Sunday, February 15, 2015
`Living in a different Cyprus…`
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Our young friend, a peace activist, Orestis Agisilaou sends me another article about his ideas of `Living in a different Cyprus…` His open mindedness and eagerness for communication is amazing: He refuses the standard behaviour of many on either side and takes his own stand, forms his own ideas and not only that, he practices what he preaches… This is a bit rare for an island like ours where in principle people don't dare `leave the flock` in case the `wolf` would get them! It is quite rare for a youngster to speak his or her mind despite `policies` of their own authorities and the `mainstream` mentality… Orestis Agisilaou says:
`In 1960 Republic of Cyprus was founded, a state which was organized by the two Cypriot communities, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot community. But unfortunately, the Greek and the Turkish nationalisms were stronger and they drove this new state to dissolution three years only after its establishment. In 1974 the permanent division came. Greek Cypriots moved to South and Turkish Cypriots to North. One violent and barbed wire divided the country into two parts but also every Cypriot's soul.
The time goes on. The older people slowly die and the younger ones come. Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots live at the places which they were told to stay and live the life which were told to live. The most negative thing of the division is that Cypriot people are living as two strangers. It is like there are two countries and two Cypriot people. The common meeting and celebrations of the past are no more common but Greek and Turkish. The memories of the peaceful past tend to disappear. The communication and the relationships are little. The younger generations grow up in the Greek and Turkish propaganda and sometimes they never meet at least one person of the other community.
Personally I have denied to compromise with this situation. I have decided to live in a different Cyprus, in a whole Cyprus with all its citizens. For many people crossing the borders of shame is lese-majesty. But for some others, including me, is passage for knowing the other half of our country and for meeting with the other half of Cypriot population. I have made many relations with Turkish Cypriots. With some of them I have made relationships stronger than the familiar ones. I have shared with them many experiences, thoughts, feelings, common dreams and hopes and many common fights for a united Cyprus. All of these facts have made me to believe that as some bodies try to divide the country, they will never succeed to divide the heart and the soul of people.
I believe that the solution of the Cyprus problem starts from the people. If the leaders manage to find one day a political solution but people continue to hate each other, the division will be permanent. So, people should make the extra effort to lay the foundations for a new Cyprus. Working together we can keep alive the flame of our common Cypriot identity and we can still hope in a better and united Cyprus.`
Another group, `Drasy/Eylem` as though echoing the ideas of young Orestis Agisilaou have recently published `10 steps towards rapprochement`… They said:
• We should visit the other side regularly
• We should try to communicate with people on the other side, creating friendships and collaborations
• We should support all bi-communal- rapprochement activities
• We should support the peaceful solution of the Cyprus problem and the inter-communal talks for a bi-zonal bi-communal federation, without foreign armies
• We should support the creation of a broad bi-communal movement of citizens and workers, to promote a solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of the interests of society
• We should promote the common struggle against nationalism and partitionist policies
• We should promote the culture of peace, democracy, diversity and tolerance
• We should promote the historical truth, regardless of the nationality to which we belong
• We should help in the finding of `missing persons` with honesty and courage
• We should work to create a bi-communal front of social resistance against the austerity policies
All of these can be done, provided there would be `wise leadership` in Cyprus in both communities…
There are also ideas we can use from Judith Herman, a well-known psychiatrist and researcher, author of books on `Trauma` like `Trauma and Recovery`… Cyprus is an island with at least half a century of traumas untreated and unspoken together… If we want to live in a different kind of Cyprus as Orestis is suggesting and dreaming, we must first face our traumas together… She writes:
`The first stage of dealing with and overcoming such problems, and of any helpful therapy or counselling, is about:
•Getting a 'road map' of the healing process.
•Setting treatment goals and learning about helpful approaches to reaching those goals.
•Establishing safety and stability in one's body, one's relationships, and the rest of one's life.
•Tapping into and developing one's own inner strengths, and any other potentially available resources for healing.
•Learning how to regulate one's emotions and manage symptoms that cause suffering or make one feel unsafe.
•Developing and strengthening skills for managing painful and unwanted experiences, and minimizing unhelpful responses to them.`
Both our communities need to address together their unspoken traumas and their suffering…
According to her, then one can move to the second stage:
`This stage of recovery and treatment is often referred to as 'remembrance and mourning.'
The main work of stage two involves:
•Reviewing and/or discussing memories to lessen their emotional intensity, to revise their meanings for one's life and identity, etc.
•Working through grief about unwanted or abusive experiences and their negative effects on one's life.
•Mourning or working through grief about good experiences that one did not have, but that all children deserve.
The third stage of recovery focuses on reconnecting with people, meaningful activities, and other aspects of life…`
In Cyprus, the psychiatrists and psychologists are not cooperating, journalists are not cooperating, lawyers are not cooperating, leaders are not cooperating in order to try to help create the foundations of a better Cyprus. It is only trade unions and some political parties who are cooperating and that too is quite limited…There are some civil society NGOs who are cooperating but those too do not necessarily touch the heart and soul of Cypriots as Orestis is saying…
Our soul has been hurt and no one will treat our soul unless we create ways to treat it ourselves… In this chaotic world, no one is interested in our traumas and how they affect our lives – no one will cure Cyprus, only if we set out to do it together, we can find consolation and peace in this war torn country of unspoken truths… Instead of trying to `solve` the whole messy Cyprus problem – the efforts can still continue – why don't the leaders get together informally to call on civil society to start speaking together about their traumas, their sufferings, their dreams, their visions… The UN will not do it, the EU will not do it, Turkey and Greece and UK will not do it – it is the Cypriot communities who have to start and push for reconciliation – reconciliation will not be all rosy and pink – we would have to create an atmosphere of empathy so we can at least make an attempt at understanding each other's traumas and sufferings and
see how we can create empathy for each other… We would need to create a road map for our `healing process` as Judith Herman suggests, we would need a time for `remembrance and mourning` and we would need to see how we can refocus and recreate the broken relationship of the two main communities of our island…
Perhaps it's a dream but I will always continue to find ways out of the darkness and try to stop things from getting worse… I will always try to carry a small torch to show that there can be brighter and better days in Cyprus but for this, we must face the past, the traumas and the truth of what actually happened in the past 50 years together… Only then, we might have some hope for our children to survive on this island…
Photo: A photo from the opening of the chechpoints in 2003...
(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 15th of February 2015, Sunday.