I publish here excerpts from Orhan Kemal Cengiz’s article “Istanbul and Constantinople” (read complete at Todays Zaman). I’d like to note a crucial point I disagree with, when the author suggests that Hagia Sophia could become a mixed church-and-mosque place where Christians and Muslims would worship God together. I appreciate the good will of Orhan, but this suggestion is pure nonsense. Perhaps Orhan is an atheist, but living together in peace with people of a different religion needs mutual tolerance, not absurd blendings and intermixings.

Emphasis in italics added by Ellopos Blog.

When I was young, we lived in a “Greek house.” With its iron shutters, iron gate and high-rise ceiling, our house was different from those in its vicinity. I also remember seeing some female Greek tourists clinging to the walls of some houses in Cesme, where we would go in the summer. Seeing those Greek women crying, my mother would also burst into cries. For many years, I have been unable to give any meaning to those tears.

Our non-Muslims had melted into thin air, leaving behind their houses, streets, churches, fountains and other “remnants,” they have always continued to be part of our lives like some sinister ghost that we cannot ward off. Despite our history textbooks that carefully avoid any mention of them and despite their names erased meticulously from every place, it seemed, they have left some sort of tiny “reminders” across the country.

After many years, I started to ponder the country’s matters and issues, and I came to realize that the problem was a “social earthquake” that was far bigger than I as a kid could perceive. If the pre-1915 demographic percentages still applied to today’s Turkey, there would be 18 million non-Muslims living in the country. Just try to visualize 18 million non-Muslims, consisting mainly of Greeks, Armenians and Jews, living in Turkey. What sort of Turkey would it be?