After The Exodus - Forgotten Greek Minority Reclaims Stake Of Turkish Island

By allowing a Greek elementary school to be opened the for first time in 49 years on Gökçeada -- formerly Imbros -- Turkey has raised hope among a nearly vanished Greek community.

The village of Tepekoy, Gökçeada
The village of Tepekoy, Gökçeada
Enis Tayman

GÖKÇEADA - The official number of "Imbrosians," the ethnic Greek residents of the Turkish island of Gökçeada, is listed around 15,000. But according to a local NGO, only 250 of them actually live on the island: the rest have migrated to South Africa, Australia, Honduras, Canada, and Greece.

The Imbrosians were among the first victims of the tense 20th-century relations between Greece and Turkey. In the 1960s there were almost 6,000 Greeks, including 1,500 students, on the island, which used to be called Imbros.

Source: Future Perfect at Sunrise / GNU Free Documentation License

When the number of Greek students diminished to 700 after the 1964 crisis between Greece and Turkey, education through the Greek language was replaced by Turkish at three of the seven elementary schools on the island.

Almost all of the remaining Greek population migrated during the second wave in 1974 when Turkish soldiers landed on Cyprus.

“The only thing I remember is the sadness,” said a woman from Athens, who only wanted to giver her name as Mrs. Vona.

The woman was a third grader in 1963, and describes those days in her still solid Turkish: “It was hard for me as a child to understand what was happening...I knew as many Turkish words as you know in Greek. One day they told me I was going to be educated in Turkish. I remember I was so sad. But both my teachers and my Turkish friends treated us well. I learned Turkish, too. But it was very hard for me.”

Vona’s story on the island ends with the 1974 war of Cyprus. She came back to the island only a few years ago to reconnect with her classmates from 40 years back.

Now, the Zeytinliköy (Aya Tordi) Elementary School will be the first one to offer education in Greek since 1964.

‘Imbros: homeland’

Most of the Imbrosians living abroad keep in touch with the island, says Kosta Hristoforidis, head of Greek Imbrosians’ biggest NGO Athens Imbros Association.

He calls Imbros his “homeland” adding that being an “islander” creates a special awareness of identity. “I am close with people who are American, Australian and South African. But these are identities given only by governments. We share a much deeper common story,” he said.

Hristoforidis said this common story keeps them on their feet: “Greece did not embrace us; Turkey did not make us feel worthy. This turned out to be a watershed moment for the sense of identity of the Imbrosians," he explained. "A feeling of ‘nobody will take care of us if we won’t take care of ourselves’ was formed.”

The opening of the Zeytinliköy School, which used to be called Aya Verdi, means more than just a place to get an education. “This is a turning point more than a contribution to education," Hristoforidis said. "This is a community recreating itself.”

Like orphans

Ultimately, he says that it is vital that the people can exist as a normal community: “The school would not be more than a symbolic gesture if this doesn't happen," he added. “Now we are talking about a community that is two steps away from death.”

Kalekoy,Gökçeada- Photo: Adam Jones

The abandoning of education in Greek paved the way for a mass exodus, according to Hristofridis. “People remaining on the island sent their children to the schools in Istanbul. The children grew up like orphans for years. Many Greeks who had property and pride attached to the island became either doormen or servants in Istanbul when the parents decided to migrate. We are ready to forget. All we want is equal citizenship.”

The two Imbrosians’ associations based in Athens and Thessaloniki sent a letter to Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül in 2012. The associations had a joint list of demands in that letter, including the Greek-language school. But other demands included the recognition of the property rights claimed by all past beneficiaries, and the removing of obstacles regarding obtaining property and Turkish citizenship to the Imbrosians who decide to return.

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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