Monday, November 23, 2015
`Does human life carry as much weight as property?`
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Leyla Kiralp was supposed to attend the conference in Brussels where Secretary General of AKEL, Andros Kyprianou and leader of CTP, Mehmet Ali Talat were speakers. She did not notice until she was about to get on her plane from Larnaka to Brussels that her Cypriot identity card had expired! She could not get on the plane and go to Brussels. She had been asked to say something about `missing persons` at that meeting in Brussels so she had written her speech. Although she could not go to the conference, AKEL MEP, our dear friend Takis Hadjigeorgiou, read excerpts from her very powerful speech at the conference.
I want to share her speech with you because I think it reflects the feelings of many relatives of `missing persons`, both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot.
This is the speech of Leyla Kiralp:
`Prior to 1974, many Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots were taken from their homes, from the roads and from the fields, executed and buried in unknown places, making them `missing persons`. In the war in 1974, the number of `missing persons` increased even more. Many people were executed en masse and buried in mass graves. The burial sites of many of them are still not known… According to the figures given by the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee, 2001 persons went `missing` between 1963-74. Until now the remains of 603 `missing persons` were found and around 1400 `missing persons` are still `missing`. Relatives of `missing persons` from both communities have been through unbearable traumas. And these traumas still continue…
My first husband, my relatives and villagers from Zygi, as well as tens of Turkish Cypriots from Tochni were taken as prisoners of war by some Greek Cypriots from EOKA B in 1974, they were executed and went `missing`.
After 40 years, the remains of my husband and some of my relatives were found. And a year ago, the remains that were found were given to us in small coffins to be buried. We buried our relatives after 40 years. We went through the traumas we had been experiencing over 40 years, every day, again. But at least now they have graves and we find condolence in the fact that we can visit them any time we want.
After 1974, the politicians from both communities tried to show that their own community have `missing persons` while denying and hiding the fact that the other community too had `missing persons`. Turkish Cypriots did not know about Greek Cypriot `missing persons`, and Greek Cypriots were unaware of Turkish Cypriot `missing persons`.
When the two communities started coming closer, the fact that both communities have `missing persons` came to the surface. Especially after the checkpoints opened in 2003 and as the relations of the two communities developed, we became face to face with the reality of `missing persons`. With the work of the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee, remains of many `missing persons` were found and their fate became known. I want to thank again all those who help to find the remains, particularly to the Cyprus Missing Persons' Committee and journalist Sevgul Uludag.
What does it mean to live as the relative of a `missing person` for 40 years? Can you understand that? A whole life of 40 years spent between hope and hopelessness, a life you go through with politicians who don't care about what sort of life the relatives of `missing` are living but only interested in using the `missing persons` and the pain of their relatives for their own political propaganda. 40 years is a whole lifetime and unfortunately it passed with deep traumas and psychological and biological illnesses connected with these traumas. Some of those relatives of `missing persons` who struggled against these illnesses with their own means managed to stay alive until now but many of them died young, being sick from these illnesses created by the traumas.
After 1974, I had anger and feelings of vengeance in me. Living like that made me sick. I got treatment with my own means and got my health back. I managed to put love and tolerance, instead of the anger and hatred in me. Was doing this easy? Of course not…
As I got my health back and as the anger and hatred subsided, I started thinking in a more healthy way. I managed to forgive those who have put me through this trauma in 1974. And I called on them to face their own conscience.
It is not possible to forget what we have lived but it is possible to forgive.
Those who manage to forgive primarily give themselves peacefulness and to those around them as well…
I remarried seven years after 1974. In 1986 my son was born. But they too were swept by the `Traumas of the Missing Persons`… This is such a trauma that it continues passing from generation to generation.
Think of a child who has lost his bicycle and think of his family buying him a newer and more expensive one. The child misses his old bicycle. But how about the children who have `missing` fathers? Who they will put instead of their father? What about those mothers and fathers who have lost their sons or daughters? Who can replace their children? How can they cover such a loss? Having someone `missing`, that is having someone killed and buried somewhere unknown is the heaviest and most destructive situation a human can experience.
The political leaders of the two communities have not put forward any document on the negotiating table about `missing persons` or the relatives of `missing persons`. Beyond that, the issue of `missing persons` is not even on the table of negotiations!
But a peace process is a process of reconciling people with their country. A peace process where the relatives of `missing persons` who have lived through the heaviest aggravation in the Cyprus tragedy are not involved, is an incomplete peace process.
The most basic and the most sacred human right is the right to life. The right to life of the `missing persons` has been taken away from them and the rights of their relatives left behind is not even mentioned in the negotiations process – and if you compare this in line with the universal human rights and democracy such a process is incomplete.
Policies towards `missing persons` and their relatives must be the priority of the peace process. Many countries who went through internal wars like South Africa, had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up. Such a commission must also be set up in Cyprus. The political leaderships of both communities must apologize to the relatives of `missing persons` of the other community. The perpetrators must be encouraged to come out and admit what they did and show the burial sites of the `missing persons`. Negotiations are being done on how to compensate on the issue of property. Doesn't human life carry as much value as the property according to the two leaders? Is it possible to trade and exchange human life? Is it possible to trade and exchange the years spent going through traumas of the relatives and families of `missing persons`? Why is no policies are being negotiated at the negotiations table concerning the `missing persons` and their relatives until now?
How do the two leaders think that they can build peace without mutual apologies? In order to ensure that the events that happened prior to 1974 and during 1974 don't happen again, as the two communities we must first forgive each other.
Having lost at a very young age my husband, my relatives, my villagers, my house and my village, as a relative of a `missing person`, I have long ago forgiven those who have made me go through this pain and I extended my peaceful hand to my Greek Cypriot citizens for the peaceful future of my country and my people.
Thousands of friendly hands reached out to me. Even if we did not understand well each other's language, we agreed in the language of peace and friendship. We walked through this difficult and long road step by step, making a lot of headway… All of the people of Cyprus must continue to walk on this road and go hand in hand for peace to come to our country urgently. But for the federal state to bring peace in the real sense of the word and for it to be real democratic and in line with human rights, bicommunal policies must be produced and implemented about `missing persons` and their relatives…`
Photo: Leyla Kiralp together with Christina Pavlou Solomi Patsia...
(*) Article published in POLITIS newspaper on the 22nd of November, 2015 – Sunday.