After a long period of complacency, it seems that a portion of the Greek populace has finally had enough of Turkish provocations towards Greece. The straw that broke the camel’s back seems to have been the recent capture and arrest of two Greek soldiers on March 1, who continue to be incarcerated in a high-security prison in Turkey.
While the “radical leftist” SYRIZA-led government has seemingly done next to nothing to secure these two soldiers’ release or to respond to Turkey’s recent provocations in the Aegean and towards Cyprus, a growing number of Greek citizens have organized their own response to the actions of Turkey and the “mad sultan” Tayip Erdogan.
Accompanied by the sound of the Greek national anthem, a crowd of over 4,000 protesters gathered in the northern city of Orestiada, near the Turkish border, in a show of support for the two Greek soldiers who remain imprisoned in Turkey. The crowd demanded the immediate release of the soldiers and called upon the Greek government to take action.
Video of the rally in Orestiada:
Sunday’s rally in Orestiada was followed on Monday by a motorcade which traveled from the provincial town of Feres to the nearby border checkpoint of Kipos, again calling for the immediate release of the two Greek soldiers.
Furthermore, the Patra-based pharmacy4u.gr firm has announced that it will no longer do business with two Turkish companies, stating in a social media post that this embargo will continue until the two soldiers are returned.
Video of the motorcade from Feres to Kipos:
Travel agencies from the Evros region which borders Turkey, as well as from the city of Thessaloniki, have also stopped organizing tours to Turkey.
Conversely, an urban legend which rapidly made the rounds on Greek social media accounts, claiming that major supermarket chain Sklavenitis has launched a boycott of Turkish products and removed all such items from its shelves, was proven to be a hoax started by one of the company’s employees.
Interestingly, the company — which has earned a good reputation among consumers for not slashing its employees’ wages during the crisis and for refusing to operate on Sundays — claims that it does not carry Turkish products to begin with. This statement is perhaps misleading, as there exist many items which are imported from Turkey but packaged and labeled in Greece and sold with a Greek bar code (beginning with 520). This author has seen at least two such items in Sklavenitis stores: capers and raisins, and more probably exist.
Nevertheless, social media postings are circulating urging Greek consumers to avoid purchasing items with Turkey’s characteristic bar code which starts with 869, and to vigilantly check labels for items that may be packaged in Greece but which initially originate from Turkey.
Will these efforts be enough though? In the absence of a nationwide, coordinated campaign to boycott Turkish products as well as travel and other business transactions with Turkey, it is not likely that these efforts, well-intentioned as they may be, will make much of a difference. Nevertheless, such initiatives should be applauded and encouraged.
It should be noted that Turkish investors have made a splash in the Greek marketplace during the crisis, via the purchase of the Athens Hilton Hotel and the Flisvos Marina along the Athenian Riviera by the Dogus Group.
Overall, Greek exports to Turkey fell to €1.35 billion in 2016, representing a 21 percent decline from 2015 levels. Imports from Turkey on the other hand increased by 3.71 percent in 2016, reaching €1.4 billion. This means that Greece now maintains a trade deficit with Turkey.
Most egregiously though, major Greek television networks continue to broadcast Turkish soap operas during prime afternoon and evening timeslots. These soap operas are said to be provided for free by Turkey to broadcasters in other countries as a means for Turkish propaganda to be spread worldwide and to promote tourism to Turkey. At least three such soaps are currently on the air in Greece, on ANT1 TV, Star Channel, and Mega Channel.
For many years now, Greek television stations have taken the bait and have aired Turkish soaps during prime time. Indeed, Turkish soap operas are broadcast in Turkish and subtitled into Greek, allowing Greek viewers to… enjoy and appreciate the Turkish language, while Latin American soaps which were popular in Greece a decade ago, were dubbed with Greek voiceovers. This is perhaps merely a coincidence…
Meanwhile, the immensely popular Greek edition of the famous reality show “Survivor” is produced by Acun Medya of Turkey, as is another reality show, “The Voice.” Both programs are also televised in Cyprus, almost 40 percent of which is militarily occupied by Turkey. Yet there seem to be no calls to boycott Survivor, The Voice, and Turkish soaps, all of which enjoy a fanatical fan base.