Saturday, November 8, 2008

Real and imagined: the Hellenes of the Middle East

While the traditional communities of Greeks are dying across the Asiancontinent, highly mobile and enterprising individuals are rejuvenating theGreek presence


WHEN I moved to Iran, hearing there were Greeks in the Islamic Republic of Iran was bizarre enough. Finding out that it boasted a splendid Greek Orthodox church, just metres away from the infamous US embassy that dominated the international media throughout the 444 days of the American diplomats' hostage crisis in 1979-80 was even stranger.

But Iran's Greek community has been in irreversible decline since the early 1980s when many fled a socially restrictive Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Today, two monuments in Tehran stand testament to the crumbling Greek community: a church and a cemetery.

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