Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Honoring and remembering our `missing persons` in London… (Part 2)
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In the gathering at the Cypriot Community Centre in London for the evening of honouring and remembering of all our `missing persons` organised by the Organisation of Relatives of Missing Cypriots (UK) on the 21st of October 2017 Saturday, after the speech of the President Neoklis Neokleous, two poets read their poems about "missing persons" – Aycan Sarachoghlou and Niki Ioakim.
Next our dear friend Christina Pavlou Solomi Patsia from "Together We Can" – the bicommunal association of the relatives of missing persons and victims of war – speaks…
Thank you, for hosting us here today, on this special day in memory of our missing Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.
As some of you may know, I am from Komi Kebir, Karpas Peninsula and both my father and brother are missing since 15 August 1974.
It was 2007, just after the discovery of a grave in Galatia Lake in Karpas with the remains of the people found there, that I found out about Sevgul and her work while watching a program on a TV station in Cyprus. She was on a TV program with Spyros Hadjinicolaou from Yialousa whose father was among the ones found in the lake, asking people to come forward with any information they might have about burial places of missing; Turkish Cypriots or Greek Cypriots.
Sevgul introduced me to the group called "Together we can", a bicomunal group of families with relatives missing from the period 1963-1974, from both communities.
In this group I got to understand that others have the same pain as mine.
There is no difference between Greek Cypriot pain and Turkish Cypriot pain.
Pain has no colour or nationality.
Pain is pain and you can't measure it differently.
Through the group we grew closer to each other as families with the same pain. Sevgul's reports of our stories in her newspapers Yeniduzen and Politis inspired a flow of information from her readers. We cross checked it with information provided by the families about the disappearance of their relatives and started to put all the pieces together to try and complete the puzzle to find our missing relatives.
Sevgul would always pass the information to CMP officers for the final investigation and excavation of the possible burial site.
Thanks to Sevgul and her readers, much information and stories came to light, many burial sites were uncovered and the remains of many missing persons were returned to their families for closure to take place, according to their religion and culture; And for the missing, to rest in peace in a grave, in dignity.
One of these trails, led to the burial place of my father and brother.
Information was given to Sevgul in 2005 that there was another grave next to the first grave found in Galatia Lake. There was strong hope that my father and brother would be in this grave.
Since then digging took place, from time to time, in and around the lake, but not on the indicated spot.
In 2008 there was more accurate information on the specific location.... A Turkish Cypriot family from the area risked their lives to insist on the reliability of their information. Eventually, nearly 10 years later, in April 2017, digging started in the correct spot and at the correct depth. A grave with six people was found. I visited the site immediately and I quickly recognized my father and brother. I had a vivid memory of the clothes they were wearing when we last saw them. I knew it was them. My feelings; … pain and joy that we finally found them and we can bury them with dignity at last.
But before we can bury them there is another hurdle.
We need to wait for the DNA results to confirm their identity. Another long wait……
Before I go on I would like to express again my deepest gratitude to the Turkish Cypriot family who came forward with the information and who stood by me until the digging finally took place in the right place.
Without them, I would still be looking.
The feelings of the relatives burying their loved ones are indescribable...
"Να φιλήσω τα κόκαλα τους τζαι να τους θάψω θέλω….. τζαι ας πεθάνω" "I want to kiss their bones and bury them … and then I can die" As my mother always says.
This is the final closure that all of us are waiting for, after so many years of false hopes and lies spun to us, by so many different officials over the years, in every past government since then.
Politicians have exploited the families of the missing at every opportunity; memorials, Christmas, Easters and especially on the black anniversaries of '74 where they like to parade the relatives of the missing, holding the black and white photographs of their loved ones.
A familiar scene to all of you, I am sure.
The worst lies were spun ahead of elections, where they promised to bring the missing home - alive.
Unfortunately our hopes and dreams were never fulfilled. One by one they are brought back in small boxes. Sometimes, only a few pieces of bones, to be united with their families.....
The tragedy is that, some mothers, fathers or wives are no longer with us to receive them. Some left early. They couldn't bear the pain from their loss.
In some cases only grandchildren are around to welcome them and occasionally there is nobody left, to receive them and bury them.
Most of those who experienced this tragic loss, understand that we can't continue hating and looking for revenge.
Hatred and revenge brought us to today's situation. More of it would only shed more blood.
We must realize that the pain of those from Assia is the same as those of Tochni, Alamino, Palekithro, Maratha, Sandalari, Aloa and of Karpas…
It's a pain and a trauma that no one else can treat but ourselves. Only if we can look in to each other's eyes and admit all the pain we have inflicted on each other with the rapes and killings; only if we can apologize to each other and promise to protect each other can we pave a better way for our children.
It won't bring back the good old times, the laughter, the loved ones who are still missing, but it will at least give a chance for a fresh start, with truth and reconciliation...
We can't forget but we must move forward learning from our mistakes and trying not to repeat them.
We must try for a new start.
The new start will come when we have healed the open wounds.
One big open wound of Cyprus is our missing from both communities.
As a first step we must try harder to encourage everyone to come forward and give any information they might have on burial sites or stories of our missing from both communities.
Finding all our missing and burying them, is the final step for closure and turning the page for a new start.
To do justice to our dead we must bring peace and reconciliation to Cyprus.
That's what we owe the new generations, to our children and our grandchildren who live on our beautiful island.
We are all Cypriots and we must all remember that...
Cyprus is too small to be divided, and it is big enough to host all of us..."
After her touching speech I make my presentation with slides showing photographs about our voluntary, humanitarian work in Cyprus and giving details to the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots attending the evening. But first I show photos about who we are as "Together We Can" and introduce our leading members like Katerina Antona, Petros Souppouris, Spiros Hadjinikolaou, Huseyin Rustem Akansoy, Andreas Sizinos, Nurten Ozturk, Christos Efthymiou, Sevilay Berk, Maria Georgiadou and so on and also tell their stories so that it is known how much they have suffered and how they overcame their own pain to help heal the wounds of others…
After my presentation I answer questions and then we continue to sit and talk with London Cypriots, learning details of possible new burial sites in Cyprus or speaking with relatives of "missing" persons and learning their details…
Next day at the invitation of the Eptakomi Association St. Luke UK, we go to their gathering in the same place in the afternoon and we also make a presentation to the Eptakomi Cypriots living in London, asking for help since people from Eptakomi in Cyprus have never spoken to us… Nick Yiannoullou, their president in London would help us to get together with some Greek Cypriots from Eptakomi to interview them and to understand what had happened in Eptakomi in 1974… We are grateful to Nick Yiannoullou for his help for this… We have interviews with three Greek Cypriots lasting for about five hours…
While in London, we also visit the parliament and the Labour MP Khalid Mahmoud organises a gathering where Labour MP of Cyprus origin Bambos Charalambous also attends… Mary Southcott helps us to organise this meeting and at the suggestion of Nick Yiannoullou we also meet Baroness Meral Ece Hussein from the House of Lords… In our meetings we call on the MPs to help contact former British soldiers from their constituencies who had served in Cyprus during the years 1963-64 and 1974 in order to see if they have seen or heard something about "missing persons"… We are also grateful to Khalid Mahmoud and Mary Southcott for helping us organise these important meetings… They are preparing to give an early day motion in the parliament about "missing persons" soon…
And above all, we thank Neoklis Neokleous, Gokay Uchar, Kyriacos Paschali, Costas Pavlou and others from the Organisation of Relatives of Missing Cypriots (UK) for hosting us and to our dear friend Olia Akyla Papacosta, Eleni Tryfonas and Kika Tryphonos Dorotheou for helping us every step of the way in London…
Photo: With Baroness Meral Ece Hussein and MP Babmos Charalambous at the House of Commons in London, together with Christina Pavlou Solomi Patsia...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 19th of November 2017, Sunday.