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memories of cyprus

How can we solve it? (keep it civilized)

memories of cyprus

Postby mehmet » Sun Jul 25, 2004 3:10 pm

I grew up in london. I wasn't aware of problems in Cyprus, but in 1974 suddenly it all changed. Most of my Cypriot neighbours were Turkish although there was alos at least one Greek Cypriot family in my road also. I was 9 years old and suddenly all the adults could do was tune into their short wave radios for news. I was being sent to the local Cypriot grocers daily to fetch the papers (Hurriyet, Milliyet) for the adults who were eager to know what was happening. I remember a Turkish boy who's grandfather commited suicide in Cyprus rather than allow the Greeks to kill him. When we went back to school in September there were some new faces, Greek Cypriots boys who had arrived in London that summer. Still, the issue of Cyprus was far from my mind. There was a noticable confidence and assertiveness in my community at that time. We had shown that we couldn't be pushed around by the Greeks and that to be a Turk was to be a source of pride.

Two years later, in 1976 I visit Cyprus for the first time. My grandparents village was in the Karpas and was a mixed village. There were some elderly Greeks living next door to my grandparents but they never showed themselves too much. That was the only time I see Greek Cypriots in Cyprus.

Back at school in London we carried on in north London all of us together, West Indians, English, Irish, Italians, Greeks and Turks, some Chinese and some African. We had friends in all commnities. By the age of 14 things started to change, the black and white kids started to separate and mix less. Still, there was no trouble on a racial level, even when two boys from different backgrounds fight.

I next went to Cyprus in 1981, there were some newcomers from Turkey in the village now, no more Greek Cypriots. I would see people check to see who was around before expressing an opinion about some of hte behaviour of the new neighbours. They looked very different with their traditional clothing. I had disagreements with my cousin about Cyprus because I think I said that the people from the mainland shouldn't be in Cyprus. I also remember how if I pointed out how a church was a beautiful building he would disapprove. Only mosques were bautiful, even if most of them in the Karpas were formerly churches. I noticed then how many houses in the village had a letter and two numbers painted onto to them. It was only later I realise that the house my grandparents occupied perviously belonged to one of their neighbours and that thier house was the much poorer, old fashioned building down the road. My grandfathers cafe was only rented form the state also. My grandfathers fields were also rented. For them, partition meant the opportunity to live in a nicer house and to try and make money form growing things. Not that the price they could get for their produce was much anyway.

Two years later when I went back (in 1983) they unveiled a bust of Ataturk. A lot of soldiers came to the village and Denktas too. People put on their best clothes for the ceremony to unveil the statue.

This was how it was, me going back every so often and never quite agreeing with my cousin on Cyprus politices. He did his National Service, never did he complain about anything to do with north Cyprus. My grandfather died and then my grandmother not long after. I was there for the funeral. It was the only time I set foot in the church that was being used for the service. When they buried her I took a walk to the Greek Cypriot graveyard next to it. I was shocked and ashamed by the headstones being smashed and all the nationalist slogans painted onto them. No one knew who was responsible, perhaps no one wanted to tell me. I remember visiting some family in Grivas's village and his family home being subject to vandalism also, there was no shame about that.

I was developing an interest in the border. In particular the views of Varosha. There were all these signs prohibiting photographs but I managed to get some anyway.

The last time I visit Cyprus was in 1993. By now my cousin like me was 28 years old and had started to talk about the failings of TRNC. By now his oldest sister had married a Londoner and moved. Years later his other sister married and they move to Turkey to work. I think of him and my aunt and uncle, now living alone in Cyprus with all the rest of their family in England, Turkey and Austrailia. They moved out of hte village in the Karpas to live in new housing being built in the suburbs of Famagusta. the Cypriots were now a minority in that village.

My fathers parents came from Louroujina. Because my parents split up I never had too much to do with them. My mother wouldn't encourage me to maintain contact with my fathers family. I never saw Louroujina, I understand it is in a military zone and the villagers were relocated. I remember people making derogatory comments about my fathers village. As he wasn't part of our lives everything to do with him could be made to be negative. I later read that Louroujina was one of the last places to be occupied by Turkish army before ceasefire. I also when i was older and met other Greek Cypriots them telling me that the people of my fathers village were originally Greeks that adopted Islam and Turkish culture. I remember when my father's mother was in her last years how she suffered dementia and completely forgot her Turkish, she could only speak in Greek. I also remember later reading that TMT one time imposed fines on villagers of Louroujina for speaking Greek. It was always noticeable to me how rare it was for Turkish people to have fair hair and blue or green eyes. Yet my blue eyes always were commented on, and thinking about it I now realise the reason why I didn't have typical Turkish features.

My hope is that one day we can put the past behind us and realise we have more in common with each other, I am saddened that this April was the closest we have got to that situation since 1974 and that it may be some time till we are as close again.
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Postby insan » Sun Jul 25, 2004 6:52 pm

Regretfuly I've read your story Mehmet... You touched some sensitive points which embarasses me as a Turkish speaking human being living in North....

The things you told us happened all over North part of the Island which is known as occupied areas by GCs...

Shortly, aren't all those foolishnesses, primitive, greedy and illegal actions a reflexion of some self-interested, ignorant, greedy, so-called nationalist TCs and Turks job?

Ignorance and greediness costed too much to humanity... Who took their lessons from the history? Just a small, weak minority...
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Postby Bananiot » Sun Jul 25, 2004 10:11 pm

Dear Mehmet, your story is very touching and a provides yet another worthy deposition for the sufferings of the ordinary Cypriots as a result of the actions of the fanatics who strive for clean solutions even today.

I lived in London for many years too and only came back to Cyprus by accident in 1980. I, like you, was spared of the nationalist indoctrination and this helps me to see things from adifferent prospective and yes, very often I feel so different from from the mainstream thinking and the conventional wisdom.

How right you are when you say that we have so many things in common! I believe that what really happened in Cyprus was a civil war, yet I risk my skin when making such "heretic" claims. So what, I say to my self, our voices must at last be heard. I think, many people who think like you and me are ready to heed the message. Lets spread the word ...
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Postby MicAtCyp » Mon Jul 26, 2004 10:23 pm

Excellent post Mehmet. If I may add some personal notes my grandpa was raised up in Lefke (the village where our friend Peace is now). I think that village was always Turkish. Anyway he could speak Turkish better than Greek. He used to take me to the TC sector of Nicosia and meet with his friends.Then take me to a TC barber to have my hair cut. And then horay... photographs at the Kids garden. I have tens of such photos, me freshly haircut riding on the dummy camel in the garden.
I couldn't understand what my grandpa was talking with his friends in Turkish but I could sense they were very friendly and enjoying each others company.
Would you beleive that after so many years that I visited the north of Nicosia I could still remember where about the shop of the TC barber was and the coffe shop we used to have ayrani and lemonate or muhallepi * next to the Venetian walls? That visit brought me happy childhood memories.

NB.* There were no coka colas or other poisons those times
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