Turkey, Kaş (Antalya) and Kastellorizo island

Turks from Kaş and Greeks from Kastellorizo: a strong friendship that lasts for decades

Despite political tensions between both countries, people of Kastellorizo maintain close ties of friendship with their Turkish neighbours.

Beyond the political disputes between the governments of their two countries, the inhabitants of the Turkish municipality of Kaş and the Greek island of Kastellorizo ​​(Meis, in Turkish), both located opposite each other and separated by little more than 2 kilometres from distance, continue their friendship of decades despite the tension that surrounds this small Greek island of just 12 km2 and that does not reach 500 inhabitants.

The proximity between Kastellorizo ​​(officially Megistí in Greek) and Kaş -a tourist town of about 7,000 inhabitants in the Turkish province of Antalya– is such that since the latter it is very easy to see the historical remains from the Ottoman period; in fact, the island belonged to Turkey until 1915 – then under the Ottoman Empire – to later pass into Italian hands together with the Dodecanese Island. Until 1947 the island was not granted to Greece, thanks to the Treaty of Paris.

With Turkey only 2 kilometres away and mainland Greece almost 600 kilometres away, logically the Greeks of Kastellorizo ​​have much more contact with their Turkish neighbours than with any other Greek – let alone the authorities in Athens – and in fact, do most of their shopping in Kaş and even live in this Turkish town; this was at least until the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The people of Kastellorizo ​​lived depending on Kaş,” says the Turkish district governor, Şaban Arda Yazıcı, looking at a view of Kastellorizo ​​from his office window in Kaş. Speaking to the Turkish news agency Anatolia, Yazıcı underlined that despite the tensions between the two countries, at citizen level there is no problem of coexistence between the inhabitants of both places.

“We know that the people of Kastellorizo ​​are having a hard time”

“We know that they (the inhabitants of Kastellorizo) have been having a hard time trying to meet their needs since the pandemic emerged” due to the inability to travel to Kaş, explained the governor, insisting that the inhabitants of the island came almost daily to the Turkish town. Despite the confinement and the problems, both communities, with strong ties of friendship, maintain contact through social media.

Yazıcı, insisting on the strong dependence on the island from Kaş, also wanted to emphasise that Turkish authorities encourage the residents of Kaş to help their Greek neighbours especially in these difficult times due to the coronavirus.

“The people of Kastellorizo ​​are some of the biggest victims of the pandemic. Although there are shipments of food from Greece to the island, they are often interrupted. The people of the island themselves tell us. For them it is like living on an open prison: they tell this to their friends in Kaş, and they hope that the pandemic will end as soon as possible (to be able to visit Kaş again),” says the governor.

“There is not a single problem between us”

Hüseyin Uçar, a greengrocer in Kaş, confirms the strong ties between the two communities and that, before the pandemic, the inhabitants of Kastellorizo ​​came to Kaş every day to do their shopping or spend the day. “We have been in contact through social media constantly. In summers came and bought vegetables and fruits almost every day. There is not a single problem between us. They love us, and we love them,” says Uçar.

Bayram Aydoğdu, a local barber, also confirms the friendship between the Turkish inhabitants of Kaş and the Greeks of Meis (Kastellorizo), and how he himself has held several video conferences with his Greek friends on the island since the pandemic forced to close the borders, in order to maintain contact. “They want to return to Kaş as soon as possible. They say they can do very little on the island,” he says.