Church on the Greek island of Leros
Church on the Greek island of Leros
Mehmet Y. Yilmaz

ISTANBUL — There is an Italian saying: "Una faccia, una razza." It means "One face, one race," and is used by Italians and Greeks to note the characteristics the two peoples share.

When it comes to Turkish and Greeks, I use this phrase as "One face, one mentality." I don't know how similar Greeks and Italians are — I haven't spent enough time in either of those countries to know — but I can say for a fact that Greeks and Turks have plenty in common. One of my friends says it all boils down to the fact that we eat the same kind of food. But we also share the same sea and breathe the same air. And somehow, it has all led to us having the same conspiring mentality.

Two weeks ago, I went for a few days to the Greek island of Leros, which is not far from the Turkish coast. I've gotten to know the restaurant and bar owners, the grocers, taxi drivers, and bakers on the island. They are my friends.

While I was on Leros, came the words from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that made major headlines in Turkey and Greece: "Lausanne is not a victory: It's a fiasco." He was talking about the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which is usually seen as the founding basis of modern Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire and a triumph of Turkey's secular leadership.

As you can imagine, there is a difference between hearing those words in Turkey and on a Greek island, which Erdogan apparently considers Turkish territory.

But if you sit on the beach of a nearby Greek island, you'll immediately understand why. There is a huge piece of land just to the East that is packed with armed soldiers. And if you are on a small island facing a giant land, it's impossible to avoid flinching, for there is nothing but water that surrounds you and scary "history lessons" that have been registered in your mind since your childhood.

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Leros waterfront — Photo: KV 28

And so I heard the locals on Leros captivated in conspiracy theories set off by Erdogan's speech. It quickly reminded me of the way we Turks try to find the "evil U.S." responsible for every single unfortunate event, and of the way the Greeks look for the "Merkel witch" under every bad stone. The most recent conspiracy theory is this: Merkel is so panicked about the Syrian refugees from Turkey eventually arriving in Germany that she is prepared to give Erdogan anything he wants.

Following Erdogan's declaration that the loss of 12 islands to Greece with the Lausanne treaty was a huge failure, the Greek conspiracy theory takes shape as follows: Erdogan will promise to take all refugees back to Turkey; in exchange, Merkel and the European Union will force Greece to return the 12 Islands to Turkey — the remaining three million refugees will then be placed on the islands. Erdogan's dreams of triumph will come true and Merkel will be able to finally rest at ease!

What do you think? Are Greek conspiracy theories crazier than the Turkish ones?

The coup effect

Meanwhile, in a different speech, Erdogan again complained about attempts to demean the presidency. In our country, the president is elected to power and represents the unity of the nation according to the constitution. That's why the president swears to stay impartial at the beginning of his tenure.

But Erdogan didn't keep his promise. He should have resigned from his party the day he was elected president, but he didn't. He has acted as a partial president, and continues to do so. He doesn't hesitate to divide the country in terms of "us vs. them." And he has again made it clear that he doesn't agree with the founding values of the Turkish Republic.

But, as the state of emergency is now extended for another three months, following the July 15 coup attempt, Erdogan doesn't have to answer to anyone. The state of emergency allows the president to rule the country as an authoritarian regime, without any checks and balances that can limit his power. This was always his dream. This is not a conspiracy theory, it is reality.

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