Monday, September 4, 2017
Honouring the relatives of “missing persons” who work together to heal the wounds…
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After meeting a few times and making various proposals to the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot political parties meeting for years every month at the Ledra Palace Hotel under the auspices of the Slovak Embassy, they had decided to honour the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot relatives of "missing persons" who work together in their joint association "Together We Can" as well as supporters of this association…
We held an event at the Home for Cooperation on the 4th of August 2017, Friday where I made a presentation of the members and supporters of this very unique group in Cyprus who have overcome their own pain and made a further step for humanity by trying to heal the wounds of our communities, by trying to collect information on other "missing persons" and all without any local or international funding… I salute them for their humanity on this island…
The Slovak Ambassador Oksana Tomova pointed out that the voluntary humanitarian work of this group could be a role model not only in Cyprus but to the world on how tragedies in a conflict should be handled… Christos Efthymiou and Erbay Akansoy, speaking in the name of `Together We Can` pointed out how important it is to find out the truth and that this was only the beginning in the search for truth… Efthymiou said:
"We are now in a most difficult stage of the efforts to find a solution of the Cyprus problem. As relatives of the missing and victims of conflict and war we urge you, that in all your deliberations on issues of power sharing, on territory, on return of property or reparations, to please consider what can be the remedy for the loss of life. For all relatives, there can be no other remedy than a peaceful future for the generations to come, so that no other family will go through what our families have gone through all these years."
Here is how I presented them at the event honouring them for healing the wounds of our communities:
"We are honouring the voluntary work of the members and supporters of `Together We Can` - The Bicommunal Association of Relatives of Missing Persons and Victims of War for their insistent and consistent humanitarian work for the past eleven years on healing the wounds of the traumatised communities of Cyprus and for working voluntarily to gather information about `missing persons` in Cyprus.
1. Maria Georgiadou from Kythrea lost her mother Chrystalla, her father Andreas Orphanides, her brother Stelios and her sister Emily in 1974 and they are still `missing`… Maria went beyond her own pain of having lost all her family and helped to find information about other `missing persons` from both communities, as well as speaking up together with Sevilay Berk in local and international gatherings, at schools to youngsters, at summer camps giving out the message that there is no other way but peace in Cyprus.
2. Sevilay Berk from Pervolia Trikomo lost her mother Shefika and her father Huseyin Ahmet Kamber in 1964 – when they went `missing`, Sevilay was the eldest of the five kids at 18 years old and she had to take care of her siblings, become both a mother and father to them… Despite her own pain, she became very good friends with Maria where they would speak up together for peace at schools, in local and international gatherings, becoming symbols of friendship and peace… The remains of Sevilay's parents were found in a well in Trikomo and the funeral was attended by relatives of `missing persons` from both communities, standing together in their pain…
3. Katerina Antona from Larnaca lost her brother Christakis in 1974. His remains were found together with the remains of other `missing persons` in a well in Agia Kebir. They were arrested and later killed by some Turkish Cypriots. Katerina did not use her pain for hatred and vengeance but went beyond her own pain to help other relatives of `missing persons` to find information about the fate of their relatives. She currently runs a Facebook Page called `MISSING 1963- 1974 Bi-communal Group` where she encourages people to speak up with what they know and gives the message of peace…
4. Andreas Sizinos from Gypsou lost his father Demetris Sizinos in 1974 when he had been taken and killed together with others in Chatoz by some Turkish Cypriots. His remains have been found in a mass grave outside Chatoz. Andreas never allowed his own pain to blind him but went beyond with his friendship with Turkish Cypriot relatives of `missing` persons and he tried to create understanding of why such terrible tragedies happened in Cyprus, speaking to youth during local gatherings and international meetings. He continues to gather information about the fate of `missing persons` from both communities.
5. Leyla Kiralp from Mari lost her husband Ahmet from Zygi in 1974 at the massacre of Tochni of EOKA-B when two busloads of Turkish Cypriots had `disappeared`. Leyla went beyond her own pain and reached out to both communities with her messages of peace, writing an autobiographical book called `Sharing the wet, white handkerchief` published in Turkish and Greek, touring villages and talking about peace. She is the first person to build a bi-communal monument-grave in Mari in memory of all `missing persons`, both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot.
6. Christina Pavlou Solomi Patsia from Komi Kebir lost her father Pavlos and her brother Solomis in 1974 in Galatia where they went "missing" together with others while under arrest. She and her mother Panayiota suffered a lot of harassment in their village and at the age of 13 she was kicked out of the village to go and live with different relatives until her mother too was kicked out of their village. Christina went beyond her own pain and suffering and works consistently gathering information about the fate of other `missing persons` from both communities, speaking to youth, calling for reconciliation and peace and looking at the root causes of the conflict.
7. Christos Efthymiou from Dali lost his brother Anthony in 1974. His remains have been found in Koutsovendi. Christos has been one of the leaders of `Together We Can` and has always been in the forefront for struggle for peace and reunification of Cyprus. He was the very first to speak up to call on the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot relatives of `missing persons` and victims of war to work together, saying `Our common pain unites us for our common future…`
8. Veli Beidoghlou from Famagusta lost his father Ertugrul Veli in 1964 when he was abducted by some Greek Cypriots from his workplace at Barclays Bank in Famagusta. His father's remains have been found in a mass grave in Protaras together with five other `missing` Turkish Cypriots. Veli went beyond his own pain to speak up for peace and reconciliation, working with the Elders Group with Spiros Hadjinicolaou to create understanding among youth that the pain of the `missing persons`, no matter their ethnicity, is the same.
9. Spiros Hadjinicolaou from Yialousa lost his father Takis Hadjinicolaou when he was arrested by some Turkish Cypriots in the village coffeeshop in 1974 and his remains have been found in a mass grave of 11 `missing persons` in the Galatia Lake. Spiros went beyond his own suffering to connect with the Turkish Cypriot relatives of `missing persons` and victims of war, speaking at public events in Cyprus and abroad, showing the path to walk on: Not a path of hatred and enmity but a path of mutual understanding, reconciliation and peace.
10. Huseyin Rustem Akansoy from Maratha lost all his close and greater family in 1974 when EOKA-B killed 30 members of his family among the massacre of Maratha-Sandallaris-Aloa where 126 Turkish Cypriots were killed, mainly women and children. Huseyin Rustem Akansoy has always been in the forefront of the struggle for peace and reunification of Cyprus, paying a big price for his activities… Huseyin Rustem Akansoy has been the vanguard for speaking for peace to youth, in local and international events. He was awarded by the European Parliament with `European Citizen's Prize` together with Petros Souppouris.
11. Petros Souppouris from Palekythre lost all his close family – his mother, his father, his sister, two brothers and his aunt – when they were killed in a massacre in 1974 by some Turkish Cypriots and their remains were found in a mass grave of 16 `missing` Greek Cypriots. Petros Souppouris was also shot and killers had left him, thinking he was dead. Souppouris survived to give the message of peace coming from the edge of death… He speaks to youth, in local and international events and he was awarded by the European Parliament with `European Citizen's Prize`, together with Huseyin Rustem Akansoy for their work on peace.
12. Erbay Akansoy from Maratha lost all his close relatives in the massacre of EOKA-B at Maratha-Sandallaris-Aloa but despite this tragedy, he went beyond hatred and enmity, speaking to groups of youth about peace and reconciliation, working consistently for peace in various bi-communal groups as well as helping to create structures that would support peace in the future… His work at Cyprus Dialogue Forum is one such effort, bringing together many groups of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots for creating infrastructures of peace.
13. Nurten Ozturk from Meneou lost her father Halil Ziya Desteban in 1964 when he went `missing` and later lost her brother Hasan Halil in 1974 in Larnaca when he is thought to have been killed in the hospital where he was being treated for his wounds. Nurten went beyond her own suffering to speak for peace and reconciliation in different events both locally and internationally…
14. Xenis Halloumas from Tremetousia lost his father Michail and uncle Prokopis in 1974 when they were executed in cold blood by some Turkish Cypriots despite having had extremely good relations with the Turkish Cypriot community. They are still `missing`. Xenis went beyond his own suffering and pain to help find information about the fate of both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot `missing persons`…
15. Meral Eroglou lost her brother Hasan Yilmaz Ahmet in 1964 when he was taken from a control point outside Nicosia together with three other Turkish Cypriots and went `missing`. Their remains were found buried together in Lythrodontas… Meral Eroghlou, going beyond her own pain and suffering gave her humanitarian support to relatives of `missing persons` and victims of war and opened paths for information about the fate of `missing persons`, as well as easing the way for digging for finding the remains of `missing persons` where it sometimes proved difficult.
16. Nilgun Guney is an artist who worked voluntarily together with relatives of `missing persons` and victims of war voluntarily for creating understanding about `missing persons` and the trauma of war together with her art students, visiting the houses of relatives of `missing persons` from both communities, visiting mass graves and painting… She was the facilitator and curator of the exhibition called `Colour of Truth` where artists from both communities tried to express the pain of the relatives of `missing persons` and victims of war."
Photo: Members of "Together We Can" who have been honored at the event...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 3rd of September 2017, Sunday.
This article has been published in Turkish in the YENİDUZEN newspaper on the 7th of August 2017 and the link to that article of ours in Turkish is: