pruth, 22 February, 1821. (Engraving)
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Campaign in Moldavia and Wallachia. Alexandros Ypsilantis crosses the Pruth, 22 February, 1821. (Engraving)
How the Greek diaspora rallied to defend the 1821 War of Independence 
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Updated 25 March 2021

How the Greek diaspora rallied to defend the 1821 War of Independence 

How the Greek diaspora rallied to defend the 1821 War of Independence 
  • Overseas Greeks rallied to the revolution’s cause in ideological, organizational and diplomatic terms 
  • There is no better example of the Modern Greek Enlightenment than the works and deeds of Rigas Velestinlis 

WASHINGTON, D.C.: It is difficult, if not impossible, to understand the revolution that led to Greek independence without considering the diaspora’s role. Some aspects of its influence are straightforward and direct, reflecting its active involvement in the Greek cause.

The actual call to arms was propagated outside Greek territory by Alexandros Ypsilantis in February 1821. He traveled from the Russian Empire to Ottoman territory, specifically Moldova, where he called for self-determination. The revolution was formally launched in Iasi in eastern Romania on Feb. 24, 1821.

It is noteworthy that Ypsilantis was head of the Friendly Society, a secret organization set up by Greeks abroad with the aim of achieving self-determination. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, and in recognition of the diaspora’s contribution to Greece, a proposal has been tabled to celebrate Feb. 24 as Diaspora Day.

Individual acts of rebellion and representation aside, there are deeper reasons that make the diaspora a protagonist of the Greek Revolution. Over time, elements of the diaspora got exposed, and actively contributed, to the spread of new, radical ideas inspired by the American and French revolutions.

Their prominent economic status in the Ottoman Empire, their trading skills and their advanced educational levels became a rallying cry in support of the Greek cause, both for their countrymen and the high diplomatic courts of foreign powers, especially the likes of Russia and the UK.

But how did the diaspora come to play such a central role in the revolution, and what factors account for its prominence?

By the 18th century, Greeks residing in the Phanar (Fener) district of Istanbul, the spiritual center of the Orthodox Church, had acquired powerful positions in the Ottoman administration. Well-educated and having adopted a cosmopolitan approach, the Phanariots were able to acquire administrative positions in the empire, particularly in today’s Romania and Moldova.

This gave them access to power, which they combined with the tactics of the great powers to undermine the Ottomans and acquire self-determination. A concrete example is the 1770 uprising in Peloponnesus, which the sultan was eventually able to crush.

Known in Greek historiography as the Orlov Affair, this was an attempt to achieve self-determination under the leadership of the Orlov brothers, highly ranked Russian navy officers who sought to implement the Russian plan of revolt against the Ottomans.

Although unsuccessful, the revolt underlined the faith that many Greeks had in Russia as a potential liberator, not least due to the strong religious bond of the two sides and their mutual desire, at least during certain time periods, to weaken the sultan.

Important as the Christian Orthodox faith was in bringing together Christians to revolt against the sultan, the contribution of secular nationalists was equally powerful.

In the 18th century, and especially after the 1774 Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca — which brought an end to the Russian-Ottoman War and allowed for unfettered access to the Bosphorus Strait by Christian ships — Greeks were able to dominate the trade routes of the eastern Mediterranean.

Investing in education, many resided in various European metropoles of the time, such as Paris, Vienna, Marseille and Odessa. Major ports of the empire — especially Izmir, Chios and Thessaloniki — became the movement’s center.

Their collective contribution to the pursuit of knowledge and science gave rise to the Modern Greek Enlightenment Μovement, a school of thought inspired by the ideals spread by the American and French revolutions.

Normative principles of equality and justice entered their vocabulary and pushed them to translate and print, sometimes in secret, classic works of the antiquity and enlightenment. They admired Ancient Greece and its achievements, seeing them as the result of the creative pursuits of humanity when set free to explore, question and innovate.




Books on Greek Revolution by Samuel Howe, items and articles are displayed at the new museum dedicated to the Philhellene foreign volunteers who fought and died for Greece on March 12, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)

They also emphasized the need for widespread education among the Greek people, and sought to link the desire for cultural excellence with liberty and the freedom to pursue one’s ambitions under conditions of equality.

Their approach soon led them to an inescapable conclusion: The Greek people ought to rise against the sultan and achieve self-determination in the name of progress and a desire to overthrow the conservative establishment that kept the masses trapped in prejudice and ignorance.

There is no better example of the Modern Greek Enlightenment and its influence than the works and deeds of Rigas Velestinlis (1757-1798). A pioneer of the enlightenment, he found himself in Vienna by the time he was 30. He devoted himself to the cause of Greek independence, but did more than any other in brandishing the modern zeitgeist that the enlightenment era called for.

He edited the first modern Greek newspaper called Efimeris from Vienna, where he was able to settle at age 30. His vision of Greece’s future was ecumenical and progressive, to the extent that many among the clergy condemned his revolutionary zeal.




Greek revolutionary hero Rigas Velestinlis, painted by Andreas Kriezis. (Supplied)

Velestinlis called for an uprising of the people against the Ottoman yoke, not on the basis of nationalism — after all, he and countless others identified as Romios, a Greek Orthodox subject of the sultan — but by envisaging a confederation of the Balkan peoples, with Greece at its heart.

He went as far as to publish a draft constitution addressing the peoples of “Rumeli, Asia Minor, the islands of the Aegean and the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia.” In it, he called for a Balkan-wide republic guaranteeing equality and justice for all its citizens.

Going further, he stressed how equality was meant to apply to all, “Christians and Turks,” in a spirit of brotherhood and equality before the law. Small wonder that the Greek patriarchate condemned Velestinlis as a dangerous utopian, endangering Hellenism — the national character or culture of Greece — and flirting with revolution and resurrection.

He was eventually captured by the Austrians in Trieste, and was killed at the hands of the Ottomans in Belgrade. Yet his vision of self-determination lived on, along with his persistent calls to heed the calls of liberty.

The Greek Revolution, like any major event, was the result of various forces, movements and motives. The struggle for self-determination, however, had begun much earlier than 1821, and was not necessarily expressed through the bayonet.

The role of the Greek diaspora, especially after the mid-18th century, in preparing the ground for the revolution in ideological, organizational and diplomatic terms is undoubtedly a central aspect of that era and a glorious chapter in Greek history.

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* Dimitris Tsarouhas is a professor of international relations, specializing in Greek politics, Greece-Turkey relations, EU-Turkey relations and EU affairs. Twitter: @dimitsar


Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses

Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses
Updated 13 May 2021

Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses

Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses
  • The country received its first COVAX delivery of 854,000 AstraZeneca doses at the start of April
  • Some 2.7 million people have registered online with the health ministry to receive a vaccine Some 2.7 million people have registered online with the health ministry to receive a vaccine

CAIRO: Egypt has received a batch of over 1.7 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses through the COVAX initiative and a separate shipment of 500,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses from China, the health ministry said on Thursday.
The country received its first COVAX delivery of 854,000 AstraZeneca doses at the start of April. It has also received several shipments of the Sinopharm vaccine, bringing the total number of vaccine doses delivered to 5 million, the health ministry said.
Egypt has an agreement for the supply of 20 million Sinopharm doses, and has been allocated 4.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX.
It is preparing to produce the Sinovac and Sputnik vaccines locally.
Egypt, with a population of just over 100 million, is trying to contain a third wave of COVID-19 infections and the government has put in place some restrictive measures until May 21, shortening opening hours and banning large gatherings.
Some 2.7 million people have registered online with the health ministry to receive a vaccine. Authorities opened a mass vaccination center in Cairo this month capable of vaccinating 10,000 people per day.
Egypt had officially confirmed 240,927 coronavirus cases including 14,091 deaths as of Wednesday.
Officials and experts say the real number of infections is far higher, but is not reflected in government figures because of low testing rates and the exclusion of private test results.


Macron holds talks with Mahmoud Abbas, will discuss Gaza situation with Netanyahu

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Reuters)
French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Reuters)
Updated 15 min 13 sec ago

Macron holds talks with Mahmoud Abbas, will discuss Gaza situation with Netanyahu

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Reuters)

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron is concerned by the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians and called for a “definite reset” of negotiations between the two sides, the French presidency said on Thursday.

Palestinian militants fired more rockets into Israel’s commercial heartland on Thursday as Israel kept up a punishing bombing campaign in Gaza and massed tanks and troops on the enclave’s border. 

Other world leaders also called from calm, with US President Joe Biden saying Thursday he hoped fighting “will be closing down” sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also appealed in a video call for an end to the fighting.

“The main goal is to stop violent acts from both sides and ensure the safety of the civilian population,” the Kremlin said in a statement.


UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds
Updated 13 May 2021

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

The UAE has approved the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children aged 12-15, the government said on Thursday, having already permitted its use for 16 years and above.
The UAE's health ministry approved its use, the government's Twitter account said. The US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the use of the vaccine in children as young as 12.


Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan
Updated 13 May 2021

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan
  • Violence lay heavy on hearts of parents of children dressed in new clothes and clutching balloons reveling to celebrate Eid al-Fitr in Jerusalem’s Old City
  • As sun began to break over al-Aqsa mosque crowds of Palestinians gathered for the first prayers to mark Ramadan’s end

JERUSALEM: Dressed in sparkly new clothes and clutching balloons, excited children Thursday revelled in the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr celebrations in Jerusalem’s Old City.
But days of violence lay heavy on their parents’ hearts.
As the first rays of sun began to break over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam, crowds of Palestinians gathered for the first prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The three-day festival is traditionally celebrated with mosque prayers, family feasts and shopping for new clothes, gifts and sweets.
Stalls stacked high with colorful plastic toys, or tasty sesame-dipped snacks that are a Jerusalem specialty, tempted the crowds snaking along the Old City’s narrow stone streets.
At the centuries-old Damascus Gate, scene of violent clashes between Israeli Arabs and police at the start of Ramadan, two huge bundles of helium-filled balloons fluttered in the spring breeze. Mickey Mouse and Spiderman could be spotted bobbing among them.
Just three days ago, Israeli police deployed so-called skunk water there — a putrid mixture of sewage water — to disperse the crowds after a weekend of unrest in different parts of Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem.
Hundreds of Palestinians were injured as well as dozens of Israeli police in the clashes which also erupted on the Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism, on which the Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock shrine also stand.
The convulsion of violence has since spread, engulfing the Gaza Strip run by the Islamic militant Hamas movement, the Palestinian territory of the West Bank and Israeli cities which have seen unprecedented mob clashes between Jewish and Arab residents.
On Thursday the boom of rocket fire could be periodically heard in Jerusalem, where calm has mainly returned to the streets. But many believe it may just be the calm before a further storm.
“Do you see any problems, there, right now? No,” said Jabbar, who is in his 60s, pointing at crowds of Palestinians being carefully watched by heavily-armed Israeli police at Damascus gate.
“But it could flare up again at any minute,” he warned grimly.
“Everything will return to normal if God so wishes it,” said Fefka, who lives in the east Jerusalem quarter of Issawiya.
“The violence has to stop, but everything is only done for the settlers here,” she added angrily.
“Jerusalem is also ours,” she insisted, denouncing Israeli settlers who have moved into the east of the city since it was seized in the 1967 war.
According to the United Nations, east Jerusalem has been illegally occupied and annexed by Israel since then.
Hiba, 26, and Soujoud, 21, have been visiting the Al-Aqsa compound since Friday, the day the troubles erupted, triggered by the threat of evicting Palestinian families from their east Jerusalem homes to allow settlers to move in.
“Morning and evening, we stayed at Al-Aqsa,” said Soujoud, a secretarial student. “We don’t want any problems (with the police), but the mosque is ours and we have to defend it,” she added.
On the site, which overlooks the sprawling Old City below, children were entertained by a clown, while adults brandished Hamas flags and rolled out banners praising the Islamist movement.
“Jerusalem is a red line,” read one of the banners.
On Al-Wad Street which crosses the Old City, some passers-by were wearing shirts decorated with Palestinian flags, others had painted them on the cheeks.
Many were wearing the black-and-white chequered keffiyah scarf which has become a symbol of the Palestinian cause.
“We feel very sad for the Eid today, because of the situation and the violence,” said Hiba.
“We can’t be happy when we see what is happening in Gaza and elsewhere.”


Watchdog slams Iran’s treatment of Kurdish journalists

Security forces have detained at least eight Kurdish-Iranian journalists since mid-2020, including at least three who remain in detention. (Reuters via WANA/File Photo)
Security forces have detained at least eight Kurdish-Iranian journalists since mid-2020, including at least three who remain in detention. (Reuters via WANA/File Photo)
Updated 13 May 2021

Watchdog slams Iran’s treatment of Kurdish journalists

Security forces have detained at least eight Kurdish-Iranian journalists since mid-2020, including at least three who remain in detention. (Reuters via WANA/File Photo)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists: Tehran should ‘release all jailed journalists immediately’
  • Minority activists and journalists in Iran regularly face arbitrary detention and torture 

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has spoken out against Iran’s use of “vague, trumped-up” charges to crack down on Kurdish journalists, and urged authorities to release three who remain in detention.

Since May 2020, Tehran’s security forces have arrested dozens of activists and students in a crackdown on perceived pro-Kurdish movements in the country, according to reports cited by the CPJ.

They have arrested at least eight Kurdish journalists, three of whom remain behind bars.

“Iranian authorities’ targeting of Kurdish journalists adds a dimension of ethnic discrimination to the country’s already dire campaign to imprison members of the press,” said the CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa researcher Justin Shilad. 

“Authorities should drop all vague, trumped-up charges filed against Iranian-Kurdish journalists, and release all jailed journalists immediately,” he added.

On condition of anonymity, a lawyer representing several detained journalists told the CPJ that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are “very sensitive about Kurdish journalists and the topics they write about, especially if they write about the unity of Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurds, and other regional issues of Kurds.”

Iran’s ethnically diverse population — including Kurds, Arabs, Azerbaijanis and other minorities — has long been a source of insecurity for the regime, which at various times in its history has been confronted with secessionist movements.

For this reason, the lawyer explained, Tehran is “sensitive every time Kurdish journalists travel to Kurdish areas of Iraq such as Erbil. They closely monitor all movements across the border and any journalists’ assembly.”

Jafar Osafi, who is one of three journalists who remain in detention after the 2020 crackdown, ran a religious commentary and discussion channel on Telegram called “QandA with Sunnis.” He was arrested in his own home in June 2020, and has since been moved to Urmia prison, where the CPJ said he remains.

The committee said: “Iranian authorities must stop imprisoning and harassing Kurdish and other minority journalists, and should allow all members of the press to cover the news freely.”

According to Amnesty International, Iran’s ethnic minorities face “entrenched discrimination, curtailing their access to education, employment, adequate housing and political office.

“Members of minorities who spoke out against violations or demanded a degree of regional self-government were subjected to arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment. The authorities criminalized peaceful advocacy of separatism or federalism and accused minority rights activists of threatening Iran’s territorial integrity.”