Sunday, April 6, 2014
Notes from a funeral of six `missing` Turkish Cypriots from Zygi…
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We go to Famagusta to the funeral of six `missing` Turkish Cypriots from Zygi… Our dear friend Leyla Kiralp will bury today the remains of her `missing` husband Ahmet Mustafa who had been taken from his home in Zygi on the 15th of August 1974 by EOKA-B members from Tochni and some Greek Cypriot policemen… Leyla had been told that `He will be questioned and tomorrow we will take him back to you` but that would be the last time she would ever see her husband. Ahmet Mustafa together with 13 others from Zygi would be taken to Tochni and with other Turkish Cypriots from Tochni, would be put on two buses… Ahmet would be on the first bus – they would be taken to the Palodia military camp and all 45 Turkish Cypriots on that first bus would be executed in cold blood and buried there… One person only, Suat Kafadar, would escape with wounds and would manage to survive the massacre. When Suat would inform the Turkish Cypriot authorities about what
happened, UN would be sent to the Palodia military camp where the Greek Cypriot military authorities of the camp would convince the UN `To go today and come back tomorrow so they can investigate together…` During that evening they would open the mass grave, take out the 45 dead bodies, put them on some trucks and carry them to rebury them at a mine in Gerasa, Limassol. Sometime later when the mine would be expanded, this second burial site would be again reopened, the remains taken out and thrown down the hill and reburied, passing with a bulldozer over them to hide the third burial site… Remains of Ahmet Mustafa, together with five others from Zygi would be found in this mass grave. The exhumation at Gerasa by the archaeologists of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee would take a total of 18 months starting in 2007 and ending in 2008. The archaeologists led by our friend as team leader, Demet Karshili, would all stay in Limassol during this
time in order to concentrate on the exhumation – they would practically dig a whole mountain… I would go and see with my own eyes, this eerie place where 45 `missing` Turkish Cypriots had been buried.
The second bus with some `missing` Turkish Cypriots from Zygi and Tochni would be taken to Pareklisia to another mine and executed and buried there… Nowadays, the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee is carrying out an exhumation there and so far when I am writing this article, remains of 25 `missing` persons have been found – it is assumed that there had been 38 or 39 Turkish Cypriots on this second bus but until the exhumation is completed we would not be sure of the exact number.
Leyla who had been recently married with Ahmet Mustafa had never dreamt that she would lose her husband like this… She had been a very young woman at that time who had sewn her own wedding dress and just got married… She would write an autobiography entitled `The Wet and White Handkerchief That We Shared` and the book would be printed in Turkish and Greek… She would go round the villages in the last few years introducing her book, talking to Greek Cypriots from all over Cyprus, telling her story and giving messages of peace and reunification of the island. Despite her own tragedy, Leyla would not hesitate to struggle for peace on the island. Today we are by her side to share her pain when she buries her husband…
She has invited her Greek Cypriot friends to the funeral and they come with their flowers to share the pain, to cry together, to be with Leyla and to symbolically give a message of peace in this funeral. Around 50 Greek Cypriots, some of them who had also been persecuted and victimized by EOKA-B are here… Orestis Agisilaou, a young peace-loving Greek Cypriot is next to Leyla, just like her own son Shevki Kiralp during the funeral… Leyla introduces the young Orestis as `my second son` to the leader of CTP, Ozkan Yorgancioglu as he comes to greet her… Our beautiful Andri from PEO with her white flowers are here, so is Takis Hadjidemetriou, our dear friends Cleopatra and Jus Payada… Our friend Andreas Soudjis came all the way from Limassol and Andreas Maras too has white flowers he carries for the funeral… This is a record number of Greek Cypriots at a funeral of a `missing` Turkish Cypriot – we had Greek Cypriot friends in other `missing`
Turkish Cypriot funerals but not so many because Turkish Cypriot relatives of `missing persons` have always been `discouraged` by Turkish Cypriot civilian and military authorities, `not to have Greek Cypriots at these funerals…` Even our dear Greek Cypriot friends and readers who had helped to locate the burial sites of some `missing` Turkish Cypriots in many cases could not come to these funerals because there had been so much pressure on the relatives in order not to invite them… Today, Leyla has broken a taboo… The Greek Cypriots who come to the funeral have been struggling for peace and reunification of our island for many years – they come here to be with Leyla and later on will write on Facebook about the reason why they are here: They come here also in order to show that they do not approve such massacres and that we should be struggling together for peace, sharing our joys as well as our sorrows, making sure never for such tragedies to
happen again on this island…
The relatives of the six `missing` from Zygi have asked for a `military funeral` and when I go to the funeral, I see many soldiers in uniform… Families are under the trees crying, some of them fainting, one relative having a heart attack and taken to hospital… I find Leyla by the door of the mosque and we hug each other…
Leyla is the only speaker at the funeral, in the name of the relatives of six `missing persons` from Zygi. She says:
"Today we are here to carry out our last duty towards our loved ones and our relatives. By doing this, unfortunately, we need to face one of the biggest and most terrible traumas of our country. We are all going through a difficult day. Such days we need more understanding compared to other days.
On August 15th 1974, our relatives that were taken prisoners by members of EOKA B who came from Tochni, were killed near Limassol by unknown persons. Our missing relatives were 11, 6 of them were found. Today we are here for their funeral.
And if it is difficult for me to make this speech, I see it as my duty to do it, because of the respect I have for our missing. With my ex-husband, my relatives and co-villagers, we have gathered today, after 40 years. We shall bury them in a while, for their soul to rest. I hope that we will not relive similar pain in Cyprus, and I consider it a duty towards humanity for all of us to do what needs to be done so that people don't live again similar traumas. Condolences to all.
Now, both we and our dead will rest. Because for too many years we did not know where they were, and our wounds remained open for too many years.
Now at lease they have a grave to visit them and bring them flowers. This will lessen our pain.
All the missing are the common sorrow of Cyprus. 40 years is a very long time. Especially when it passes with such sorrow. Only those who have lived it know this sorry. Either they are Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot. I hope that all the missing are found as soon as possible.
I thank the Missing Persons' Committee, who is carrying out investigations on both sides, my dear friends Sevgul Uludag who is making great efforts for the missing to be found, the soldiers who carried out this ceremony, the authorities of interior and foreign affairs for their help, the Mayor of Famagusta Mr. Oktay Kayalp, the District Officer of Famagusta Mr. Sifa Tsolakoglu and all of you who came here.
To conclude my speech I express great respect for our missing and our dead. I wish that the soul of our loved ones that we will bury today, rests in peace. Thank you."
After her speech, the six `missing` Turkish Cypriots are buried…
After the funeral Leyla Kiralp invites our Greek Cypriot friends to a folk museum that she has created together with her husband Mustafa Kiralp near the Salamis Bay Hotel called `The Melandra House`. The Melandra House in fact is a replica of Mustafa Kiralp's family house in the Melandra village and the house has been decorated with old furniture like a folk museum. Here I see the Greek Cypriot friends sitting down to eat a few bites after the funeral, chatting with Leyla and being with her on this very difficult day in her life…
Our dear friend Alexandra Papanastasiou Katsou who attends the funeral would later on write:
`About 40 Greek-Cypriots including myself were in Famagusta today at the burial of six "missing" persons from Zygi. We were there to relieve the pain of our friend Leyla and the other families who lost their beloved in the massacre of Tochni, 40 years ago. We were there to show that all Cypriots have been suffering all these years in the same way and that human pain has no ethnicity, language or religion. We were there to give a joint promise that we will all turn this common pain into a celebration of peace, love and reconciliation. Our children deserve a better future. Thank you Leyla for your speech and your hospitality at Melandra house.`
Photo: From the funeral...
(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 6th of April 2014, Sunday.