What converting Hagia Sophia into a functioning mosque really means

10th July 2020, a Turkish Court order approved Hagia Sophia’s convertion from a museum to an operational mosque.

For many Christians around the world, aborting a historical monument that represented the centuries of Byzantine Eastern Orthodox with Ottoman faith-inspired culture in the region, to having it reclaimed as a faith space for Islam, is a vilifying act of disrespect. The region has been affected by territorial tensions for millenia and many in the Balkan and Western Asia Minor, have experienced relocations, marginalisation, faith based extradition, torture and incarceration.

It is a non surprise western Turkey struggles with their record on human rights abuses, and corruption has been developmental to the Greek economy even in modern times.

Looking past the historicity of the region, and the unsettled air Erdoğan’s latest move has created, I can attest to the following:

– Erdoğan has three years left before the next election.

– The Hagia Sofia move was his check mate to Europe beyond the Greco-Turkish spats.

– Erdoğan doesn’t want to join EU (and all the monitoring and regulations), the EU will not have Turkey as it is today, but to make sure they don’t interfere, he needed to growl over his territory.

– Putin will turn a blind eye, despite Russia’s Orthodox Church affinity. Faith is only useful when it serves one’s interests by masking transparency. Christian links to the European church history are problematic for Putin’s and Erdoğan’s dark and underhanded populist and divisionary operations.

– Unmonitored, anyone challenging Erdoğan like the Kemalists, will end up in jail or dissappear.

– Turks in Turkey, Germany and the UK love Erdoğan. He took power and water to the favelas. He is making profits from the Syrian refugees that have no labour rights but plenty of will to do whatever yet not get paid or paid scraps of peanuts when they do (a 10th of the Turkish labour rates according to reports).

Noone wants drama on their doorstep. Turning adversity to positive stories is a way for populist governments to get away with the uttermost abuse of human rights.

Minorities and culture are the capital nasty regimes use for political coercion.

Coercion to domestic opposition, and coercion in international relations contexts.

Threatening securities makes vulnerable populations anxious and puts actor resources at high risk and alert. This costs actors money and make populations more predatory between them. Double win.

Hagia Sophia is the starting line of an incredibly narcissistic performance we will expect to see from Erdoğan in the next three years.

I can only hope there will be limited loss and blood lost in the process, but not set on having any hopes at this point.

In the middle of a pandemic, reclaiming a museum to a faith institution is a bold move.

To be continued…

Tragedy, in the home of tragedies

This summer I went to Epidaurus (/ ˌ ɛ p ɪ ˈ d ɔː r ə s /; Ancient Greek: Ἐπίδαυρος Epidauros) was a small city in ancient Greece, on the Argolid Peninsula at the Saronic Gulf, because I always wanted to watch an greek tragedy in the ancient Greek open air theatre.

I picked the play Elektra because it is a classic and a true tragedy, set in the city of Argos a few years after the Trojan War, it recounts the tale of Electra and the vengeance that she and her brother Orestes take on their mother Clytemnestra and step father Aegisthus for the murder of their father, Agamemnon.

The play was directed by a relatively new director, Thanos Papakonstantinou, who has found increasing attention, in a relatively short space of time, and in a very competitive genre.

I really loved the drive to Epidaurus, in the late afternoon, nearing sunset, travelling through the mountains with many other thousands, for the one purpose, to be at this venue and watch an ancient play. My expectations were close to none, as it would have been my first experience. I only assumed, Elektra would have been translated into a slightly more modern version, as many other cultural references and movements in Greece nowadays do.

I only realized the enormity of the crowds gathering there when I saw the size of the carpark and the queues when we got to the theatre gates. The ancient stone carved and built space welcomed us with a stage made in the same shape of its roundness, all in white with a round hole cut out on the white backdrop, linking the stage with the backdrop, by steep dramatic steps.

Epidavros

The tragedy begun and it was a disorienting and confusing experience. There were women covered in see through cloths, moving effortlessly like on-screen ghosts from the 70’s era. They reminded me of Catholicism and that became even more apparent as the play evolved. They were judgmental and backbones-less. The main character squeaked and screamed in unconnected personas making it even more uncomfortable. Yes she was going through a huge trauma however she did not need to be portrayed in such a misogynistic way. She was neither a woman, nor a devil. She was bitter and lost but the character portrayed was uncharacteristically poltergeisted for the pain and revenge she was planning. The whole lot of the other characters played out the same, they were either too weak or a copycat of Dracula like comicon characters that lacked dimension – this was a huge disappointment. The director could have played out the roles much more and did not think about their human element. It felt like he imposed his impression of the story on the actors. This left me with the impression the actors did not connect with the Director, and that is was pretty obvious he had made little effort to collaborate them even between them.

At the end of the tragedy, a bigger one happened. As the actors were bowing to their audience and receiving lots of thanks, the director, Thanos Papakonstantinou, went to the stage, dressed in an outfit resembling a German soldier outfit from the 2nd world war.

I did not find that funny or creative. I understood well his tendency to associate with the dark wave movement in Athens, after all I once was part of it too and remember al the boys getting excited with memorabilia, only to find themselves very isolated in the end. His choice was distasteful and inappropriate given we are at the verge of fascism all over Europe.

Thanos Papakonstantinou, failed on all fronts. It sounds like someone is pushing him to the front stage, however unqualified.  The Greek economy may be small, and opportunists like him can get attention and success, however Greece doesn’t deserve people like him mocking the situation (this is not a creative license, whatever he may come up to say) and fueling the division in our society further.

I wish to not see Thanos Papakonstantinou getting opportunities any day soon and for greek stages to host the original grassroots talent that exists but doesn’t try to buy in their way, through controversy. This is not USA, and there is no reason to be wearing an offensive outfit, not un-similar to Melania Trump’s ‘I don’t care’ outfit as she visited the children immigrant detention centres.