Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Honouring and remembering our `missing persons` in London… (Part 1)
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On the 21st of October 2017 Saturday, in the evening, we gather at the Cypriot Community Centre in London in an evening of honouring and remembering of all our `missing persons` organised by the Organisation of Relatives of Missing Cypriots (UK)…
We have come together with my dear friend Christina Pavlou Solomi Patsia to London at the invitation of this organisation for this evening – earlier Christina and Olia Akyla Papacosta came here to lay a yellow rose on each table and to put at the corner of the stage some more yellow roses and candles…
Now, more than 150 Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots have gathered here for this meaningful night, most of them relatives of "missing persons"…
Neoklis Neokleous, the president of the Organisation of Relatives of Missing Cypriots (UK) speaks, welcoming everyone and says:
On behalf of the Organisation of Relatives of Missing Cypriots UK, I welcome you to this special evening of Remembrance and Honour for OUR Missing.
Warm welcome to our quest speakers from Cyprus. The T/C investigative journalist Sevgul Uludag, and Christina Pavlou Solomi-Patsia from Komi Kebir, whose father and brother are amongst the missing.
Christina is also a member of the Bi-communal Organisation of Relatives of Missing Persons and Victims of War – "Together We Can". Thank you both for accepting our invitation.
Tonight, is indeed a special evening because:
- TC and GC are here together, for the first time, to Remember and Honour ALL our Missing from the tragic events from 1963 to 1974.
- We have strong representation from the TC Association for Democracy. A number of their members are also Relatives of the missing.
- The TC Community Association is represented here as well.
- We also have with us GC UK Associations, with Relatives among their members that have shown practical support for our campaign. From Komi Kebir, Leonarisso, Ayios Avrosios, Koma tou Yialou, Lymnia, Yialousa, Ayia Triada, Achna, Kalavasos and others. Eptakomi Association are also here, and they promised support.
- We have the Cypriot Community Centre and the Cyprus Women's League with Susie Constantinides, MBE, who have supported our Organisation from the very beginning.
- And of course, we have representatives from the Community Press: Parikiaki, Eleftheria and Londra Cazette, as well as Hellenic TV who help us publicise our campaigns.
- Finally, despite that fact that we had decided not to send any special invitations for this event, especially to politicians, we are pleased to see the first Cypriot member of the UK parliament attending. Pleased also to see President of World Federation of Overseas Cypriots attending, without any special invitation.
This great idea of bringing both Cypriot Communities in the UK together, came from my good friend and member of our Committee Gokay Ucar, who happens to be a relative of both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing (his mother being GC and his father TC).
While Gokay was the connecting link, the event which took place in May 2015, to honour Sevgul, was the catalyst. We organised it together with Komi Kebir Association with support from the TC Association for Democracy. It became very clear to all of us then, that we can hold events and campaign together on the humanitarian issue of The Missing, without mixing politics or any other dividing issue.
Friends, on your tables you will find tonight's programme with the CMP Stats and Figures at the back, showing the total number of Missing, that the CMP is dealing with, 2002, the number exhumed, 1211, and the number of those that have been identified by the end of September, 825. Separate statistics for each community's Missing are also given.
The Missing for us are not just numbers. They are our compatriots, our co-villagers, our friends. And, for the Relatives, many are parents, siblings and children.
They are individual people, with personal and family names, who, at least until the day their whereabouts were lost, had a life and dreams for the future. Whether alive or dead they have every right to be treated humanely, to be remembered, loved and respected.
Their unexpected loss devastated the lives of the families they left behind, who had to endure the agony of waiting and the frustration of not knowing. They are still longing to find the fate of their loved ones. And, having resigned to the fact that more likely they would be found to be dead, would want to have the opportunity to bury their remains with the dignity they deserve.
The Relatives have rights as well.
The progress for a solution of the Cyprus Missing Persons problem, is paradoxical. Despite significant involvement by the UN, EU, CofE, ECHR for so many years, relatively little and very slow progress has been achieved and the issue is still very far from been concluded. And that is because, despite the fact that the established process calls simply for the co-operation of those who are in possession of information or have the means to obtain it.
We are very glad, and it is a step in the right direction, that at long last the CMP has sent requests to all countries that had military or peace keeping presence in Cyprus, during the time of the tragic events, for access to their archives or information from them.
Progress is also slow when it comes to individuals giving information, despite the fact that successive Community Leaders in Cyprus have been calling on everybody who has information about the missing to pass it on to the CMP. It is our strong belief that a lot more is known but not yet revealed. And that again when the procedures and rules followed by the CMP do not call for any blame or prosecution.
Friends, it is almost 35 years since our Organisation was formed. Throughout its long history we campaigned tirelessly for the solution of the humanitarian issue of the Missing People of Cyprus, both in this country and in Europe. Alas, we all still have a lot more work to do, and we would be grateful for your continued support.
Working together for all our Missing and their Relatives can only make us stronger and achieve more. Joint activities we have carried out lately have proven that to be the case:
- Earlier this month our Committee, together with the TC Association for Democracy met the three-member Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, who had visited London to ask the British Government for access to archives, for information about the missing. I think they were impressed by the information that can be found from our Cypriot community in the UK.
- In March this year we had visited the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and had a meeting with senior officials holding the brief on "Cyprus Settlement". With both Greek and Turkish Cypriots among our delegation they could not take their usual stance of "not taking sides". We requested them to respond positively to CMP's request for access to British archives. We also appeal to them to encourage other governments to do the same.
- In November last year we visited the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and met with many countries' representatives, prior to the Committee of Ministers meeting where the issue of the Missing of Cyprus was to be discussed. We conveyed the same message, that our single purpose was to find out what happened to our ALL our missing. The last decision of the Ministers moved more towards the relatives' demands, than previous ones.
Our message, whether it is directed to countries with armies in Cyprus or to countries that can influence them is "Have a Heart". Help to find all our missing. The Relatives and All the international Organisations call for your co-operation for the solution to this humanitarian problem. "Show your humanity".
Our message is also directed to our UK Cypriot Community both Greek and Turkish, as well as British who happened to be in Cyprus at the time when the tragic events took place. "Have a Heart" is an injection for mass awakening: "tells us if you know anything, tell us if you know others that might have the information we are looking for". Help to bring closure for the Relatives. You have nothing to fear.
So, Friends, let's work together for all our Missing and for all our Relatives."
The next speech is that of my dear friend Christina Pavlou Solomi Patsia but this I will share next week – and then I speak and show the type of work we have been doing voluntarily as a humanitarian task, with photos of some of the "missing persons" whose burial sites we had shown to the CMP and whose remains they managed to find and return to their families…
And then we answer questions from those who are participating in this event…
(To be continued)
Photo: Neoklis Neokleous, President of Missing Relatives in London speaking at event...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 12th of November 2017, Sunday.