Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Salamis after twenty-five centuries

This article was published by the Sewanee Review.

1. What Salamis achieved 

The marble doorway leading in and out of the Acropolis offers the departing guest a framed view of the Salamis Strait, thirteen kilometers away. The University of California archaeologist John Papadopoulos, who made this observation, believes that is deliberate. 

The Battle of Salamis, which took place twenty-five hundred years ago in that strait, successfully pitted an Athenian-led navy of three hundred ships against a Persian-led one of twelve hundred. It was perhaps the unlikeliest Athenian military victory of all time but gave Athens mastery of the Aegean. She used it to build a maritime empire offering Greek city states Athenian-style democracies and security guarantees against Persia. 

The doorway itself is part of the Propylaia, or foregate, of the Acropolis: a grand, colonnaded passage built, like the temples behind it, with the proceeds of that empire. It also happens to stand on the spot where an aristocratic-led party of landlubbers who, having refused to give up the city and entrust their fate to the navy, erected a wooden palisade against the invading Persian army and were killed beside it. It is irresistible to imagine that Perikles, the Athenian general who commissioned the Propylaia, meant to create a permanent pointer to the city’s greatest victory upon the site of its greatest miscalculation. 

Controversial concrete paths on the Acropolis are part of a grand restoration

This article was published by Al Jazeera

ATHENS, Greece – A concrete controversy is raging over the Acropolis in Athens. 

Architects and archaeologists say that re-paving pathways for visitors on the millennia-old monument with concrete is a barbaric intervention. 

“It’s a crime to wound the Rock, because it’s a monument,” architect Tasos Tanoulas told local newspaper EfSyn, using shorthand for the Acropolis, an ancient fortress and temple complex which towers 150m above the city of Athens. 

“[The pathway] imposes itself aesthetically with its modern appearance and its sheer size, said Despoina Koutsoumba, president of the Association of Hellenic Archaeologists. “The scene of a concrete city that we see from on top of the Acropolis has now climbed up onto the Acropolis itself.” 

Stuck in the waiting room: Albania's years-long bid to join the EU

This article was published by Al Jazeera

TIRANA, Albania – The prospect of Albania’s EU membership has lost its shine for Jonara Hoxha. Six years ago she opted to study medicine in Tirana rather than the foreign universities that accepted her. 

“I really thought that if I left I would lose [my] place in my country, and sometimes I thought that I would lose my place even in my family,” she says. “So I stayed here, and I regret it, that decision of mine.” 

Now in her final-year, she is making plans to go to Germany to specialise as a general surgeon. It’s not just that starting salaries in Germany are many times higher than the $600 euros a month she would earn in Albania. She is disappointed that many of her faculty never showed up for class, leaving students to fend for themselves; and she says doctors in Albania are often viewed with suspicion, suffering verbal and physical attacks. 

All this has convinced her that Albania is far from becoming a truly European society anytime soon. 

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Cyprus' reunification: What next after failed talks?

This article was published by Al Jazeera

ATHENS, Greece - Weeks after United Nations-led talks in Geneva failed to resuscitate negotiations to reunify Cyprus, the Turkish-Cypriot foreign minister tells Al Jazeera that the UN process is dead. 

“There will not be negotiations so long as the Greek-Cypriots are treated as if they are the Republic of Cyprus, and so long as the Turkish-Cypriots are treated as if we are nothing other than a mere community of that Republic,” says Tahsin Ertugruloglu. “Equal international status is a must.” 

Turkish-Cypriots proclaimed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983, but the UN Security Council immediately denounced it as “invalid” and “incompatible with the 1960 Treaty” that established Cyprus’ independence from Britain. As a result, only Turkey recognises it. The internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus is where Greek-Cypriots live.  

UN resolutions have since called on the two sides to form a bizonal, bicommunal federation. 

As Greece opens to tourists amid pandemic, some shift strategy

This article was published by Al Jazeera

CORFU, Greece - For the past 14 years, Eleni Chrysikopoulou has raised her children selling trinkets to tourists. Her shop is well situated at the intersection of two main streets in the heart of Corfu town; but that also means she pays a hefty rent. 

Last year nearly ruined her. Covid travel restrictions meant that Corfu received just 28,000 visitors from cruise ships, down from 850,000 in 2019. The 1.5mn visitors who arrived by air in 2019 dropped by three quarters. 

“A lot of shops have closed. I know of many instances, people who’ve been in business for years. I’ve no idea what happened to them. Perhaps they went back to their villages,” says Chrysikopoulou. She thinks she, too, will be forced to close shop. “My only consolation is that... I don’t have underage children.” 

In arms race for air superiority, Russia challenges US hegemony

This article was published by Al Jazeera

ATHENS, Greece – Half a decade since its return to the Middle East with a military base in Syria, Russia is aggressively moving into weapons markets left vacant by the United States and boosting sales to traditional clients. Its expanding arms sales bring money and geopolitical influence, as it seeks to challenge US hegemony. 

On February 25, Russia officially announced that Egypt had received five Sukhoi SU-35 advanced multi-role fighter aircraft, the first of an order of twenty-four. Egypt ordered the planes despite threats of US sanctions after the US refused to sell Egypt its fifth-generation F-35 fighter-bomber. 

Turkey, a NATO ally, is in talks with Russia to buy the SU-35 and eventually the state-of-the-art SU-57 fifth generation combat plane, after being shut out of the US’s F-35 programme. On March 12, Russia announced it was ready to open official negotiations with Ankara, and to help Turkey develop its own fifth-generation fighter, the TF-X. 

Algeria, Russia’s biggest customer in the MENA, is to receive fourteen upgraded Sukhoi-34 light bomber this year, and is also reportedly interested in the SU-57. 

Iran, a historic client of Russian weaponry since the days of the Shah, is free to consider Russian goods again since a decade-long UN arms embargo against it expired in October. 

Refugees forced to uproot again as Greece closes 'safe' camp

This article was published by Al Jazeera

MYTILENE, Lesbos – Anis Alizai is a refugee success story against all odds. 

The 17 year-old Afghan arrived in Lesbos with her parents and four siblings in December 2018. After roughing it for seven months in the olive groves around Moria camp, the island’s reception centre at the time, the Alizais were granted a coveted ISO box at Kara Tepe, a municipal camp that has been an exemplar of humanity and solidarity since it was created in 2016. 

Anise’s dream is to study mathematics at the University of Patra, one of the country’s most competitive technical universities, and she was determined to succeed.