Ibrahim Yaylali was a nationalist Turk who discovered his Greek roots and made a 180-degree turn, becoming an activist for human rights.
Within years, the Greek from Pontus became “a symbol of the struggle for the recognition of crimes against Greeks and other peoples,” as characterized by Greek lector and author Theofanis Malkidis.
The fascinating story of the Turk from Pontus begins in April 1994 when he was enlisted in the Turkish army as a sniper and was sent to fight against the PKK fighters of Kurdistan.
Yaylali was 20 years old at the time and he was a zealous nationalist believing that the Kurds of PKK were terrorists against Turkey.
In September of the same year, he was wounded in a battle with PKK guerrillas, captured, and held captive for two years and three months.
The story of the Turk with Greek roots
Ibrahim Yaylali was born in the village of Asar in the prefecture of Samsun, historically known as Sampsounta (Amisos) in Pontus.
When he was captured by the Kurds and his parents stopped receiving any news from him, they went through the Turkish army channels to find their son.
The response they got was that there was no such person in the Turkish army. His parents insisted and pressed for an answer.
It was then that the Turkish authorities told them that they investigated their family and found out that they were Turk of Greek origin.
They even made it clear to them that they should not speak publicly about this case, and to not disclose their origin.
Yaylali begins his struggle for peace and human rights
Something changed in Yaylali during the time he spent with his Kurdish captors, and once he was released and found out about his Greek origins in Pontus, he became a new man.
In 2013 he changed his first name to Yannis Vassilis and began to take part in the activist struggle against the unfair war in Kurdistan, after finding out that the Turks were actually fighting the Kurds, not PKK.
On April 22, 2017, along with his partner Meral Guleini, they commemorated online the early 20th century genocides of Greeks and Armenians that same day.
The Turks refuse to admit that the killing of over 2 million Greeks and Armenians was a genocide. On that ground, Yaylali, or Yiannis Vassilis now, was arrested by Turkish authorities.
His charges were “insulting the presidents Kemal and Erdogan”, “incitement to riot” and “incitement of terrorist acts.” He was imprisoned for three and a half months and released in 2018.
Yannis Vassilis flees to Greece
Yannis Vassilis fled to Greece on January 29, 2019, according to Theofanis Malkidis. In Greece, he continues his peaceful struggle to this day.
The Turk with Greek roots gives lectures about his Pontian ancestors and all the Greeks who have suffered under the Turkish sword in the early 20th century.
Malkidis told Greek Reporter that Yannis Vassilis lives in Greece now.
“He has applied for asylum. His case will be examined in February 2022. He lives in Greece waiting for the decision of the relevant services,” he said.