#bAKLAVAMAG MEETS: OBEN BUDAK

The wait is over! After weeks of silence, #BaklavaMag is back with a captivating interview with one of the most quick-witted Turkish lifestyle journalists, an author and the editor-in-chief of the Athens-based collaborative initiative #ADAMINTOWN. Although Oben Budak is now running ahead of an intense schedule to complete his upcoming novel, he generously took some time to open up about the new chapter of his life in Greece and much more. Read on to get your daily dose of inspiration, fellas!

Getting used to new normal is quite challenging for the majority. How have you been dealing with that period?

OB: I have survived by giving a new direction to my relationship with nature. I live in one of the Athens’ classic houses with large balconies. I had sown lots of seeds and learnt what to do to make my plants grow better. I could feel scared if I wouldn’t do like that. In short, I have survived with nature.

How would you define your current state of mind towards life in a broader sense? 

OB: It is not clear how much time we will spend in this world. Enjoying the days we have is as important as trying to understand the world. I try to understand the concept of life based on my experiences instead of books. We, humans, are the ones who make the world more beautiful -together with the animals and plants. We need to get that nobody has any advantage over anyone. For instance, I do not like pretending as if we are the masters of animals. That is not true. 

It has been almost two years since you have settled in Greece. How did you come up with such decision? 

OB: I am crazy about sea and summer. I would like to live in flip-flops and shorts in the rest of my life. When a few of my friends moved to Athens, we have started visiting Greece often. Athens is very similar to Istanbul of the years of my youth and I miss those days a lot, that’s why I never felt out of Athens.

How does living in Athens differ from living in Istanbul? What kind of a transformation you have been going through? 

OB: The way of life between Athens and Istanbul is not much different. The similarity of their culture brings those both closer. Istanbul, as a metropolitan, is just a bit more fast-paced comparing to Athens. Since I was extremely tired of living in the fast lane, the pace of Athens seemed very good to me. I have given up rushing through life. Every single day is a blessing here.

You used to perform a wide range of occupations for years. As you have probably heard, being multitasking is scientifically believed to be a way of running away from yourself. Does that work for you as well?

OB: I’m a lion. As you might know, lions love to sleep and rest. If I had my rathers, I could spend my life by doing only those two, but there was a type of life that I dreamed of and I had to work hard to make that happen. I think that was the reason for me take advantage of the opportunities that I had encountered. In fact, those were my fields of interest as well. DJing and writing had never made me feel tired. I feel like I can be myself while I am working, I wouldn’t define that as running away from myself.

You were at the age of nineteen when you first met Sertab Erener, one thing is for sure that collaborating with her must be a remarkable experience for any human being. Which part of you might have influenced her and the rest of those powerful women you had worked with? How did you stand out amongst all others?

OB: I am in the mood for adding excitement around. You know, nothing happens without excitement. I was in the studio 24/7 while Sertab Erener’s album titled “Sertab Gibi” was being recorded. Even if I had no duty, I was going to see the atmosphere that was new to me. Then, the same happened when I started the press sector. My excitement led me here. Every step towards innovation is valuable.

As an individual who has spent a considerable amount of time in media and entertainment industry, how would you evaluate the contribution of media in terms of hatred and violence toward sexual, ethnic and racial identities?

OB: We know that the media organs publishes whatever the government desires. I haven’t seen a media system that puts people first. In that sense, I was daunted in Turkey. I became unable to write what I wanted. You write an article about LGBTI+ rights and the next day, you receive tons of threatening messages in your mailbox. Such things are not easy to deal with. Eventually, even in recent #BlackLivesMatter protests, things haven’t changed. The press, which seemed as they were a side of the protesters at first made them look invasive later on. Unfortunately, the press has no credibility today. We, now, have Twitter and online magazines. When was the last time you bought a newspaper?

You demonstrate a clear stance on fairness issues particularly in terms of human and animal rights, how would you criticize the policies and public approaches of Turkey and Greece?

OB: Justice should be for everyone. I don’t have to walk around my corner and keep my mouth quiet because I’m in my comfort zone. My life does not matter when I see a child begging on the street or when I see a hungry cat. It doesn’t matter if we are not able to get happy all together. Animal rights is not to be considered in Turkey. I listen to the stories of street animals slaughtered in Athens before the Olympics, being upset about such issues makes me even more angry. Wherever you go in the world, there are similar problems -but this won’t go like that. The system has started to change. A hundred years later, people will talk about how ridiculous we are as the people feeding ourselves with meat.

The protagonist of a novel is often the narrator themselves. As a narrator, have you ever identified yourself with one the characters you have created in the books you have written? If so, what do you share in common?

OB: I have a sarcastic perspective. I don’t know… This may be a method of standing up for myself, which I have adapted to the increasingly tough world. In this way, I feel less angry and less upset. I also arranged the perspective of my book heroes in a sarcastic way. They are funny, but they also disturb bad people. All of my characters are animal-lovers, women’s rights activists and they question life. Although I do not directly refer my life, there are traces of many of my stories in my novels.

You have been working on a new book, what will be the theme of that book? What has motivated you to write a new piece while a huge population has been struggling with pandemic-based depressive feelings?

OB: I didn’t feel depressed during the pandemic period. I am aware that I’m not immortal. If we, somehow, came to an end, there is nothing we can do. It matters to redeem the rest of our time, that’s why I’m writing a book on vegan lifestyle. I will try to explain how wrong is the idea of ​​”you are the superior being, the animals are far below you” -which is constantly being imposed on humanity. There are no such terms as being above or below in existence. Aren’t we all parts of the nature? How come a single piece can dominate the whole? We need to realize that the lamb on your lunch plate is no different from your cat. Now, is the time to wake up.

Quick Fire Questions

What is the most tragic and funniest thing that ever happened to you after you moved to Greece?

OB: In the summer of 2018, my throat swelled grossly. I went to a private hospital to print medication. They asked for dozens of tests for a simple sore throat. I understood that I was piling up, but I couldn’t answer since I was in a dreadful state. That was my worst moment here, I will never go to a private hospital anymore.

Tell us one thing you have recently learned about Greek society/culture. 

OB:Greek people are not obsessed with the origin of foods as we do. They don’t care if the food originated in Ottoman or Byzantium, the taste of the pieces matters to them more and I love that aspect of Greeks.

Tell us one thing you have been doing to boost your energy during pandemic. 

OB: Cooking the things I miss. Ramadan pita, dolmadakia or red velvet cake. That motivated me to see that I could do things that seemed difficult to me before.

Name the place that attracts you the most in Greece.

OB: I am new in the city so even going out on the streets is enough to feel good. I don’t have a particular place in mind but the streets in Athens, the Greek islands and ouzo tables are valuable to me.

Name a person who has influenced you and your career. 

OB: Of course, Madonna! I learned not to give up and try new things all the time. She is not just a singer, but also a freedom fighter.

Name a Greek and a Turkish person you had enjoyed the most while interviewing with. 

OB: A Turkish singer, Teoman, is the person I had enjoyed interviewing the most because he had never beaten about the bush. Here in Athens, I really like the interview I conducted with Valeron. Talking to a modern musician was a great experience for me. 

Describe a behavior that you consider as cringe

OB: I do not tolerate anyone who interrupts someone else’s word. I hold the same attitude towards people, who see their own thoughts as the most accurate ones.

*All visual contents in things are provided by Oben Budak.

meet simay karakaş: a turkısh psychologıst ın thessalonıkı

Simay Karakaş is a 28 years-old clinical psychologist originally from Istanbul, who has been living in Thessaloniki (Greece) for around two and a half year. She is currently working with asylum seekers and refugees at an NGO as well as providing face-to-face and online psychological counseling. Today, as Baklava Mag, we directed a bunch of questions to Simay regarding the social differences between two lands through the eye of a psychologist, the ongoing global refugee crisis with a particular focus on Greece and Turkey and the reflections of pandemic.

Read on to get your daily dose of inspiration.

Simay in Thessaloniki

Simay is used to be a frequent visitor of Greece since she was 10 years-old. “I always liked the idea of being here and one day, I took a step to see how it looks like living in a country that makes me feel like home.”, she says. “Since it is a small and peaceful city that is surrounded by sea, I chose settling down in Thessaloniki. It provides everything you need with its own pace, which is called halara.”

ON PSYCHOLOGY

She describes her interest in psychology as a life-long curiosity towards human mind, body and the reasons behind of our differences.

“In the last grade of high school, I decided to move on in psychology. Afterwards, throughout my university years, I was impressed by the wide range of clinical applications. This was my main motivation to pursue a master’s degree in clinical psychology. During the time of my studies I started working in Istanbul but following my my graduation, I have ended up in Greece. Here, I am working at an NGO that is titled “IFRC”, in which we provide services including including primary health care, food distribution, first aid, psychosocial support, restoring family links and cash assistance. Where I have been working for is known as the world’s largest humanitarian organization. Apart from that, I have been offering psychotherapy for Turkish and English speakers, but mostly for immigrants and expats from all around the world.”

ON LIVING IN TURKEY VERSUS GREECE

Simay considers Greece as a second hometown and feels like a part of her belongs there.

“I feel peaceful and happy in where I have settled in. One thing is for sure that the similarities of my two lands, Istanbul and Thessaloniki, are quiet a lot but that helps me as well in hard times that I have. In Istanbul, people are in rush due to too many reasons so that they constantly ignore the purpose of life. Particularly, the importance of being alive. The rhythm of life in big city life effects the psychological states of both individuals and societies and that can be observed through the speech given by politicians and the street interviews. Here in Greece, I feel more free and less stressful since neither Greece nor Greeks expect a lot from me or the others. 

“Greek way of living, specifically in Thessaloniki, is all about enjoying each moment.”, she states. “They are pleasant and calmer in comparison with people in Turkey. For instance, after a work-day, you can reach home easily to spend time with your loved ones without dealing with crowd or traffic or you can go out for a drink since you still have time and energy to fulfill your individual needs. Just as Greeks care about personal life outside of work, they have a collective way of living. Their family members gather so far as possible -especially in the period of special occasions such as the Easter and Christmas. No need to mention that religion plays a significant part in Greek culture. As a person who grew up in the multicultural atmosphere in Tatavla (Istanbul), I am already aware of the spot of similarities and differences within social dynamics. For that reason, I was not in the need of adapting myself to the new conditions since there was non for me.”

Simay in Istanbul

“Both countries have been dealing with economical crisis and its affects are visible on their societies. Mostly, young generations are anxious about their future although their families try supporting them both financially and psychologically. In addition to that, both countries are hosting a great amount of asylum seekers and this creates tension between two contiguous countries on the ground of politics. As a result of all of those, individuals are getting more aggressive and discriminative.”

ON THE CHALLENGES OF A LIFE IN A NEW COUNTRY

When Simay moved to Greece, she did not know Modern Greek at all. To learn the language properly, the first thing she did was to enroll in Greek Language school for 6 months.

“Thankfully, Greeks have a good level of English due to being a major tourist destination in Europe.Thus, in shopping or socializing hours, I got the chance of speaking in English. However, it was still a self-restriction and a major challenge for me until I reached to the adequate level of speaking. Plus, learning bureaucratic and health system of Greece was a bit challenging even today, as well as learning a new language.

ON THE CURRENT ISSUES THAT GREECE DEALS WITH

“Greece in comparison with Turkey, is a small-sized country but it has a European Union membership. As expected, there are some positive and negative outcomes as result of that membership situation. According to my observation, Greece needs more understanding and support from the European Union but at the same time, it might be better to accept and find solutions towards the current situations.”

ON REFUGEES

“1951 Refugee Convention defines a refugee as someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. This is not an easy situation to cope with especially when you find yourself in a foreign country, where you do not have any idea about what happens around you and your faith is on the hands of some important people. Before pandemic, refugees were already facing with enough difficulties on mainland and islands. There is not enough capacities in the sites or other accommodation facilities to host asylum seekers. They absolutely need better conditions to stay healthy and more assistance in terms of medical and psychological support. There are so many associations like NGOs and movements running by locals which are trying to help as much as they can do. On the other hand, there is also an opponent side, which thinks that Greece is not in charge of this issue and they cannot do something for that anymore.”

“Thanks to the rising COVID-19 pandemic, the whole situation got worse and locals are afraid of getting infected since some migrant facilities were being put under lockdown after the test positives. The glance towards towards those people might be less friendly and more hesitated until we get over this period.”

ON PANDEMIC AND ITS IMPACTS

“All individuals have been facing with pandemic with their own ways. On social media, there are so many suggestion lists and articles to push people for taking those times as a chance to improve their skills. According to me, the recommendation must be something like: “Don’t listen them. You know what is the best for you. Do not feel bad, if you can not spend your time effectively because there is something outside that we don’t have a control over it.” “

“The future is uncertain for all of us and we feel under threat. This is something real and not being able to manage your fear is a natural outcome of it. However, if you feel like it effects your daily activities and you feel in the need of extra, don’t hesitate to go for it.”

ON FUTURE

“For near future, my aim is to get proficiency in Modern Greek to continue my profession here in Greece as a member of some occupational Greek Associations. I am not planning to move back to Turkey yet.”

an ıntervıew on PANDEMIC’s ımpact on art workers

Gizem is a Thessaloniki based musician who originally comes from Istanbul. Currently, she has been trying to learn Greek and expanding her knowledge in Byzantium Music.

If you have ever wondered what it feels like struggling with pandemic as a musician, read our interview below.

From her last concert with Daemonia Nymphe Official in Athens.

Visual Credits: Jo Gogou and Afternoiz

🎤Could you tell us where and when did the virus occur in the region/country you live in?

Basically, everything has started here in Thessaloniki. First, I read the news on the Internet around the mid January. It was being told that after a business meeting in China, the virus had started to spread, but such conspiracy theories like “Chinese government wanted to kill their people in order to control the population growth” were existed as well. When I shared such news with my friends, we made fun of how media fakes everything. We all thought that it could never appear around us.

I am not sure about when did it all start since we were pretty shocked. I felt like we were diving into a trouble. Globally speaking, we were all so late in terms of preventions such as curfew and lockdown. However, the UK and in the states are worse to be honest. 

🎤Do you think those preventions are enough? What could have been done in a different way to protect people?

All things are being done here, the government did what they could do but the actual chaos hits the households. Putting people under lockdown was an easy decision, but now we are out of budget and have literally no idea about how to pay our rents and so on. At this point, I must add that I feel deeply sorry and thankful for Italian people who demonstrated efforts on making people aware about what will come next.

🎤How do you and the society feel about being under lock down? Could you talk about the physiological side effects of the isolation? How were you spending a regular day of yours on the very first days of the pandemic and what has been changed so far?

It was okay in the very first days. We had no clear idea about the number of the days we were about to stay inside so we spent our time by making up sci-fi scenarios. Personally, I like staying home because I am mostly out at nights due to my job. That’s why it felt like an unexpected holiday in the beginning. I was reading more than before, learning new things, practicing music. Even sitting and drinking my coffee in my balcony became a routine in that period. Now, as the days passed by, we started to get minor depressions. We have no clue about what will come next and we kind of lost our trust to the governments and politicians in a broader sense. As musicians and art workers, we are all out of work for at least six more months and knowing that makes us restless. Plus, there is nothing to inspire us to produce new songs since we can’t step out of home.

Actually both for Greece and Turkey, something more can be provided to help people. But even our own government, I mean the Turkish one, follows a wrong path. For instance, Turkish business people provide masks to famous people in the USA instead of helping their people. I strongly believe that only solidarity between people will solve this issue. To make the situation better, governments must have release the actual case numbers and make hospital accessible for all sick people. Nowadays almost 20.000 tests per day are implementing in Turkey, where 80 million people locate in. In fact, all people needs proper health care by the government that they voted for.

For sure, lockdown is a part of the solution but besides, have to secure your people as well in order for the lockdown to achieve true success. In Germany, the government paid thousands of euros to their people without considering the deadline of the virus. Their rents were paid, they kept getting their salaries. Whereas here, before government told us to stay in quarantine, we locked ourselves home. Also, in Turkey, ages below 20 and above 65 are in lockdown but the rest needs to work. What is the purpose of this prevention, then?

🎤Who do you think fight against the pandemic most successfully when you take the whole world into consideration? Do you even think such country exists?

New Zealand seems like on top. They closed their borders just in the beginning. Their government handled the situation more safely.

🎤What do you miss the most while in lock down?

I miss going out for a coffee with my friends and ending up in a bar to drink Campari. I could be so happy by singing out as well…

Visual Credit: S.L. Hillman

🎤What might be the major and minor consequences of the pandemic when everything calms down?

Depression and xenophobia. Seriously, what is about to come makes me more nervous than what we have been dealing right now. The majority will lose their jobs and there will be no art-related activities until next October. We need some time to free our minds. For two to three weeks, life in outside will be hell. All I hope is that the virus won’t strike us again.

Here in Greece, the commercial places are planned to be open beginning from the next week, but there will be curfew after midday. Also, summer is coming so it is possible for Greece to have some financial issues since its economy is based on tourism. Honestly, since everything is pretty unclear for all of us, it’s really hard to come up with any clear prediction.

🎤Do you have any plans for your the post-pandemic period, both in academic and professional manner?

No idea. It will be extremely hard because until October, it seems like we are off business. I guess I will end up camping somewhere during this summer -quarantine mood but without walls, in other words. We don’t know anything about the future of the schools, festivalsa and concerts. We have lack of inspiration in these days so we can’t release a new album. So we try keeping ourselves in kind of zen mood and pushing ourselves to stay as patient as possible.

BETWEEN TWO HOMELANDS: BETUL’S LOCKDOWN STORY

COVID-19 pandemic is a thing we all share and everyone has their own story to share about it. When the first case was announced on the 11th of March in Turkey, I was at home. In the following day, I leave the house by covering myself with a surgical mask, which I have never done in my entire life before.

Starting from the 12th of March, I had limited the times I spent outside and kind of self-isolated myself. In this way, I felt a bit more safe. During that period, I had been following the cases in Turkey but also keeping an eye on the news coming from my parents who live in Xanthi, Greece. When I heard that Echinos were under lockdown on the 25th of March, I became more anxious since my parents’ place locates there. Therewithal, national lockdown was announced in Greece so that we were considerably calm. 

Personally, I did not consider going back to Greece. Although the borders were closed already, students were able to go back to Greece with special permission provided by the Greek Embassy in Edirne (Turkey). I felt so weird when I learnt that my last chance was to get the last permitted bus, which were scheduled to the 2nd of April. I felt worried about the uncertain future that I faced with and the fear of not seeing my parents challenged me. I was all packed but it was hard for me to decide until the last minute. Eventually, I thought I could feel better and safe there and I took the last bus with 15 other passengers. We were all careful and stayed distanced during the trip.

After our passport controls were done in the Greek border, they transferred us to another bus that was arranged by the state. Afterwards, we were settled in a hotel that takes place in Komotini. Two days later, COVID-19 tests were made. Waiting for the results were a way more tiring and psychologically damaging than the decision I made and the whole trip. To be more specific, I was worried about diving into a random crowd and taking a bus that is full of people after spending long time at home.

Fortunately, our test results were negative and we could either go to our places or spend the risky 14 days in the hotel. Since the lockdown in Echinos were continuing, I had to stay in the hotel. The ones who wanted to stay in their own places were informed about the rest of the procedure which consist of being under regular check by the police during 14 days. In case if they don’t follow the rules of lockdown, they were obliged to pay 5.000 Euro.

I was comfortable during two weeks I stayed in the hotel, there was a bedroom and a separate living room inside. I got three meals per day, which was left on the door of my room.

I had a lot of books with me but I couldn’t read something new, just reread the things I had already completed instead. Also, I couldn’t follow the news. All I could do was watching outside the balcony while the days were passing. Luckily, the hotel takes place inside of nature so that I found some time to introspect myself. That meant something to me because I met all faces of nature during my staying.

The day I arrived, it was freaking cold outside and I woke up to a snowy view in the next morning. The following day was a hell of rain, even my room was flooded and the top of the mountains were foggy. Another day, I watched the trees that were shaken by the breeze -after waking up to the sound of a chair that fall down due to severe wind.

The second week was sunny so that those snow in the mountains had melted. The sound coming from the birds and dogs accompanied me while sunbathing in the balcony. Then one day, I realized how the time had gone so fast. Those trees that were all dry when I arrived were coming into leaf now. Just as they did, I had also passed through a lot -experienced various emotions, thought on tons of stuff and listened myself. I even celebrated my own birthday! Although I don’t really care about such celebrations, I wanted to make this one memorable. Since I had some Nutella in my fridge, I was happy just as I had a birthday cake so that I didn’t feel upset about being under lockdown in my birthday. On the first day of my new age, I got a call from the reception of the hotel and I learnt that I could check out. Both in the manner of time and place, the lock down period was meaningful for me. I finally feel rested and purified. 

CALL FOR ART WORKS: European Week AgaInst Cancer VIrtual ArtIstIc ExhIbItIon 2020

“Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else”

-Leonardo da Vinci

The Association of European Cancer Leagues in collaboration with European Student Think Tank and the Medical Museum of the University of Crete is issuing an open call for entries to a virtual artistic exhibition to mark European Week Against Cancer.

The exhibition will combine artistic expression with cancer prevention awareness by encouraging students and young professionals in the health field to get creative and learn more about the European Code Against Cancer through artistic means.

OBJECTIVES

-Encourage creativity and elevate the voices of students and young professionals in the health field.
-Promote the European Code Against Cancer and encourage young health enthusiasts to learn more about it.
-Raise awareness of the importance of including health promotion/cancer prevention and visual arts in medical and healthcare curricula across Europe.
-Raise awareness of the value of incorporating arts-based approaches into health promotion and cancer prevention to affect change and for advocacy purposes.

WHO SHOULD APPLY?

*Any health & life science students and young professionals in the health field residing within the WHO European Region

*Between 18-35 years old, creating 2-dimensional artworks related to one or more message/s within the European Code Against Cancer and/or expressing the importance of healthy lifestyles in reducing the risk of developing cancer through one of the following medium: drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, design, crafts, collage, mixed media and new/digital media.

DATES AND DEADLINES

Deadline for Submission: 10 May 2020 (23:59 CET).
Virtual Exhibition Dates: 25 – 31 May 2020 on ECL’ s website (you will be sent the exact link in due course).
Live exhibition: TBC (the organisers will try to organise an exhibition at the Medical Museum of the University of Crete once restrictions due to the pandemic are lifted).

ELIGIBILITY & RULES

Please READ CAREFULLY the call’s eligibility criteria and rules as well as your rights & obligations on the document below:
https://www.europeancancerleagues.org/wp-content/uploads/EWAC-2020-Call-for-Artworks.pdf

Submissions which do not respect the eligibility and procedure rules, will be disregarded.

SONGS GATHER US ALL: SING FOR ALL!

The healing power of music has been used as a therapeutic intervention since the late 18th century and is considered as a tool to fight against the fear of pandemic nowadays. Starting from the very first day of lockdown, people in Italy have been singing in their balconies as they were used to do centuries ago -even the ones that have millions of followers such as the famous Ferragnez family.

As the days go by, this collective singing tradition has become more creative and impressive. As more people have been involved, more sounds have emerged all around us . A compelling example of that was released on the 6th of April by a group of people with different backgrounds. Under the title of “ThesSingers”, 40 people gathered to cover a historical song by Antonis Vardis and Costas Tripolitis.

Credits: ThesSingers Facebook Page

Within just a few days, their work has reached out more than 4.000 audiences and hundreds of comments that are full of gratitude.

Click here to watch them on Youtube.

In the meantime, another initiative was about to start on the other side of the Aegean sea. An Istanbul based acapella choir that aims to embody the polyphonic, diverse, and colourful culture of Eurasia has invited everyone to join them with a particular song for an online concert.

Credits: Chromas Choir Official Website
Translation: For the first time in Turkey: Sing with us Turkey! #MusicFitsinHome

Today at 19.30 /CET), the choir will hold an informal Q&A session via a Zoom meeting.

Until the 17th of April, Chromas Choir will receive the online applications through their official page.

Baklava Magcalls everyone to #stayhome and apply for such inspiring gatherings with hope in wherever they are.

Have yourself a sweet quarantine, everyone!

an ıntervıew wıth stella karachrıstıanıdou: buıldıng a common future

Stella Karachristianidou holds a diploma of Greek Philology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, with a focus on Medieval and Modern Greek Language and Literature. Today, as she decided to live in Istanbul, she demonstrates remarkable efforts in establishing a cultural dialogue between societies by teaching Greek language to Turkish people. Read on to learn more about her journey.


Stella Karachristianidou

As a Greek who has already experienced living in Greece, England, Netherlands,  Germany, and Turkey, how would you define the cultural characteristics of those varying societies?

Ι think that each society has unique cultural characteristics. England, Netherlands and Germany have more similarities. For example, people there are more open to diversity and act more independently. Even though they are aware of their traditions, they tend to adopt a more modern lifestyle. On the contrary, young people in Greece and Turkey have stronger bonds with traditions, even if they try not to, because societies in these countries make a hard effort to keep them alive. And for sure, Turkey and Greece share many cultural elements in music, food, behaviours which I think every Greek and Turkish person can identify.   

Just as Baklava aims, you also foster a collaboration between Greek and Turkish population. How does art function in the creation of an intercultural dialogue?

Art is part of human nature and is not restricted by the meaning of borders. It can communicate universal messages. Therefore, it can work easily as means of dialogue between people from different cultural backgrounds. Despite, in order to understand the messages of art, you do not need to speak the same language. For example, Turkish people love Greek music and Greek population tends more and more to watch Turkish series because probably these two societies are into each other’s culture.  So every kind of art can bring closer different societies. 

As far as we know, you do not define yourself as part of the minority communities in Turkey. How did you decide on working with the Greek Orthodox community in Istanbul? Do you have any particular reason for choosing such path?

I am not a minority member because I was not born here. But I would like to consider myself as part of the Greek minority, since I am Greek, and I live here now. So I think for every Greek who comes here, it is one of his / her first options to collaborate with people who speak at least the same language and they can serve in positions for which they have the necessary qualifications. I started working at a minority newspaper here in Istanbul and then,  RUMVADER, the main representative body of the whole community, had a need for a person with experience in EU projects. That period, I had just returned from Germany where I attended a 2-month training on cultural management and I believe this was the best opportunity to contribute to the general effort of the minority to communicate their culture and their rights. 

Apart from the projects you have been conducting and participating in recent years, you also put effort in teaching Greek language and culture as well. How did this journey begin? 

I studied Medieval and Modern Greek Language and Literature. I came to Istanbul 5 years ago to do my internship at the Consulate General of Greece. Almost immediately, I realized the general interest of the Turkish people for the Greek language and culture. So, the moment I decided to live here, I knew that I want to be part of all this effort of creating a cultural dialogue by teaching the language. 

You have held a series of language workshops at Kiraathane in Istanbul. Is there any thematic purpose of those ateliers? Do you think you have achieved the level that you aimed?

I am setting the goal of each workshop according to the motivation of the participants. This time, the participants are learning Greek for touristic reasons, let’s say. Most of them want to have conversations with the locals when they go to Greece. Therefore, at the moment, I set as a goal to teach them simple forms and words with which they can have a simple every-day dialogue. We should not forget that Turkish and Greek as languages do not have many similarities in language forms and grammar.  We have common words but, still, new learners should devote more time and effort in learning Greek than it would be needed for another language. The workshop is not completed, but I think that we are in a very good level. 

In terms of values and the way people behave, could you go for a comparison between Greece and Turkey? What has brought your attention so far?

I believe one of the main differences is the general attitude towards women. Even though, there is an on-going struggle for gender equality, you can evidence in every-day life the unequal treatment of women. This is what first shocked me.  It is different to know it as information and different to experience it. I am not saying that gender-equality is implemented in every field in Greece. But, for sure, women are confident that they can find support when is needed. 

Also, people who live in this country cannot find their inner peace. At least, the people with whom I am in contact, are constantly worried and feeling insecure for the future.  I think it is the same feeling that Greeks had during economic crisis. Hopefully, things for Turkey will be better in the future, too.  

What kind of an attitude you have in terms of minority rights within the scope of fundamental rights? In your point of view, which specific point must be urgently improved for the rights of minorities in Greece and Turkey?

I think that the role of every human rights defender should also be to ensure that the rights of national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities are highlighted and taken into account. We should bear in mind that minorities enrich the societies of each and every country in the world. Especially, Greek and Turkish minority’s status in Turkey and Greece respectively was shaped by a clear historical legacy of the Ottoman Empire and historical bilateral agreements concerning minorities in Turkey – namely the Lausanne Treaty of 1923. While the last decade, several reform packages have dealt with minorities’ problems, minority rights abuses still weaken minority foundations and the integration of minorities into the dominant social and political structures. I believe that the Turkish minority in Greece face less problems. I do not want to underestimate their importance, but the history shows that the Greek population faced in the past serious abolition of their rights with a result of the current situation which is the Greek community to fight for its survival given such dwindled demographic numbers which have a direct effect on the community’s participation to the civic life of their country as active citizens. 

 Unfortunately, these citizens are not received as equals. Due to the Lausanne Treaty, these people are used for mutual agreements between the countries which I think is totally unfair. These people have the same responsibilities and same duties as the other citizens, but they are not conceived like this. 

How do you handle the rough times during your research and language projects in Istanbul? Have you faced with an issue that made you feel like you cannot get over it?

I am happy because until now, I did not face major difficulties. I am grateful, though, because, I had people who supported me in every step of the projects I implemented. So, whenever I had difficulties, they were also there and helped me by exchanging ideas and finding solutions. 

Have your ever received a comment/message that you have never forgotten from the people you engaged via your projects and courses? If so, could you share one of them with Baklava followers?

During the implementation of the EU project :Bridging the Gap, building together a common future that the Association for the Support of the Greek Foundation (RUMVADER) implemented last year, there were many participants of our activities in cities of Turkey apart from Istanbul that they expressed their lack of  knowledge for the Greek minority in Turkey. Of course, now, the Greek population´s numbers are small, but still they are part of Turkey’s multiculturalism. This shows something about the education that young people receive nowadays in Turkey. I should stress that young people were always eager to learn and discuss. So, they need the proper stimulus and they were open to develop an intercultural dialogue. It is normal to afraid the unknown, the ‘other’, but if you come closer and start a conversation, you will realize that there are more things that unite us than the ones which separate us apart. 

From the Project Organized by RUMVADER: “YANYANA”

In the light of your experiences and dialogues in Istanbul, what can you say about the overall situation about ethnic and religious minorities and their future?

I believe that you do not need to be a minority member to realize the fact that minorities in Turkey are facing persisting difficulties and problems. I will express my view mainly for the Greek minority because basically I live and work with them. I cannot talk about the other minorities, but, for sure, Greek community is needed to be supported by younger members and new people with vision, who will set new goals and find new motivations to actively implement the necessary actions to address the problems that the Greek community continues to face. Moreover, demographically speaking there is a real threat to the Greek community’s survival, a community with historic ties to this land and the effects of the loss of Greek culture will greatly affect the cultural identity of Turkey. In order to reverse this, first the state and public actors need to contribute by helping to overcome a series of legal obstacles that exist and make it unable to fully incorporate new members into community’s internal structures.  We cannot forget that the current situation of the community is close related to decisions that the state took in the past. Second, the community itself need to overcome the old structures and start thinking productive collaborations and strategic plans which can efficiently handle the challenges that Christian communities face today. It is true that some members of the Greek community has steadily started to conduct activities to outreach to the general public and to enhance the capacities of its individual members since 2012. In particular, RUMVADER, the main representative body of the whole community, implemented its first EU funded project “Minority Citizens-Equal Citizens” from 2012 to 2015 targeting its own members in an effort to raise their awareness on the internal affairs and challenges that the community has to fight for and build their confidence in expressing itself coherently, constructively and effectively in political processes at every level. After that, the Yenikoy Greek Orthodox Community implemented another EU funded project entitled “Social Media and Minorities” with the aim to investigate the social media usage habits of minorities, to inspect the role of social media in social relations and the determine the obstacles against the recognition of differences in social media and freedom of expression. In 2016, RUMVADER started the implementation of its second EU funded project, “Bridging the gap, building together a common future,” contributing greatly to an increased respect and understanding for minority communities and pluralism in Turkey. Nevertheless, the results of these Actions will be feasible as long as the Greek community will continue to count members and to be active in civic life.

Meet Teoman: Being an Intern in “Fix in Art”

Could you think of a better way other than volunteering to strenghten the ties between differnet societies? Teoman is one of those passionate youth who worked a an intern on behalf of Fix in Art in Thessaloniki previous summer. Recently, he has recorded a video and replied to ten questions in order to introduce his experience in Fix in Art for the ones who consider applying for such opportunities. 

Click on the link below to learn more about his remarkable adventure in Greece!

Meet Yasemin: A Turkish Journalist Based in Athens

Yasemin’s fondest memories have been of the times she spent in Izmir (Smyrna). While she was living in Cesme, those remarkable songs she listened on Greek radio had taken her away to another universe.

Read on to get inspired by the story of her life.

A Turkish journalist working in Greece… This is not something we hear every day. How did it all begin?

I had a six month of Erasmus experience in the University of Panteion in 2015. When I graduated from both the Media and Communication and the Advertising programs of Istanbul Bilgi University, I went back to Athens and took the first step to my career under the roof of the foreign news department of the Athens News Agency. Since 2018, I have been continuing my journey as one of the journalists of Euronews Athens. 

How did you learn Greek and when did you start your learning journey?

Ever since I was a kid, I took interest in learning Greek language. I was ready to learn it whatever it costs so that I began taking Modern Greek courses from Sismanoglio Megaro between 2011 and 2014. When I moved here, to Athens, I improved my knowledge by doing daily practice.  My journey of learning Greek has been continuing ever since then. It is a never ending process, especially in terms of a language like Modern Greek.

Why “Athens”?

Besides the factors like Erasmus program and work, I have always wanted to live in Athens. For instance, I am in love with Thessaloniki and in fact, I feel like home there but I guess I wouldn’t get used to live anywhere else apart from Athens.

You must have heard that İzmir and Thessaloniki are called as sister cities since they are alike. What do you think about such comparison?

In my point of view, Izmir (Smyrna) is not the exact copy of Greece but has something in common for sure. The way of living and thinking are mostly similar but there are difference as well. Greek people do not hesitate to spare time and money both for themselves and for their interests. Meeting with their friends, going out for a coffee or dinner with them -at least one or two days of the week- is an ordinary habit of Greece. Turkish people also do the same thing but they are mostly detained by the high cost of living and the tempo of modern life. In Greece, life flows slowly and quietly, whereas in Turkey the situation is completely different. As far as I observe, people have no time to take care of themselves but in Greece, people are luckier in that sense. Nevertheless, I miss being in Turkey most of the time. Even though Greece provides similar cultural patterns, that feeling of speaking in my native language and the taste of sharing the same sense of humor have their own charms.

Have you ever regret moving to another country?

I have never regretted my decision to move here although it has been 5 years since I have come to Athens. It is like a second hometown for me after all unique experiences I gained thanks to the people I met and all those trips I made. I had bunch of wonderful and terrible days but it is a part of our lives and I am glad about that.

When I tell people that my family migrated from Thessaloniki, most of the Greeks say that their parents come from the specific regions of Turkey such as Izmir, Ayvalik and Cappadocia. We have a lot in common and honestly, despite all those tough times we had been trough, the exchange of populations created a unique connection between us. In addition to that, I had the change of knowing considerable amount of people who truly love Turkey and have a huge passion for Turkish language, who put a huge smile on my face.

How about families in Greece and Turkey?

Turkish and Greek families are mainly alike but what I have seen is that the father figures of Turkish families are more dominant and the matter of inter respect is more on top comparing to Greek family structure. Moreover, Turkish families tend to follow the traditions related to marriage, Greek culture could be defined as result-oriented in that manner so that such traditions are less likely to be done. 

On the other hand, family relations are stronger in Greeks. Plus, Greek and Turkish mothers are definitely in the same track. All unities of the families would gather for dinner at the weekends. Various of foods and appetizers stand by ouzo and wine on the tables. Those types of dinners host hours of conversations related to family issues, politics and daily life.

Have you ever faced any discrimination due to your identity?

I have never faced with positive or negative discrimination but it is possible to see some people who have a negative Turk image on their minds.

Do you see any difference between being a woman in Greece, in Turkey and in the rest of the world?

I feel comfortable as a woman in Greece. As long as I am in Athens, I had a lot of nights that I go out with my female friends and went back home late but I have never get disturbed. I can say that gender equality situation in Greece is better. At least, here, women are more independent since the fear of being judged by the others is less common.

Both Greece and Turkey have their own inspiring artists. Could you count some names that inspires you personally?

I was used to be a huge fan of Antonis Remos when I was 17 and I still like listening his songs. Apart from him, Yannis Kotsiras, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Giannis Parios, Antonis Vardis, Pix Lax, Eleonora Zouganeli are the ones that I like in terms of Greek music. Also, I really like listening Turkish singers such as Sezen Aksu, Sertab Erener, Tarkan and Birsen Tezer.

  • Favorite Greek Dish: Pastitsio
  • The place that she feels belong in Greece: The island of Kimolos. 
  • Best memory in Greece: That summer night when I watched the sunset with the sound coming out of waves in the island of Kimolos.
  • Worst memory in Greece: I guess the times that I have to deal with bureaucratic stuff.
  • Favorite Greek movie: Theo Angelopoulos- Eternity and a Day
  • Favorite Greek song: Hard to choose one but “Antonis Remos – Monos Mou” is my favorite. 
  • Favorite Turkish Dish: Mantı. 
  • The place that she feels belong in Turkey: Izmir. 
  • Best memory in Turkey: Our weekend trips to Urla, Seferihisar, Cesmealti with my family, when I was a child. 
  • Favorite Turkish song: Actually, there is a lot but I could say “Tarkan – Kış Güneşi” is the best one.
  • Favorite Turkish movie: Dedemin İnsanları by Cagan Irmak.

Meet Betoul Metso: A Life Between Turkey and Greece

Betül was raised in Echinos (Şahin), which takes place in Xanthi (Ξάνθη / İskeçe). After completing her primary education in the Minority Primary School of Echinos as a bilingual child, she was sent to Istanbul by her parents.

Read on to see how it feels to live in both sides of the Aegean.

“The education at the minority school was inadequate, my parents were not satisfied as well. In order for me to get better conditions and opportunities, they sent me to my aunt’s place in Istanbul when I was 12. When I look back over my life, I am pleased to have a life like this. Independently of where they are, children deserves having quality in their education as it is fundamental.”

“Today, the ongoing issue of minority education is still exist. When I first came to my school in Turkey, I found myself in a class that consists of 44 other students in a sudden, whereas in Echinos we were only 13. It was a tough period for me as a kid. In high school, the conditions became better and I felt like I got used to live in Turkey in some way as long as I learnt how to get benefit from the opportunities of Istanbul. I liked the city by discovering it by myself and experienced being an independent individual in an early stage of my life.”

“I was specialized in the field of foreign languages in high school; however it put me in a disadvantageous position in YÖS examination, which is designed predominantly quantitative -for foreign students wishing to study in higher education institutions in Turkey. At that time, I was willing to involve in one of the departments of international relations in a city that I am bounded to, in Istanbul; but when the results did not allow me to do so, I changed my plans and applied for the department of Modern Greek Language and Literature at Istanbul University. In fact, I was not ready to give up my first choice so that I enrolled for a second university to study international relations. After completing the program, I applied for the department of Political Science and International Relations at Istanbul University as a graduate student and got my degree. Hereby, I have never loosen my ties neither to Istanbul nor to my family. I spent all my holidays with my family in Greece, honestly, I was missing Greece every second of my life in Istanbul; ironically, it was a double sided feeling which made me dream of Turkey when I was in Greece as well. At the end I realized that inevitably, I belong to both Greece and Turkey.”

“Being a bilingual has a positive impact on my life for sure, but sometimes I still feel like I have trouble in expressing myself and the reason mainly stem from the primary education that I took. More specifically, neither Turkish nor Greek were taught in a satisfactory manner.”

“Related to my concerns about not feeling complete in terms of education, I have always went for more instead of imposing limits on myself. I guess the thing I like the most is to translate from Greek to Turkish so that I prefer defining my occupation as translator. I took part in a project which is funded by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) in the past and afterwards, did some academic researches in the matter of Turkish-Greek relationship. Even my dissertation was all about the political cartoons of Turkey and Greece. Although I still pursue my interest in the same academic field, nowadays I welcome the internship and relevant opportunities in media and communication sector.”

“I define myself as a person who lives in the intersection of two sets and it is an awesome experience. I do truly love both sides and try enjoying their glories. In other words, I can say that I have a deep connection with these two countries.”

“I love Turkey and my interest in Turkish Literature has increased recently. Not to mention, Greek Literature is also rich in content and I feel the same passion for it. Diving deeper into the literary texts and getting inspired by the authors are the indispensable part of my daily routine. In a similar way, my music taste is shaped by this duality.”

The place where she feels belong: Xanthi in Greece, Istanbul in Turkey.

Worst times: I wanted to went on a trip to Thessaloniki after a long time for a few days with a group of friends and it coincided with the strike of street cleaners, which causes a musty smell all around the town. Besides, it was an extremely hot period of the year. Seeing a place I like in such condition frustrated me.

Best times: Were experienced in Thessaloniki, too.