Monday, April 15, 2013

`The antidote of pain is peace…`

`The antidote of pain is peace…`


Sevgul Uludag


Tel: 00 357 99 966518

00 90 542 853 8436


We gather at the premises of the Turkish Cypriot Journalists' Association just outside Nicosia for the opening of an exhibition of photography… These are photographs taken by Niko Guido from Turkey in a hospital in Jordan – he had gone there to be together with Iraqi patients, wounded in the Iraqi war – all of them maimed, most of them burned and lost limbs, hands, eyes... Niko Guido is leading the project `Leave Us Alone` and the exhibition is being opened in more than 30 places on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary if the Iraqi war… Hurriyet newspaper writes about Niko Guido and this exhibition:

`Guido, the leader of the "No to War" project, was in Amman, Jordan in 2010 and 2011, photographing Iraqi civilians who had undergone plastic surgeries. In the concept of the exhibition, the voice of each photographed Iraqi was recorded by the artist for five minutes. In this recording, wounded Iraqis introduce themselves and talk about their lives "before the bomb" and how they were forever altered afterward. Underneath each photograph is an interview where the emotions of the Iraqi people regarding the photographs are documented.

"Let's be clear: Our world is becoming nothing less than a photographic garbage bin. Our brains, fed by visual media, are not affected by powerful imagery as they used to be just a few years ago. It is getting harder every single day for the documentary photographer to draw attention to the problems of the world and humankind. It is for this very reason that we decided on an exhibition format in which we brought 'the voices and the photographs' together," Guido says on the project website.

To create the project, Guido called for volunteers with contacts with local and international actors, art galleries, photography societies, universities, media organizations and anti-war societies.

"Although we live in a country where saying 'no' to war could be harmful and dangerous, there are nice people who accepted being a part of such a project without any hesitation and trying to do their best. 'Leave Us Alone' would remain a mere thought without those nice people," Guido said, thanking the contributors and volunteers.

The project takes its name from the words of an Iraqi who had more than 30 operations on his face, who told Guido, "We don't want your civilization, money or modern living... Just leave us alone."

The exhibition opens with a letter from Niko Guido to Suru…

Suru Darweesh Kareem is 8 years old now. She has 3 sisters and 4 brothers. She was born in Kerkuk, Iraq. One day a truck loaded with bombs exploded while she was playing with her dolls at home. Because of the impact of explosion, the fuel tank used for heating in the house exploded as well. Suru's face was covered by flames and burned completely. She had a serious injury. She was taken to Sulaimaniya for treatment. Unfortunately the treatment ended up with a failure. Thereupon, she was brought to Amman. Doctors tried to replace and stitch burned parts of her face by skin from other parts of her body, but the little girl's body reacted badly to this treatment and rejected the skin which caused the stitched parts to fall off. According to Niko Guido Suru doesn't like animals. She likes to play with dolls and she misses her friends very much. In his letter to Suru, he says:

`Dear Suru,

When I first saw your face, my heart broke… I was looking at you but not seeing you… You noticed me; I was hiding behind my camera…

Even though I was not photographing you, I was making as though I was taking pictures.

You smiled at me…

At that moment I noticed your eyes…

The scars from the burns on your face gradually started disappearing. And then you came and hugged me. We stayed like that for some minutes… I kissed you from your beautiful eyes, your beautiful cheeks.

I stroked your burnt face. You held on to my hands and did not let go… Then I felt ashamed of myself. I hadn't known what to do in order not to look at you, not to see you, I was surprised. Just because your face was burnt, how can they be shame from this? Go out to the streets, go around the people. If someone has to feel shame, it is not you. It is me, us, all of us! We turned you into this… We could not protect you. You were only three years old when the bomb exploded. You can't even remember how your face burned. When I look at your face I understand how evil we can be for money, for more richness. I apologize to you in the name of humanity… Because of this war, you lost your family, your relatives, your friends, your future. Even if the whole world closes its eyes in order not to see you, I myself and my friends will not close our eyes…Don't be sad beauty, don't be sad my princess! The tears in my eyes are tears because I can now finally see you. Look, I don't turn my eyes away when I look at you… Because you are so beautiful and we are so ugly…`

We are here in the premises of the Turkish Cypriot Journalists' Association for the opening of the exhibition consisting of 24 pictures and 24 stories about these photographs. The President of the Association, Huseyin Guven says:

`Despite so much destruction and tragedies, our world is still a stage for wars. Unfortunately, it is innocent people who generally pay for these wars. Always innocent people are killed… Even though they are not the ones who have decided to start wars, it is mostly civilians and children who are paying for it. The photos we saw while preparing this exhibition have shown us the ugly face of war even though we saw the horrible face of war in Cyprus. The photos also reminded us to value peace and struggle for peace on a daily basis. Even though we are journalists, the photos reminded us that war is not as simple as we watch on TV, we saw how people pay for it and we shuddered, understanding the value of peace and brotherhood, sisterhood.

Even if we cannot compare it with the wars in the world, in this small island, we too have gone through wars and suffered. Thousands of us lost their homes. Still there is no solution or agreement. We live under ceasefire conditions and we are still expecting for a negotiated settlement, sometimes with hopes and sometimes with disappointments during this process. The ones who will address you and who will open the exhibition now is Huseyin Rustem Akansoy and Petros Souppouris are two of our friends who have paid dearly for the war in Cyprus. They know the evilness of war, the pain it causes. But seeing them together like in many other peace activities, give us great hope for the future.

Yes, we lived through a lot of pain in the past and we cannot say that what has taken place did not happen. But we can struggle together so that such painful incidents don't happen in the future. We don't want war, we want peace. And on the occasion of this activity, we would like to call on the two leaders of our communities. Start the negotiations immediately… Start and finalize it with an agreement that would foresee the rights of both communities, with a just and lasting solution.


If war is needed, let us wage war in this small country against economic problems. Let us wage a war together against poverty and unemployment. Let us wage a war against cancer. Let us wage a war against racism, exploitation, drugs, the bad habits surrounding our youth. Let us wage a war against all of these together so that we can leave beauties worth living for our future generations. Let us give them a country where they can live in peace, welfare and justice.`

Petos Souppouris who had lost his whole family in 1974 in the massacre at Palekythro together with Huseyin Rustem Akansoy who lost his whole family in Maratha-Sandallaris-Aloa in 1974 open the exhibition. They are the leaders and founders of `Together We Can`, The Bi-Communal Association of Relatives of Missing Persons and Victims of War and Massacres. Souppouris talks about the scars of war and says that `For every single perpetrator who has created such scars, we need a thousand of us to encounter what they have done… If we talk and understand each other's pain, it's easier to solve problems. First, we must unite the people and then unite the island…`

Huseyin Rustem Akansoy says that the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots know and feel the pain of war and the scars of war are still here… He says:

`As Together We Can, the Bi-Communal Association of Relatives of Missing Persons and Victims of War and Massacres, we try to put pressure on authorities in both sides for finding the remains of missing persons… The more we share, the more we develop feelings of solidarity; we see that the pain becomes less. The antidote of these pains of war is peace…`




Photo: Huseyin Rustem and Petros Souppouris opening the exhibition…


(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 14th of April 2013 Sunday.

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