Monday, December 22, 2014

`Pain looks like an earthquake…`

`Pain looks like an earthquake…`

Sevgul Uludag

Tel: 00 357 99 966518
00 90 542 853 8436

Young peace activist Orestis Agisilaou sends me a note:
`Since 2001, United Nations have decided to celebrate the peace on 21/9 every year. At the moment many wars take place in the world. Children are killed every day in Palestine, innocent people are killed in Iraq and Ukraine every day. At all over the world the violence and the terror take place. Cyprus is a country which suffered and is still suffering from a war also. Forty years ago, the county was divided into two parts and Cypriots were told that the borders of their country aren't Kyrenia or Limassol but a buffer zone in the middle of the island. Every Cypriot's dream became half. Our multi coloured island became black and grey. A lot of people were killed. Many of them are still missing. Hundreds of Cypriots became refugees by violence and 40 years later they still hoping to live at least one day at their village before they die. The younger ones are growing up in a divided country and they feel the other community as a stranger. Now, due to
the international peace day, a lot of events take place in order to celebrate peace. And after what? Will we go after home to sleep and to continue our everyday life? The International Day of Peace isn't a reason to go out to see an event, to have fun and after to return home. We should put this day in our everyday life and to celebrate it 365 days a year. If we love honestly our common island we have to take into account the messages of this day and to start working for a better Cyprus. People say that the pain looks like an earthquake. Both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots felt the pain. When an earthquake finishes, people fix the damages of their houses. In the case of Cyprus the materials aren't cement and bricks but love, trust and comprehension. We wait this reconstruction of our home 40 years now…`
Yes the pain that all communities have felt in Cyprus in the last half century is like an earthquake as Orestis points out and each and every step to fix the damage that the pain has done to our people must be encouraged…
Sometimes I encounter people who ask me `Do you think that we will have a solution soon?`
I feel very awkward when I encounter this question and answer them with another question:
`Are you a student at elementary school?`
Problem in Cyprus is that there is absolutely no encouragement from either side for cooperation, for mending our damaged house, for building afresh something that would stand to earthquakes… Problem in Cyprus is that people are far ahead of political structures in both communities – our culture is one that quickly adapts: Cyprus for thousands of years have experienced many civilizations coming and going and Cypriots always found a way to survive by quickly adapting to new conditions… But politicians want to keep things the way it is: Not all politicians of course but exceptions are not the rule – there are always exceptions and good examples but the mainstream politics and policies in this country on either side does not encourage cooperation, not even curiosity about each other… The worst pieces of `news` is selected, when something `good` happens, it is completely ignored by the mainstream politics…
For many years teachers from the two main communities of the island, Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot have been coming together to create new teaching materials for schools and they have produced wonderful books for teachers about for instance how to teach the humanitarian issue of `missing persons` in their classrooms… Neither the Turkish Cypriot, nor the Greek Cypriot authorities have ever allowed these teaching materials officially into the schools. With the efforts of some progressive teachers' trade unions and progressive teachers, some books have been distributed in some schools but this does not make a great impact on the mainstream politics and policies… Our leaders in both sides of the partition line, prefer to hold on to their own rhetoric, their own status quo and organizing events at schools with students have come across great obstacles in some cases… One very good Greek Cypriot friend whose father is `missing` from Karpasia and
whose family suffered quite a lot in 1974 has a heart of gold: He tried desperately for two years to organize a meeting where we would visit the high school he was teaching in Nicosia – he was assistant headmaster – and a Turkish Cypriot and a Greek Cypriot relative of a `missing person` would speak to the students… It proved impossible to organize this event despite his insistence – even the progressive teachers reacted to our proposition saying that `They did not want any trouble in their schools from the known fascist circles`, therefore avoiding efforts of reconciliation and keeping their own `status quo`, their own positions, their own `safe` places… In the end, our dear Greek Cypriot friend was sent to a village to teach: I do not know whether this was due to his very insistent efforts at trying to do an activity of reconciliation at his school or whether it was just a technical and professional decision by the authorities. I did not ask
him because I was a bit scared of what the answer might be… I did not want to find out whether my prediction had come true…
Another dear friend, a young woman teacher who organized events with us at the schools she had been teaching had horrible experiences of being cast out by other Greek Cypriot teachers from her school, gossip spread about her, being alienated and outcast in her school. Not that she was afraid of such things but still it set out an example to others who might have wanted to join her for such peaceful events… It reminded me of Denktash times when we were being alienated, gossip spread about us in order to make sure that people would not support our peaceful activities, that they would fear what might happen to them (not to us!!!)…
But we have in both sides of the partition line, young, courageous people like Orestis who go out of their way in order to try to mend their house damaged by the earthquakes of the past… And they need our support, our encouragement, our good hearted will to be able to carry on… If we don't mend our house together, we will continue to suffer and invite more suffering and more earthquakes… Our whole region is on fire and we still need to figure out how to stay alive together on this land called Cyprus…


(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 21st of December 2014, Sunday.

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