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


Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village
Updated 8 min 27 sec ago

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

ADEN: Houthi "terrorists" have abducted three civilians from the Yemeni village of "Beit Al-Jabr" in the governorate of Dhamar, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.

The Houthis took their victims to a detention center in Jabal Al-Sharq district, in the same governorate controlled by the Iran-backed group, the report said.

The raiders claimed they were taking the victims under the pretext of setting up a funeral council, but the official Yemeni News Agency (Saba) quoted a local source as saying there was no such plan to establish a funeral council, SPA said.

According to the Saba source, the storming of the village was consistent with the "systematic policy of harassment" that the Houthi militia follows in dealing with the population in all areas under their control, SPA added.

Houthis earlier abducted Yemeni model and actress Entesar Al-Hammadi and two of her friends on Feb. 20 as they were traveling to shoot a TV drama series.

On Thursday, the captors reportedly placed Al-Hammadi in solitary confinement as punishment for her protest against her initial incarceration and prison conditions.


Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN

Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN
Updated 23 April 2021

Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN

Credible Palestinian elections crucial for peace and unity, says UN
  • Envoy Tor Wennesland said the road will not be easy, and called on all sides to protect voting rights
  • Central Elections Commission praised for “professionalism and integrity” and its efforts to ensure safe voting during pandemic.

NEW YORK: The successful staging of credible Palestinian elections on May 22 is a crucial step toward unity and guaranteeing the legitimacy of national institutions, the UN Security Council heard on Thursday.
Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told council members that the elections, along with Israeli efforts to form a coalition government, will have a “significant implication for the prospects for advancing peace in the months ahead,” and called on the international community to provide support.
“Expectations for the holding of elections in Palestine are high and come after a long wait of almost 15 years … a growing number of young people are expected to participate in shaping their political future, and have the opportunity to vote for the first time,” Wennesland said.
“These elections should also pave the way to uniting Gaza and the West Bank under a single, legitimate national authority, which would be an important step toward reconciliation and could advance Middle East peace.”
He praised the Palestinian Central Elections Commission for its “professionalism and integrity, enhancing trust in the electoral process,” singling out in particular the committee’s efforts to create a safe voting environment during the pandemic.
He also underscored the importance of the role of election observers in ensuring that the results of “credible and transparent” elections are respected.
“All sides must work toward protecting the right of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, to participate in credible and inclusive Palestinian elections, as well as to stand for election free from intimidation,” said Wennesland.
He urged all those involved in the process “to refrain from any arrest, detention or interrogation based on freedom of opinion, expression or association.”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose “a formidable threat” throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, further exacerbating an already dire social and economic situation, Wennesland said as he called for vaccination efforts to be stepped up and for more vaccine doses to be made available.
The Biden administration this month announced its plans for resuming US funding for the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), which was halted in August 2018 by President Donald Trump. Wennesland welcomed the move by Washington and called on all UN members to recommit to supporting the agency, whose “services are not only a lifeline for millions of Palestine refugees but are also critical for stability throughout the region.”
The envoy repeated his call for Israel to halt the demolition and seizure of Palestinian properties and to allow the Palestinian people “to develop their communities.”
Denouncing the “daily violence” that has resulted in more arrests, injuries and deaths, Wennesland called on all sides “to de-escalate tensions and maintain calm.”
He added: “I underscore that all perpetrators of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice. I reiterate that Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and may use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
“Particular care should be taken to protect children from any form of violence. In addition, the indiscriminate launching of rockets toward Israeli population centers violates international law and must stop immediately.”


Iraqi military: 3 rockets strike close to Baghdad airport

Iraqi military: 3 rockets strike close to Baghdad airport
Updated 23 April 2021

Iraqi military: 3 rockets strike close to Baghdad airport

Iraqi military: 3 rockets strike close to Baghdad airport

BAGHDAD: At least three rockets hit near Baghdad international airport late Thursday, the Iraqi military said.
A total of eight missiles were fired and three landed near the airport complex, the statement said. It did not detail whether the attack caused casualties.
The rockets struck areas known to contain Iraqi security forces. One hit close to a central prison, the second near an academy of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, and a third near the headquarters of the Rapid Response regiment.
No one claimed responsibility for the attacks. US officials have previously blamed Iran-backed militia groups.
It is the latest in a string of rocket attacks that have primarily targeted American installations in Iraq in recent weeks. On Sunday, multiple rockets hit an Iraqi air base just north of Baghdad, wounding two Iraqi security personnel.
Last month, a base in western Iraq housing US-led coalition troops and contractors was hit by 10 rockets. One contractor was killed.
Calls from mainly Shiite leaders have grown to oust US troops from Iraq after a US-directed drone strike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad in January 2020.
Strategic talks between the US and Iraq have focused on the future of US troop presence in the country.


Syrian missile exploding in Israel not intentional: US general

Syrian missile exploding in Israel not intentional: US general
Updated 23 April 2021

Syrian missile exploding in Israel not intentional: US general

Syrian missile exploding in Israel not intentional: US general
  • Israeli media also described the Syrian missile as an “errant” projectile, not a deliberate attack deep inside Israel
  • Dimona, the Negev desert town where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located, is some 300 km south of Damascus

WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM: A senior US general said on Thursday that he believed a Syrian missile exploding in Israel was not intentional, but rather showed a lack of Syrian air defense capability.

“I think it reflects actually incompetence in Syrian air defense ... I do not believe it was an intentional attack,” Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing

Earlier in the day, a Syrian anti-aircraft missile landed in southern Israel, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s top secret nuclear reactor. In response, it attacked the missile launcher and air-defense systems in neighboring Syria.

Israeli media later described the Syrian missile as an “errant” projectile, not a deliberate attack deep inside Israel.

In recent years, Israel has repeatedly launched air strikes at Syria, including at military targets linked to foes Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, both allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Such strikes routinely draw Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Thursday’s exchange was unusual because the Syrian projectile landed deep inside Israel.

A road sign shows the way to Dimona nuclear power plant in Israel's Negev desert. (AFP / Ahmad Gharabali)

Syria’s state news agency SANA said the exchange began with an Israeli air strike on Dumeir, a suburb of the capital of Damascus. Dumeir is believed to house Syrian army installations and batteries as well as bases and weapons depots belonging to Iran-backed militias. SANA said four soldiers were wounded.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group based in Britain that tracks Syria’s civil war, said the Israeli strikes hit an air defense base belonging to the Syrian military and destroyed air defense batteries in the area. It said the Syrian military fired surface-to-air missiles in response.

The Israeli military described the projectile that landed near the nuclear site as a surface-to-air missile, which is usually used for air defense against warplanes or other missiles.

Dimona, the Negev desert town where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located, is some 300 km south of Damascus, a long range for an errantly fired surface-to-air missile.

 

 


Houthis throw abducted model Al-Hammadi into solitary confinement

Houthis throw abducted model Al-Hammadi into solitary confinement
Updated 23 April 2021

Houthis throw abducted model Al-Hammadi into solitary confinement

Houthis throw abducted model Al-Hammadi into solitary confinement
  • Lawyer says Houthi prosecutor questioned Al-Hammadi inside Yemen central prison after refusing to transfer her for a court trial
  • Yemeni model, 20, and two colleagues were abducted from Sanaa street on Feb. 20

AL MUKALLA: Iran-backed Houthis have thrown abducted Yemeni model and actress Entesar Al-Hammadi into solitary confinement as punishment for her protest against the initial incarceration and prison conditions, the model’s lawyer said on Thursday.

Khaled Mohammed Al-Kamal told Arab News that a prosecutor from the rebel-controlled West Sanaa court on Wednesday questioned the model inside the central prison after officials refused to transfer her for a court trial over the past few weeks.

When the investigation ended, the 20-year-old Al-Hammadi verbally clashed with a captor and shouted out about the abduction and miserable prison conditions she had experienced.

Prison officials responded to the outburst by holding Al-Hammadi in solitary confinement, the lawyer said.

“She was separated from her colleagues,” Al-Kamal said. “She is going through bad psychological conditions inside the prison.”

Al-Hammadi and two of her friends were abducted from a Sanaa street on Feb. 20. Yemeni officials said the three actresses were traveling to shoot a TV drama series when the rebels stopped their vehicle on Sanaa’s Hadda Street and took them to an unknown location.

The abduction is the latest in a string of attacks by the Houthis on dissidents and liberal women in areas under the group’s control.

Local and international groups along with government officials have strongly condemned the abduction and called upon the rebels to release them. The Houthis have ignored demands and pledged to put them on trial but to no avail.

Al-Kamal said there were no clear accusations against the model, but he suspected that the Houthis might accuse her of committing “an immoral act,” for not covering her hair or walking without a male guardian in the street.

“I was very optimistic that my client would be released since the prosecutor did not find clear accusations against her,” he said.

Al-Hammadi had participated in two TV drama series and spoken publicly about her ambition of becoming an international supermodel. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Al-Hammadi used social media to promote traditional Yemeni dresses and beauty products.

The detainment of the actresses has sparked outrage inside and outside Yemen as human rights activists and government officials compared Houthi suppression of women to similar activities by terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh.

In other developments around Sanaa, the Yemen Journalist Union said armed Houthis confiscated a media center after accusing them of collaborating with the internationally recognized Yemen government and the Arab coalition.

Taha Al-Ma’ameri, director of Yemen Digital Media, alerted the union that armed Houthis stormed the center and expelled workers and guards while replacing them with others.

The union accused the Houthis of fabricating accusations against independent media outlets in order to seize them. It also urged Arab and international journalist unions to support Yemen Digital Media by pressuring the Houthis into ending their crackdown on independent journalists.