Sunday, August 3, 2014

Two psychologists speaking about `missing` persons…

Two psychologists speaking about `missing` persons…

Sevgul Uludag

Τel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436

Two psychologists, one Turkish Cypriot and one Greek Cypriot from the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee speak to Oncel Polili, a young lawyer and activist who wrote the report entitled `Human rights concerning `missing` persons and their families in north Cyprus`… Ziliha Uluboy who works with relatives of `missing` Turkish Cypriots and Katy Mangerdjian who works with relatives of `missing` Greek Cypriots talk of their experiences for the report prepared by the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation. This report, as well as ten other reports concerning different aspects of human rights were sponsored by the EU with a view of mapping human rights in the northern part of our island.
I know both of these psychologists, Ziliha and Katy and I want to share with you some of their observations about their work… You may read the full report at
Ziliha Uluboy in summary says:
`The mourning period of someone who died forty years ago starts when the remains are found. Most of the families of the `missing` persons experienced forced migration. In addition to this, one or more members of their families disappeared. Naturally, the families are gravely affected by this situation. Particularly the older ones that happened to know the `missing` relative when he/she disappeared have been experiencing serious mental problems. Especially I often came across with the mental problems of parents, siblings and older children facing post-traumatic depression, stress disorder and somatisation and individuals had to live with these so many years without having any psychological support. Also, the children at a young age whose fathers disappeared have been experiencing psychological problems. The ones who were at a young age when their father or mother disappeared do not have any memories with them as they cannot remember them. They always
lived as if the `missing` person would always come. There are children of the `missing` persons who first saw their parents in the Anthropology Laboratory on the Green Line. They touched their father or mother for the first time, there. This issue is a traumatic situation. Other families say "I do not remember him/her like this" when they see the bones and this is another traumatic situation. However, on the other hand, this situation has beneficial aspects for the families of the `missing` persons in terms of reaching the truth partially. It is an important issue for them why, when and how the `missing` person was killed. The anthropologists of the C.M.P can give verbal information on the physical traumas during the time of death, such as; whether the person was shot, had a physical shock or buried with other people, so these can contribute to learning the truth to some extent and this can be beneficial. The process of finding the `missing` persons
being too long has increased the time of the traumatic period for the families of the `missing` persons. They could not mourn and reduce their trauma.
Particularly, the families of the `missing` persons whose families disappeared between 1963-1964 had great difficulties. The authorities provided little or no aid to those families. Although 11-12 years passed from 1963 to 1974, the families of the `missing` persons have never accepted their death. The division of the island in 1974 was a serious trauma for the families of the `missing` persons. The families migrated from their original houses and they had an opinion that the disappeared loved ones would not be able to find them if they returned there.
As most of the `missing` persons were men, I often observed that the children of the `missing` persons grew up being deprived of the father figure. However, they never accepted their father as dead. The children of the `missing` persons have always lived with the hope that their father would return. The children of the `missing` persons have experienced problems at school. Their friends were talking about their fathers or their fathers were taking them from the school. As I listened to one child of a `missing` person, he said that he was deeply influenced by the fact that when everyone was talking about their mothers or fathers on the first day of the school, he had nothing to say about his father.
Another child of a `missing` person was upset by the headmaster's unfair slap on him and he went to the headmaster and asked if he had a father would he slap him again? This indicates how this child was affected negatively… In my view, some children of the `missing` persons related all the negative experiences they had with the disappearance of their fathers. Another story that really affected me is the story of a child of the `missing` person who is 50 years now. He was interested in hunting and every time he went hunting he was wondering if his father was under that soil he was walking on and this feeling was affecting him deeply. This is a serious psychological trauma and it is really difficult to live with such a feeling.
A common story I have listened to from many children of the `missing` persons is that, as they were at a very young age when their mothers or fathers disappeared, they did not remember them and when someone passes by, they suspect if this person is their father or mother and they lived with that feeling for so many years. Not only the ones in Cyprus but also the ones who went to Turkey to study lived with that feeling.
The families of the `missing` persons have been deeply influenced by not being able to learn the truth. The authorities had to conduct investigations and inform them about the truth. The relatives of `missing` always question why they started searching and identifying the `missing` persons after such a long time and not much earlier…
In this period, the burial sites are being discovered, excavations are taking place and the identification of the `missing` persons is continuing. This is a pleasing situation for them.
However, after this process, they are expecting to learn the truth and the punishment of perpetrators. It is not enough to finish this issue in their lives just by the discovery of the `missing` persons. Some families of the `missing` persons know the name of the murderer and even know this person. However as nothing was done during all these years, they feel injustice and they do not feel safe psychologically.
The authorities have not been conducting any research for many years resulting in prolonged painful situations. Some family members died without ever finding that their families were found. Some family members are too old now and after such a long period, some old people quite simply cannot deal with finding their loved ones due to their old age.`
Psychologist Katy Mangerdjian dealing with the Greek Cypriot relatives of `missing` persons says in summary:
`The families of the `missing` persons have been facing post traumatic disorder, which is the outcome of their experience after all these years. After the notification that their relative is found their trauma comes to the surface after 37 years. The mourning period starts here, the trauma can manifest itself as nightmares, grief, sadness, stress and memories from those days. Viewing of the remains of their loved one is the peak of the grief and the emotional pain. This is not what they expected to see. Eventually, the funeral with the religion customs and rituals and the burial of the remains brings the closure of the whole situation. Only when a funeral takes place, hope of their loved one being alive, comes to an end. 4 years ago at the beginning of our work, it was very difficult for the families to accept that their loved ones were dead because we had no funerals or remains. However, after the families experience some realities such as funerals and
see the remains, people begin to realize that their loved one might be dead. It is very human to keep hope alive until the end. Sometimes we meet families that even after the funeral cannot believe that their loved ones had been found and that their agony of not knowing has come to an end.
Research found that, parents were affected the most, secondly the wives, children and finally siblings. Most of the wives did not get marry again, although the average age was 20 – 35 years old, as they carried a hope that their husbands were alive.
The children who were very young at the time of their mother's or father's disappearance were affected as deeply as the ones who remembered them and making it very difficult for them to accept. However, all of them admit to experiencing a feeling of emptiness. Furthermore, Greek Cypriot society had many orphans, resulting in these orphans were being stigmatized especially from school peers, who sometimes can become very cruel especially at a young age.
When the families of `missing` persons see the remains of their loved ones at the anthropological laboratory, they are in agony and they ask many questions such as "what information do you have about the circumstances he/she was last seen, was our relative tortured, was he captured alive, did he die immediately, who gave the information". Sometimes they can get answers to some of the questions. But most of the time they do not get answers because we do not have the information. In most of the cases, anthropologists can observe the physical traumas on the bones and how this trauma occurred.
They are angry about this and they want justice. I have seen very few people that have forgiven the murderers. When justice is not awarded people are cognitively imbalanced. I can feel for them, that they expect at least an apology. In other countries even after many years have passed, war criminals have been prosecuted in international courts. We have not seen something similar in our country…`


Photo: Children were traumatized with the loss of their fathers or mothers...

(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 3rd of August, 2014 Sunday.

No comments: