Cyprus, New York Times, 1964:
WAS Aphrodite, who rose from the sea at Paphos on the island of Cyprus, really the Goddess of Love? As bullets cracked through the air and spattered the mud‐brick walls of Ayios Theodoros; as 18‐yearold Mustapha, the son of the Turkish mukhtar (headman) of the village, lay nn his iron bedstead steadying his rifle on the windowsill and took aim at a window down the street (where in all probability a Greek youth of the same age, with whom he had talked in friendship a matter of days before, was steadying his own gun); as one gazed down on the waxen, lifeless face of Andreas, a Greek youth with dark curly hair and long black eyelashes, shot in the back as he tried to run for his life, it seemed that the island of Cyprus was bewitched with evil, hate and fear.
I’m writing this not because I’m writing anything new. In fact, I don’t even write that much. I’m writing because I see no other way to express myself.When i asked my mother what happened back in 1974 in Cyprus she simply answered to me two worlds “war” and “religion conflict” but she never mentioned what happened during that war and she always kept telling me about her life before the war and how simple were their lives back then before the killings, before Junta before the Turkish army.
In a reality of fear and terror, it’s easy to forget that sometimes fear can lead to racism. Living in constant fear can influence our attitude towards the source of our stress. Sometimes the source of the stress is another social group that we have political conflict with. Often we call them terrorists or murderers, and we generalize all the people of their ethnicity as potential terrorists. That’s why we need to be careful about justifying racist acts as self defense.
Racism and discrimination have been used as powerful weapons encouraging fear or hatred of others in times of conflict and war, and even during economic downturns.
The illusion of equality in recent years has been shattered and the whole European Union is forced to look itself in a mirror that had been avoiding for years: the mirror of racism, intolerance toward others, toward the diverse in color, religion, sexual orientation, economic status of other member states. Each country has lights and shadows inside and has to mediate between these two forces as the Cyprus case.
I keep an eye while i read some blogs or news sites around the web and here to find where’s the truth and where there is an indoctrination of propaganda in the text. Sometimes people who come from outside the Near East and they present theirselves as experts are often one-sided experts who follow pathetically the thoughts of someone without any critical thinking and this without talking with both sides of the story but just hear and read or watched a video somewhere. But this is their “truth” or how the world is represented/ given to them and is hard to change their minds or their truth or is even harder to change the truth of the far-right wing nationalists as they believe that they are always correct when they spread fear and hate. Sometimes you just need to intervene and say “Stop” but they are going to tell you you are a “mongol” as well and you should keep your mouth shut. Indeed, the present time is not favourable for leftish “Princess and the Pea” fairytales in the Near East.
Racism hides a great fear beneath it, a fear to face what is unknown, a fear to leave certainties. It is the intolerance of who is convinced of its superiority and fears to abandon the rigid structures that supports it. Without a shadow of doubt, fear is the number one factor that creates ignorance. And once ignorance is involved then people get hurt…or even die.
Walter Lippmann:“We must remember that in time of war what is said on the enemy’s side of the front is always propaganda, and what is said on our side of the front is truth and righteousness, the cause of humanity and a crusade for peace.”
Two worlds coexist today in Cyprus. Probably every conflict is fought on at least two grounds: the battlefield and the minds of the people via propaganda. The good guys and the bad guys can often both be guilty of misleading their people with distortions, exaggerations, subjectivity, inaccuracy and even fabrications, in order to receive support and a sense of legitimacy.
Whether we are talking about ethnic cleansings, group hatred or retraction of equity laws under the guise that these are unfair, the underlying issue is the same. One group, threatened by the perceived loss of power, exercises social, economic and political muscle against the Other to retain privilege by restructuring for social advantage. The majority of Turkish Cypriots has left the island and the Turkish Cypriot Youth which remains in the North struggles with the embargo and the new dictatorship in Turkey under Erdogan’s new Era.
On the other hand some Greeks still say that Cyprus should be unified with Greece as it’s greek That’s why a vote passed through the Cypriot Parliament to “celebrate” every year the referendum that took place back in 1950 in which 97% of masculine voters (Greek Cypriots) voted in favor of the Union with Greece (Enosis). Some stupid Greeks burnt Turkish Cypriot houses back in 1963 after the independance. Historically speaking the Greek government rejected twice the demand of Greek Cypriots for Enosis even when they had the opportunity to claim it.
Indeed, many Greek Cypriots blame the nationalist ideology of the military dictatorship of Greece 1967-1974 as ultimately responsible for dividing their country in the name of Enosis, destroying its political force as a national aspiration in the process.
The recent vote in the Cypriot parliament is a bad piece of legislation sponsored and supported by people with hate in their hearts with the sole aim of scuppering the talks currently taking place to bring peace and reconciliation in Cyprus.
For the history, Great Empires as the British one, have always conquered by dividing and ruling. Without giving an excuse to anyone, British wanted to keep their colonialism on the island by any means. Therefore they hired Turkish Cypriots to fight against the Greeks. It has been documented that Kissinger planed the coup d’état in Cyprus by the US-controlled Athens military junta and the turkish invasion at the same time just 5 days later. The fear of the other won prevailed and we’re still living the result of this conflict until today. This may be an example of how many years other countries around will have to wait until finding a peaceful solution.
Oranges and apples can not live together they say. But i don’t see something different that one nose two legs one face two hands : too simple for them. Some Turkish as the Grey Wolves “commando” Bahceli say that Cyprus is Turkish and we must throw all Greeks into the sea again as they did one century ago in Turkey:
“If they (Greeks) want to fall into the sea again, if they want to be hunted down, they are welcome, the Turkish army is ready. Someone must explain to the Greek Government what happened in 1921 and 1922. If there is no one to explain it to them, we can come like a bullet in the Aegean and teach them history all over again,” Bahceli threatened.
The greater the tension, the more the Turkish current government needs new enemies, the more it divides society.
Abroad, the continual drive to find enemies for domestic consumption leads to haphazard foreign policy. Today, Erdogan invests in division, in fear, in populism. Cynicism benefits the government for as long as citizens tolerate it.
In the past, before the border opening in Cyprus, as a very young boy, I had thought about meeting a Turkish and been horrified about them and wished that there was some way to remove them from the planet. That is what they used to teach you at school: fear. But I had never understood their fear. Why Turkish are afraid of us? I had never seen them as fellow human beings struggling with the issues of being human and having fears just as I struggled with being human and my fears. As we know, if fear is allowed to rule in our life it leads to much negative and violent behavior. But for those of us who believe in God or to humanity, there is a call to us to work to find positive ways to channel the energy that is generated in us by fear.
Fear breeds misunderstanding of different people, different races. And, it is this misunderstanding that then breeds hatred. This type of hatred is founded on lies, mistruths and mistrust of ‘others’, simply because of religion, skin colour or nationality. Again, the lack of communication between people of different religions and cultures is stark. This breeds animosity, misunderstanding and hostility – which then leads to hatred.
Greece and Cyprus were for more than 400 years occupied by Turks (Ottomans), and we were taught to believe that for every crime committed towards the Greeks, Islam was responsible. The Turks were Muslims and their crimes were reflecting their religious beliefs.
Fear is immobilizing and it keeps us separated. Our “them and us” mentality has no place in a country that is working to be a democracy, an EU state and it certainly has no place in our communities. We are challenged by the difficulties to see everyone as being connected to us and to understand that our overall wellbeing is related to theirs.
It is unsurprising that the black shirts of the Greek Cypriot nazi party Elam sponsored legislation for children to celebrate the plebiscite that treated Turkish Cypriots as non existent. Their ideology holds that it is right to discriminate against whole sections of the population on grounds of race and religion and to wallow in the celebration of such hateful intolerance.
The Nazis used to do it on the back of Jewish people and celebrated their intolerance in the torch-lit marches of the Hitler Youth. Racism has played its part in the destruction of whole generations of families who knew nothing but fear.
We are in this journey together and we need one another to create the world that supports the highest quality of life for everyone. Our work continues to be that of making it clear that there is no place for any racist ways of thinking and to make the effort to build bridges to one another so we can support the highest quality of life possible for everyone in this country and across this planet.
*Victims pictures are from both communities