History, Culture, Politics, and Travel in the Balkans, Turkey, and Cyprus



Erdogan Fans Flames by Threatening to Convert Hagia Sophia into Mosque

Earlier this week, I published an op-ed in Greek Reporter on the proposal by Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to convert the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque. The Hagia Sophia, which was the primary Byzantine Orthodox cathedral in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) before being converted into a mosque by the Ottomans in 1453 following the conquest of Constantinople, was turned into a museum by the first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the 1930s. For more on the current situation, see the op-ed here.

North Macedonia

With the agreement to rename Macedonia to North Macedonia earlier this month, I published an article on what is to come next in Le Monde diplomatique.

This is a follow up on my article on the negotiations between Greece and Macedonia regarding the name change back in March.

Turkey, U.S., and Kurds in Syria

I recently published the second in a two-part discussion series with Turkish scholar Polat Urundul. Please read and enjoy!

Part 1: Turkish-American Relations and the Kurdish Thorn of Syria

Part 2: To Avoid a Syrian Quagmire: Turkish-American Compromise and Cooperation

Turkish Reverberations from Afrin

On March 18, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels occupied the Kurdish-held city of Afrin. While Turkey initially entered into the conflict in Syria for the purpose of uprooting the Islamic State, following the fall of its de facto capital, Raqqa, Turkey has shifted its attentions to the Kurds of northern Syria. The capture of Afrin not only creates a power shift in Syria, but also creates reverberations across Turkey’s domestic and foreign relations. Continue reading “Turkish Reverberations from Afrin”

Kosovo’s Progress Toward International Recognition

It is now nine years since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in the final step of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. In 2012, the number of UN member states that recognized Kosovo’s independence became a majority. Currently, Kosovo has been recognized by 57.5% of UN members (111 out of 193).

Flag of Kosovo

Continue reading “Kosovo’s Progress Toward International Recognition”

Genocide: The Cursed and Unrecognized Legacy of Armenians and Greeks

Greeks and Armenians have often had connected experiences over the centuries. They lived as neighbors since pre-Roman times, Armenians were a prominent minority in the majority Greek Byzantine Empire, and both were subjects of the Ottoman Empire.

But they also shared the most tragic of experiences: genocide. In 2014, the Greek Parliament passed law 4285/2014, which outlawed the denial of not only the Holocaust, but also the Greek (1913-1922) and Armenian Genocides (1915-1922) in the Ottoman Empire. This law not only presents a strong stance against genocide deniers, but also shows the solidarity of the Greeks and Armenians in the face of lack of recognition and continued Turkish denial. Continue reading “Genocide: The Cursed and Unrecognized Legacy of Armenians and Greeks”

The Global Migrant Crisis and the Impact of Syria

The number of migrants worldwide is at a high point: 244 million in 2015, over 40% more migrants than in 2000. While some of the migrants move by choice, a substantial number are not so lucky. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) calculated that 65.3 million were forcibly displaced “as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations,” the highest number since the end of World War II. And this number is on the rise: 12.4 million people were newly displaced in 2015. Of the 65.3 million, 21.3 million were considered refugees. Continue reading “The Global Migrant Crisis and the Impact of Syria”

Flouting International Law: The Turkish Military Presence in Cyprus

When Cyprus became independent from Great Britain in 1960, the Treaty of Guarantee was signed between Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, and Great Britain. Article I bans Cyprus from unifying with another state. Article II requires Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom (the guarantor powers) to respect the territorial integrity of Cyprus. Article IV allows the guarantor powers to re-establish the status quo in Cyprus:

“In the event of a breach of the provisions of the present Treaty, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom undertake to consult together with respect to the representations or measures necessary to ensure observance of those provisions. In so far as common or concerted action may not prove possible, each of the three guaranteeing Powers reserves the right to take action with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs created by the present Treaty.” Continue reading “Flouting International Law: The Turkish Military Presence in Cyprus”

Old Mostar Bridge: A Missed Opportunity in International Law

The Bosnian and Herzegovinian city of Mostar is known for its cosmopolitan nature. Churches, mosques, and synagogues lay next to each other and diverse groups of peoples walked side by side for centuries under Ottoman, Austrian, and Yugoslav rule. The city developed a unique type of architecture that fused styles from the various traditions that came to Mostar, which still has elements of its Ottoman past in its bazaar and neighborhood layout. The city is dominated by the Ottoman-built bridge which gave Mostar its name, the Stari Most.

Postcard of the Mostar Bridge, 1911
Stari Most in a 1911 Postcard

Continue reading “Old Mostar Bridge: A Missed Opportunity in International Law”

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