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Revolution in the classroom after decades of hatred

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Revolution in the classroom after decades of hatred

Postby insan » Sat Sep 04, 2004 1:45 am

Financial Times (London, England)

July 19, 2004 Monday

Revolution in the classroom after decades of hatred

EDUCATION: Tabitha Morgan explains why the Turkish Cypriot community is changing its history textbooks but the Greek Cypriots are still wary of following suit


History teachers in north Cyprus are unlikely to get much of a holiday this summer. They have until August 15 to create an entirely new set of history text-books for use in secondary and high schools.

Turkish Cypriot schools have always followed the mainland Turkish curriculum, teaching by rote with little questioning or analysis. Now, the education authorities are to produce their own materials for teaching the history of the divided island.

The pro-European government of Mehmet Ali Talat, the Turkish Cypriot prime minister, says that from September the subject must be taught in accordance with Council of Europe recommendations.

With this aim Professor Gul Barkay, a historian at Eastern Mediterranean University at Famagusta in north Cyprus, has been leading a team of academics and history teachers to prepare new texts. "This is a very exciting time for us," she said. "The old books were full of blood and nationalism and were very difficult to use in the classroom. Now everything is changing."

This means that the fiercely partisan versions of the island's recent history that have been taught on either side of the island for the last 30 years will be abandoned in Turkish Cypriot classrooms. They will be replaced by accounts which place greater emphasis on what Prof Barkay calls "empathy and multi-perspectivity".

In Cyprus, where Greek and Turkish Cypriot children are taught to blame the other community exclusively for the island's inter-ethnic conflict, their introduction could have a significant impact.

Until recently Turkish Cypriot schoolteachers were encouraged to organise visits to sites commemorating the conflict. Even very young children would be taken to see mass graves of Turkish Cypriots killed by Greek Cypriots during inter-ethnic violence in the 1960s.

But there has been a profound change in attitude over the last two years.

Such nationalistic teaching is now viewed by many parents and teachers as harmful. One mother was shocked when her three-year-old daughter came home from nursery school reciting a poem from the mainland Turkish curriculum that celebrated the achievements of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, in stark terms: "Before Ataturk was born we had lots of enemies, then Ataturk came and we won a great victory against them."

The prevailing view in north Cyprus is that this kind of indoctrination is out of step with a community seeking to be part of the European Union. Most Turkish Cypriots believe their future can only be secured if the island is reunited. Two-thirds of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of re-unification in a referendum last April. "We have to prepare the next generation to live with Greek Cypriots," says Sener Elcil, general secretary of the Cyprus Turkish Teachers trade union.

The preparation for the change in curriculum will also involve training for teachers. Once the content of the textbooks has been finalised the 100 history teachers in north Cyprus will learn to use the material in a way that stimulates critical and analytical thinking. Inspired by her work over recent months Prof Barkay is keen to go on and develop a common text book that could be used throughout the island. "Unfortunately we can't find the same enthusiasm on the other side," she says.

Most Greek Cypriot schoolchildren first learn of the existence of Turkish Cypriots through reading a school primer, "I Never Forget," an anthology of writing by Greek Cypriot youngsters and their teachers compiled soon after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

Nicos Anastasiou, a Greek Cypriot secondary school teacher, believes children learn very quickly that the words 'Turk' and 'Turkish Cypriot' have negative associations. One evening after watching television pictures of floods in Africa, his seven-year-old daughter turned to him and said: "Dad, who did this terrible thing? Was it the Turks?"

Anthoula Demitrou, another teacher, says that suggesting that Turkish Cypriots also suffered is "pretty much a forbidden subject." Last year when she and some of her colleagues tried to adopt a multi-cultural approach they were told by the school authorities they would throw away their chances of promotion if they persisted.

Ouranios Ioanides, a former education minister, believes more time is needed before Greek Cypriots will feel comfortable including multi-cultural values in the classroom. "We are still just trying to survive the consequences of the Turkish invasion," he says. "It is too soon for this sort of thing."

This is a policy which infuriates Mr Anastasiou: "I cannot accept that it is ever OK to teach our children racism and hatred," he says.

For the children of north Cyprus, at least, this is about to change. After their intensive summer training programme, the Turkish Cypriot history teachers should be better equipped to educate their own students and set an example for their Greek Cypriot colleagues.
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Postby insan » Sat Sep 04, 2004 1:50 am

South-Eastern European Joint History Project
Workshop II: Teaching Cyprus - in search of tolerance and understanding
Pyla, Cyprus, 28-29 February, 2000

The aim of the Workshop was to investigate: (a) How the two Cypriot communities are mutually presented in their respective history textbooks with regard to a shared and/or conflictual past; (b) How Cyprus is presented in Greek and Turkish textbooks and what is its place within the framework of Greek-Turkish historical relations; (c) The possibilities of a revised view of a common past both for the two Cypriot communities and for Greece and Turkey. The Workshop was chaired by Professor Halil Berktay, associate professor of history at Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey.

Two introductory addresses were extended: The first by Mr. Costas Carras, responsible for the Joint History Project, who presented the aims of the project, underlining the importance of history teaching in schools for the transmission to young people of ideas and representations about their nation and the other nations, in view of peace and collaboration. The second by Ms Alison Cardwell, Administrator on Educational Policies at the Directorate General II of the Council of Europe, who made a presentation of the Council of Europe's efforts in the Russian Federation on the reform of history teaching and the preparation of new history textbooks in view of peace and collaboration among neighbouring countries. An interesting example was presented concerning new thematic history books, such as 'History of the Black Sea' or 'Caucasian History', as an alternative to the national history textbooks, in order to avoid the bias of a nationalistic conception of history.

Participants had received ahead of time a questionnaire investigating the way Cyprus and its history are presented in the Greek-Cypriot, Turkish-Cypriot, Greek and Turkish curricula and textbooks. Most of the presentations represented the answers to the questionnaire.

Session I: Cyprus in Cyprus
The main programme started with the presentation by the post graduate student Mr Loris Koullapis (Greek-Cypriot) of a critical analysis of the Greek-Cypriot history textbooks. His analysis showed how the Greek-Cypriot textbooks lay emphasis on the hellenisation of the island in the 12th century BC and construct an unbroken (hellenised) continuity from that time up to the present. The Republic of Cyprus has been functioning since 1963, in educational and ideological matters, as a second Greek national state. Through the educational system, it has been receiving ideology and history perception emanating from Athens for the ideological needs of the Greek state.
Then followed a presentation, by the teacher and researcher Mr Ulus Irkad (Turkish-Cypriot), of biases in history books with regard to the documentation and memories of violence and bloodshed between Cypriots of the two communities in the past. He chose to present a specific event that took place in March 1964 and how it was interpreted by the two communities in their official discourse. They both refrained from giving an objective interpretation of the facts. They both tried to prove how justified they were in acting in the manner they did, and to teach it to their children accordingly.
Mr Muharrem Faiz (Turkish-Cypriot) presented a critical analysis of the Turkish history textbooks introduced and taught in the Turkish-Cypriot schools.
The last paper before discussion was given by Dr Neshe Yashin (Turkish-Cypriot at the University of Cyprus) on symbolism and rituals in Turkish-Cypriot schools. She showed how school rituals in several Turkish-Cypriot schools, photographs of atrocities and nationalist poetry operate as a means of reproducing the paradigm of conflict and justifying the status quo.

The discussion focused mainly on two issues: (a) The great similarities the nationalistic discourse has (both in the cases presented and in all other countries) in always presenting the national self as a victim of other parties' action, and without any responsibility for negative facts, through silences, omissions, and a very partial view of the past. (b) The bias of national identity in both the Greek-Cypriot and the Turkish-Cypriot communities, where the Cypriot common identity is over-determined by the ethnic Greek and Turkish one.

The programme continued with the following presentations. Sia Anagnostopoulou, assistant professor at the University of Cyprus, presented a paper on the propagation of conflictual national memory in Cyprus. She analysed the negative effects on students' conception of history caused by the a-historical dimension of time, presented as eternal, as far as the narration of national history is concerned. Moreover, she laid emphasis on the memory of being a victim which is perpetually propagated to the Greek-Cypriots, a memory of national injustice which ultimately relieves the population of the responsibility vis ࠶is history.
Dr Nergis Canefe, research associate at the London School of Economics, presented some of the results of a research project among Turkish-Cypriot immigrants in the UK, concerning the presence of the Ottoman Empire in their discourse, appearing to be a legitimation of their identity. She examined how the two legacies (Turkish nationalist and Western orientalist) affect the Turkish-Cypriot nationalist discourse, and in particular the articulation of the premises of a 'just' and 'good' society among Turkish-Cypriots. Referring to the history textbooks used in Cyprus on Ottoman history, she postulated that there is an extensive permeability between micro-histories, individual histories and official/national textbook histories.
Dr Hercules Millas, presented a critical analysis of well known literary texts and the way Greeks and Turks are represented in history up to the present. He advocated that jointly developed projects can help in the understanding of the shortcomings of one's own historiography and in enhancing an empathic approach.

The discussion focused on the importance of school narratives about the past and the national self on the production of representations and ideas among individuals. It also focused on the problem of how to deal with atrocities committed by violent acts in the past, and how to use them without harming students, but without silencing history at the same time.

Juliette Dickstein (anthropologist, teaching at Intercollege, Cyprus) presented a case study of a Jewish family in Cyprus highlighting ethnic identity and national belonging in Cyprus. The paper was less of a socio-historical investigation of the Jews of Cyprus than a critical examination of the figure of the "rootless", "displaced" Jew who, today, lives in a land wrought with ethnic and national conflict.
Martin Strohmeier, (professor at the University of Cyprus) presented a critical analysis of the Turkish history textbooks (used both in Turkey and in Northern Cyprus) underlying the predominance of political-military history and the under-representation of the social and economic history, as well as the absence of people in the textbooks' narrative. He stressed the difficulty in revising textbooks and curricula as long as there are no changes in the political and social sphere, but also proposed a multiperspectival, structural-historical approach in overcoming the ethnocentric concept of history.>BR> Georg Stöber, research fellow at the Georg Eckert Institute in Germany, presented a theoretical paper on history textbooks and the possibilities of their revision. His case did not concern Cyprus in particular but was an overall problematic. He talked about the procedure of textbook production and he laid emphasis on the teacher's and the pupil's role respectively.

The discussion focused mainly on two issues: (a) The relation of nationalistic discourse, contained in school textbooks, with all kinds of discriminative and racist attitudes and prejudices, (b) the importance, for all pannelists, of re-contextualization of the contents of school books by the teachers, hence the parallel issue of teacher training in order to have alternative history teaching in schools.

The Chair Halil Berktay, presented the paper of Dr Gul Barkay, who was prohibited to attend the meeting. He presented a critical analysis of the Turkish school history, and the way the military intervention in Cyprus in 1974 is narrated.
Thalia Dragonas, (professor at the University of Athens) presented the paper prepared jointly by herself and professor Anna Frangoudaki, on the analysis of the Greek history textbooks and how they depict Cyprus, its history and the present situation. Cyprus is presented as an unquestionable part of Greece. There is no Cypriot identity mentioned separately from the Greek one. All the problems are projected onto the Turkish-Cypriots and Turkey who are said to have been systematically helped by international treaties. There is no mention of responsibility of the Greeks, and there is no acknowledgement of the perception of the other side.
Etienne Copeaux, research fellow at the CNRS in Lyon, presented the Turkish account of history and the perception of the Greek and Christian otherness as they are transmitted to the pupils and the Turkish population. He focused on Turkish nationalism, its history and its current phase through rich documentation, including the evolution of cartography and the absence and presence of Cyprus in maps.
The final paper was delivered by Maria Hatzipavlou-Trigiorgi (lecturer at the University of Cyprus). She presented a new educational paradigm towards conflict prevention and conflict resolution in Cyprus. She explored the main ideological underpinnings of the educational systems in each Cypriot community and proposed a model for educating the young generation in a way that both respects the other's cultural identity and prepares them for citizenship in a future democratic, federal and multicultural Cyprus. Within this paradigm, she addressed some of the bi-communal educationalists' recommendations and highlighted the main obstacles and constraints in the realisation of the proposed paradigm shift.

The discussion focused mainly on the biases in both Greek and Turkish nationalist narrative, as far as Cyprus is concerned, and the fact that in the schoolbooks of both countries, although Cyprus is presented as an independent Greek and Turkish state, its autonomous existence is indirectly undermined, and its Greek or Turkish identity is put forward, silencing the important Cypriot dimension.

The last session, a round table entitled 'How to reconcile the present with the past?' put forward most of the main issues of the workshop, and focused on propositions and ideas of how to produce an alternative history for schools in view of a peaceful future.

Alison Cardwell, summarising her experience of the workshop, proposed that, as far as teaching of history in schools is concerned, targets are both textbooks and teachers. She concluded that her experience from the efforts of the Council of Europe in Russia, Bosnia, and Northern Ireland, consolidates this dual importance of the necessity to change schoolbooks, but at the same time, to train teachers in an alternative way to understand history as well as to explore their own national identity.
Niyazi Kizilyurek summarised the outcomes of the workshop, as far as the Cypriot identity is concerned, focusing on the absence of a common identity, which is denied by the nationalistic discourse of both sides, and should be cultivated as a 'togetherness'. He underlined the lack of effort in both Greek and Turkish-Cypriot historiography to narrate history including the other without distorting the image of the other or demonising the other's past. He concluded that a rewriting of Cypriot history is needed, which would include the silenced events and would present conflictual events from both sides, using the exchange of memories from both Communities in order to transform from each side the other into a 'subject'.
Christina Koulouris concluded that the trauma of the violent conflicts of the past and the presence of the Turkish army, having become an ideological identity for the two Communities, need to be re-transformed into history. Thus, revision of method and contents is needed. Referring to the ethnocentric history as a fact in schools of all European countries, she proposed that a harmonious picture of a conflictual past is impossible, so that school should teach students how to interpret conflicts of the past, and insist on the history of everyday life. Such a history teaching needs profound changes in books, curricula, and perceptions of teachers.
Halil Berktay summarised his experience of the workshop by underlying that, as most of the documentation presented shows, the authoritarian narrative included in the school textbooks of the nationalist state goes hand in hand with authoritarian teaching practices. Without believing that new practices automatically change the minds of students, he proposed the avoidance of one and sole narrative and the juxtaposition of multiplicities; the posing of questions to be answered through sources, and the indirect production of change in thinking by exposing students to the various and juxtaposing versions of past events. He stressed how important it is for students everywhere to learn about the existence of others, and how this should start at a very early age, at the very beginning of schooling, when pupils are first introduced to loving their own country.
Costas Carras closed the workshop by extending thanks to participants and organisers respectively. Moreover, he expressed the intention to extend complaints for Gul Barkay's obstruction for coming. He also stressed the importance of producing thematic history that will be underlining democracy and human liberties and the need to include conflict resolution as part of the curriculum.


Prof. Thalia Dragonas
University of Athens
Navarinou 13 10680, Athens/Greece
Phone: +30-13617922
Fax: +30-1363165
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Postby insan » Sat Sep 04, 2004 1:52 am

Island dream

Teenagers in Greek and Turkish Cyprus, tired of being taught to hate each other, are declaring peace

Helena Smith
Tuesday January 29, 2002
The Guardian

The children of Cyprus do not have it easy. On both sides of the barbed wire line that partitions the island, they are brought up on a mental diet of hate and propaganda. On both sides, in textbooks and teacher hand-outs, the message sounds depressingly similar: beware the terrible Turk, beware the grievous Greek.
Such poison is hard to erase. As a teenager who grew up under the shadow of war in the former crown colony, I have yet to forget the slogan "the good Turk is the dead Turk" two decades after it was first drummed into me in the classroom.

But in recent years, there has been a dramatic shift by those brave enough to embrace detente. Last week UN-brokered peace talks began in earnest between the two sectors, the first for four years.

And almost 28 years after the Turkish army invaded Cyprus, seizing its northern third in response to a brief Athens-inspired coup, high-school students are ignoring the propaganda in their own bid for reunification.

Aided by modern technology, inspired by visionary teachers and tired of the tortuous pace of peace negotiations, Cypriot youngsters from both communities are backing a new type of citizens' diplomacy. Against all the odds, they're frequently meeting in the UN-patrolled buffer zone separating north from south, to forge friendships across the ethnic divide.

"It's really silly that they have to live over there, and us over here," laments Liana Kallis, 15, who was born in Enfield, north London. "I'm a Greek Cypriot. In London my best friend, Sen, was a Turkish Cypriot, but here we're not allowed to see one another.

"They want peace and we want peace, so why can't we just live to gether?" asks Liana, who now likes nothing better than to attend bi-communal youth groups at the weekend.

Last month a round of unexpectedly successful peace-building events revealed just how much Cyprus's younger generation feels the time has come to put Nicosia, history's last humpty-dumpty, back together again.

Peaceniks on either side of the barrier say after the reunification of Beirut and Berlin, the world's last divided capital has begun to seem absurdly antique. The only way to cross the ceasefire line entails travelling some 1,000 miles through Greece and Turkey. "What we are seeing," says Peter Loizos, professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics, "is the beginning of a human software infrastructure that will pay off when, and if, a settlement occurs."

Already, politicians are finding the grassroots campaign hard to ignore. Groups of 20 youths from both sides meet for two days every month in Pyla, the island's sole UN-administered mixed village. Engineered by tireless teachers and organisations such as the British Council, the bi-communal activities have rejuvenated the "dead zone" splitting Cyprus, the world's most heavily militarised piece of territory alongside Korea.

Cross-ethnic contacts had virtually stopped since 1997, when the breakaway Turkish Cypriot regime banned them in response to the Greek Cypriots' application to join the EU. For isolated Turkish Cypriot teenagers - whose homeland is recognised by no one but Ankara - the movement has given them a much-needed lifeline to the outside world.

"While our politicians are still talking the language of the past, we're making friends," says one, Halin Bareke. "I'd never met a Greek Cypriot before I was 16, and now I'm talking to them all the time through chat programs and e-groups. It's amazing. We've got so much in common. We share the same problems at school and love the same fashions and trends."

Like her friends, Bareke risked police harassment and parental chastisement to attend a Cyprus Peace Day in September, the first mutually acknowledged anniversary ever held on the island. Guards bullied her upon entering the dead zone, before interrogating and stripping her of any documents. "But," she says defiantly, "we're prepared to put up with it. We're the people of the future, and we know that peace-building is bridge-building."

Trust and understanding, she says, are the essential glue that would re-unite the two communities initially separated in 1963, three years after the island won independence from the British.

"We have to move quickly because if the Greek Cypriots join the EU in 2004 then Turkey might annexe us," says Bareke, voicing a common concern.

Xenia Economidou, a 15-year-old Greek Cypriot who recently attended conflict resolution workshops in Vermont and Prague, echoes her views: "By meeting each other, we create friendships and when we grow up we won't hate each other as they teach us to at school," she says. "Our teachers always say that everything is the fault of the Turks and most of my friends prefer to ignore my bi-communal interests. They think I'm being strange."

In spite of persistent UN pleas, cross-ethnic contacts come at a price: while Greek Cypriots have to brave being branded "traitors" and "spies", Turkish Cypriots risk death threats, bomb blasts, and, at the very least, social ostracism.

The Turkish Cypriot secondary school teachers' union, which has shown particular courage in pursuing reconciliation, has been especially harassed. "Most teachers here in the north are progressive people who disagree wholeheartedly with the status quo," Ahmet Barcin, the union's genial president tells me as we tour the impoverished, self-proclaimed mini-state.

"We're constantly devising new ways to get around the nationalist rhetoric of textbooks; to make children see that the best thing for us as Turkish Cypriots would be to re-integrate with the rest of the world through a quick settlement with our Greek compatriots. Right now, it's difficult even to travel abroad because nobody wants to accept that we exist."

On the Greek side, it is private rather than state-run schools that have supported the drive for rapprochement. "Government schools tend to be very hostile to the whole concept of reconciliation," says Nicos Athanasiou, a high-school teacher at Cyprus's American Academy and peace-building campaigner.

"Usually, whenever the word Turk or Turkish Cypriot is mentioned in state-school classes, they are automatically associated with an act of barbarism. I see it with my own children who blame everything from a natural disaster to a car-crash on the Turks. What we're essentially fighting here is the mask of the devil we have painted on the other's face."

In London, where Cypriots fleeing ethnic strife first coalesced in the 50s, the two communities joke that "back under the British" they buried their differences years ago.

"We were brought up studying Henry VIII. History means something else to us," says Tina Kallis, Liana's mother. "In England, Greek and Turkish Cypriots feel they share the same mentality because they're from the same background. Across London you've got Greek and Turkish Cypriot kids sitting next to each other at school."

Cypriots in Britain have thrown their weight behind the campaign. "London Cypriots understand our work, they see that it is urgent," says Nikos Athanasiou. The peaceniks' "September project" - the biggest bi-communal drive to date - was launched in London. Says Athanasiou: "Cypriots who live abroad have strong roots here. They're keen for a solution because they're keen to come back."

The good news is that, as frightening as they may at first seem, bi-communal contacts soon become addictive. For teenagers keen to leave the island there is also the lure of attending workshops abroad.

"The first bi-communal group I ever attended involved talking to an alien," said Xenia Economidou. "Our American facilitators asked all of us, Greeks and Turkish Cypriots, to explain to an alien why we couldn't mingle and live together. After two days of talking to him, we concluded that our situation was illogical, the result of complete prejudice."
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Postby insan » Sat Sep 04, 2004 1:55 am

peacemaking in cyprus

After 26 years of bitter division, Cyprus seems as faraway as ever from reconciliation and reunification. But, in a dusty park on the edge of no-man's land, young activists inspired by two teachers-one from the north, the other from the south-are bypassing the politicians and making their own bid for peace.

It's June 30, 2000, and Nicos Anastasious is driving fast along the motorway in southern Cyprus when his mobile rings. He pulls onto the hard shoulder to take the call. 'They've found Ibrahim, one of my classmates. I haven't seen him in 26 years,' he says.

Like many people in Cyprus, Nicos and Ibrahim found their friendship cut short in 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and the island was split into two mutually hostile zones, Turkish-Cypriot in the north, Greek-Cypriot in the south. But Nicos, a 42-year-old secondary school teacher in Larnaca, with others like him on both sides of the divide, are using modern technology to reach out to people they haven't seen in more than a quarter of a century. They're part of a grassroots campaign aiming to break the political impasse and bring down the barriers between the two sides.

'Ibrahim is an archaeologist in the north and he wants to meet an archaeologist in the south,' Nicos says, before urging the caller to spread the word about tomorrow's meeting in Pergamos, a village situated on the edge of the UN buffer zone separating north from south.

Nicos has been organising the meeting - a bi-communal reunion of friends and neighbours wrenched apart by partition - for months; but there's plenty of last-minute work to be done. They need 2,000 copies of a leaflet reproduced by tomorrow in Greek, Turkish and English. The Turkish version is being sent by e-mail from the USA, the Greek one is being translated by a schoolgirl in Nicosia. 'We have to find friendly photocopying facilities,' says Nicos. 'We don't have any money.'

With Ulus Irkad, a 43-year-old primary teacher in the north. Nicos has been instrumental in setting up youth groups to work for peace. Tomorrow's reunion, when villagers from both sides meet up in a dusty park on the edge of the buffer zone, is the activists' most ambitious project to date.

The success of a bi-communal youth festival they organised there in March encouraged them to tackle the older generation. 'What counts is not only to bring the youngest together,' says Charis Achilleos, 16, the leading youth link in the south. 'We need to reunite those who lived together before.' Using mobile phones and Internet links to beat the restrictions on contact between the two sides - imposed in 1997 by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and reinforced by no more than one telephone line between the two parts of the island - they've been collecting lists of people who want to find old friends on either side.

Nicos parks by a roadside café in Anglissides, a village once inhabited by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots - an era the locals remember with affection. Dimitris Ptohopoulos, 47, tells the story of his cousin, who was taken prisoner by Turkish soldiers during the 1974 invasion: he was questioned by a Turkish-Cypriot officer from the next village who turned out to be a good friend of his father and set him free.

The talking is interrupted by news that earlier in the day Turkish troops moved 300 feet forward from their positions along the barbed wire 'border', raising tension. It's a tit-for-tat political move in retaliation for renewal of the UN peace-keeping force's mandate, which Rauf Denktash hasn't been asked to sign because the Turkish-Cypriot statelet isn't recognised.

But Nicos fears it may also be an attempt to put people off attending the reunion. Previous demonstrations in periods of tension have led to shootings in the buffer zone. He hurries back home to scour his e-mails for more news - and more lists: he's been getting up to 30 a day. He's up until 3 am answering them, before snatching three hours' sleep - as he has most nights for the past three weeks.

By 10 am on July 1, in the park at Pergamos, six Turkish-Cypriot youths and several adults are busy pinning up names of districts on trees: the park is turned into an imaginary map of Cyprus with place-names distributed accordingly, so people will know where to look for their old friends. The trees will also provide shade from the blistering afternoon sun.

Nicos paces up and down talking animatedly into his mobile. The Turkish Cypriot youngsters joke that the rest of the Greek Cypriots, being Greek, will be late. Getting there has been no joke for them. Tanyel Cemal, 16, has taken two buses and hitched two lifts to get to the checkpoint. They've all had to leave their identity cards with the 'border' police, knowing that they may be given a hard time when they return.

Opponents of the divide have faced various forms of harassment from the military and civilian authorities. Peace activists say their phones are tapped and they are followed when they go to meetings. One of the youngest Turkish Cypriots at the park (who doesn't want to give her name) says she was picked on by police on her way back from a planning meeting: they asked questions about whom she had met and searched her bag before they returned her identity card. 'They're trying to make us scared,' adds Hasan Veruglu, 18, from Kyrenia.

When Charis Achilleos arrives, Tanyel introduces her as her 'sister'. They're both veterans of Seeds of Peace, an organisation that sends young people from opposing sides of political disputes to the US to take part in a conflict resolution project, set up to help the peace process in the Middle East. Last year a 3-week workshop was attended by 20 Greek Cypriots and 20 Turkish Cypriots. 'l had never met Turkish Cypriots before,' says Charis. 'It was the best experience of my life.'

When she came back she tried, through schools, to organise an opinion poll of Cypriot youngsters on rapprochement in Cyprus. But she ran up against resistance, first from her own school, fearful of breaking ministry of education rules, and then from the ministry itself. When she went ahead and canvassed 300 pupils during school breaks, she used techniques she'd learned at Seeds of Peace to persuade a disciplinary meeting not to punish her. 'The idea is to be calm, not angry,' Charis says. 'If someone attacks you don't attack back, because that will just become an argument. You try to find a way for them to realise that what they are saying doesn't make sense.'

For too long, the young activists agree, schools have been part of the problem. Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots use history textbooks that are full of propaganda: 'They teach us to hate each other,' says Kucutou, 23, from Famagusta.

By late afternoon, as the first cars grind up the dusty road to Pergamos, the youths are moving about in pairs - one Turkish-Cypriot with one Greek-Cypriot - guiding new arrivals to the right trees. Elderly people are looking for friends they used to meet at the village coffee shop or at work in the fields. 'We lived like brothers and sisters,' says one old woman.

Nicos has supplied a stack of southern phone directories so that Turkish-Cypriots who can't find their friends can call them on a mobile to arrange a meeting. Leaflets handed out by Tanyel, Charis and their friends urge people (police estimates suggest 1000 of them) to make this 'only the start' and to begin planning bigger meetings in the park.

Everywhere, wrinkled faces are smiling. Men stand with their arms around each other's shoulders. One of the most poignant reunions is between two wizened men in the midst of a throng of Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Andoni, 86, muktar (headman) of Silicou village for 22 years, and Ibrahim Sahli, also 86, can't hold back the tears as they talk about how they were parted during the war. 'I have come for unification,' declares Ibrahim. 'We want one Cyprus, in peace,' echoes Andoni. Ibrahim says: 'If I was going to live one more year, I am going to live five more years after today. We were best friends in the fields, in the vineyards and on the road for many years.' He is sad that he can't visit his wife's grave near Limassol. But Andoni has a surprise for him. His family have brought soil from the grave (and given it to Ibrahim's son, lest the emotion proves too much for Ibrahim in one day).

As the sun sets, Dimitris Ptohopoulos and his friends from Anglissides are implored to join in the Turkish dancing. For those villages that turned out en masse, the day has been a turning point. For many others, whose friends from the other side didn't show, the numbers are disappointingly low.

Nicos admits that the meetings of villages where both sides once lived in harmony is indeed only the start, as many Turkish-Cypriots fear that any rapprochement would bring more violence. 'Next we have to address the shame and the pain,' he says, citing the southern village of Tochni, where Turkish-Cypriots were allegedly slaughtered in revenge for the 1974 invasion.

At the end of the day at Pergamos he summons his fast-draining energy to rally the young people to keep on working.' We are always talking about heroes of the war on this island,' he tells them. 'One day we will have heroes of peace.'

Within a week, Greek and Turkish Cypriots who used to live together at Lapathos and Kazafani were back at the park for full bi-communal village meetings. Within a fortnight, 8,000 Turkish-Cypriots (backed by their Teachers' Union) demonstrated against detentions and arrests of people speaking up for an end to the divide. Meanwhile, Nicos had flown to America to help run more workshops for peace: 42 young people - half of them Turkish-Cypriot, half of them Greek-Cypriot - were for the first time meeting their peers from the other side.

'It's started happening now,' says Charis. 'Even if the politicians come to a solution, nothing will be solved if people can't trust each other. But since I have been involved I have seen much progress. In place of suspicion and ignorance there's more knowledge and trust.'

In addition to Seeds of Peace, the groups organising the villagers' reunion include Youth Promoting Peace, formed by students living in Nicosia; Youth Encounters for Peace, which organises penpals/e-pals from each side; and Cypriot Youth for Peace, based at the American Academy of Larnaca (where Nicos Anastasious teaches).

They face many difficulties. The Turkish-Cypriot 'government' is opposed to reunification. The legacy of Cyprus's divisive recent history, including bloody ethnic fighting, is a formidable obstacle. Many Turkish-Cypriots have left the north, replaced by Turkish settlers: it's feared that soon there may be few Turkish-Cypriots to reunite with. Neither Rauf Denktash nor the Greek-Cypriot president, Glafkos Clerides, seem able to make the concessions that might break the political deadlock.

But the struggle for peace and reunification continues, with the Pergamos meeting one of the biggest attempts so far to bridge the military divide.Brendan O'Malley is international editor of The TES and co-author with Ian Craig of The Cyprus Conspiracy: America, espionage and the Turkish invasion, published by IB Tauris and was shortlisted for the 1999 Orwell prize.

Brendan O'Malley

See also peace-cyprus
A longer version of this article first appeared in the Tmes Educational Supplememt
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Postby insan » Sat Sep 04, 2004 1:58 am

Published by Associated Press, June 23, 2003

Religion is a factor in Cyprus's division

NICOSIA, Cyprus, June 23, 2003 (AP) -- When a private Cypriot think tank held an international conference on Islam and politics in the 1990s, some officials and academics stayed away, telling organisers they feared attending might be seen by some in the island's overwhelmingly Greek Orthodox south as an endorsement of Islam.

Then, with the turn of the century, came the possibility of an end to the division of Cyprus into a Turkish, Muslim north and a Greek, Christian south, and the same think tank, the Center for World Dialogue, sponsored a course on Islam.

This time, instead of suspicion, it got a full classroom.

"People are starting to understand that if they do want to live together, they must learn to respect each other's religion,'' said Hossein Alikhani, a Cypriot businessman of Iranian descent who founded the Center for World Dialogue in 1994 to explore the influence of religion on politics and the dialogue between cultures and faiths.

But it's only a start, cautions Alikhani.

However good the intentions of a few on both sides, many people still have a long way to go.

Progress comes in fits.

For example, Greek and Turkish Cypriot teachers for several years have been informally reviewing textbooks to identify which feed ethnic and religious passions.

They agree some books on both sides send wrong signals, but they haven't yet done a comprehensive study or made specific recommendations.

Memories of fighting tinged with both religious and ethnic hatred remain fresh.

"The bitter experience we have had so far has given us nothing but hunger and misery and death,'' said Zeki Beshitepeli, a Turkish Cypriot law school professor.

With Cyprus to enter the European Union next May, Beshitepeli said it's time for the rest of Europe to take note of the lessons Cyprus learned the hard way.

Europe's native-born and immigrant Muslim populations are growing, and if Muslim majority Turkey succeeds in its quest to join the European Union, it would add a huge number of Muslims, more than 65 million, to the EU population.

Vassos Lyssarides, a Greek Orthodox and former speaker of the Cypriot parliament, says religion was used to promote division.

Now, he said, it is should be clear that Cyprus' rich, patchwork culture makes it typically European.

"There are many multinational states in Europe,'' he said.

"I favor the opinion that civilization is much more beautiful when it is a collection of many different elements.''

Cypriot culture has roots in the early arrival on the island of a variety of peoples - Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Greeks.

St. Barnabas, a companion of the Apostle Paul, brought Orthodox Christianity to Cyprus a few years after the death of Christ.

Today an estimated 96 percent of southern Cypriots are Greek Orthodox, many of them regular churchgoers.

Muslim warriors briefly conquered the island in the 7th century, but the most lasting influence of Islam came during Ottoman Turkish rule from the 16th century to late in the 19th century.

The north today is believed to be 99 percent Muslim; northerners, influenced by modern Turkey's secular tradition, are considered less bound to their faith than are southerners.

Cyprus has been divided since a failed 1974 coup by supporters of union with Greece prompted a Turkish invasion.

That led to the displacement of nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriots from the north and 40,000 Turkish Cypriots from the south, and the declaration of an independent Turkish Cypriot republic in the north recognized only by Turkey.

Some 40,000 Turkish troops are stationed in the north.

The Turkish Cypriot north's isolation will not end when the island fully joins the European Union.

The Union accepted the whole of Cyprus as a member but said EU laws and benefits that apply to the Greek Cypriot south would not be extended to the Turkish-controlled north until the island is reunified.

Turkey wants to join the European Union, too, but can do so only if the Cyprus question is resolved. Reunification seems possible given the desire of both Turkey and Turkish Cypriots to enjoy EU benefits.

Earlier this year, when Turkish Cypriot authorities rejected a U.N. plan that would have seen the north included in the EU accession, tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots staged unprecedented protests.

In April, authorities in northern Cyprus for the first time allowed Turkish and Greek Cypriots to make short visits across the U.N. buffer zone dividing the island, a move seen as an attempt to assuage public anger among Turkish Cypriots.

That raised hopes for a settlement, but the Turkish Cypriot leaders have not followed with any political initiatives that could resume stalled reunification talks.

The easing of travel has opened up Orthodox holy sites in the north to which Greek Cypriot pilgrims had often been denied access.

In response to those restrictions, the Greek Cypriot government had barred northerners from Muslim shrines in the south. The tit-for-tat bans were an example of how politicians fanned religious resentment.

Mistrust and misunderstanding linger after decades of division.

Nikos Konomis, a former Cypriot education minister, leads a campaign to demand that northern authorities protect antiquities and Greek Orthodox churches on territory they control.

He appears near tears as he relates reports of churches turned into mosques, cafes, stables, "even toilets,'' and their icons and other treasures sold on the shadowy international art market.

Konomis says the Turkish Cypriots mean no insult but are manipulated by mainland Turks, whom he says "hate everything Greek. They hate Christianity.''

Turkish Cypriot officials reject charges of desecration, attributing most damage to neglect, not policy. Churches have been turned into mosques in the north, but officials say that simply reflects demographics.

For their part, Turkish Cypriots fear the conservative, pro-Greece tilt of the Orthodox Church.

The late Cypriot Archbishop Makarios III was a leading advocate of union with Greece in the 1950s.

However, after becoming Cyprus's first president after independence from Britain in 1960, Makarios urged separation from both Greece and Turkey as the only way for the island's split population to get along.

The church is still among Cyprus' wealthiest institutions but has seen its political power wane for various reasons - among them the illness of its archbishop and financial and sex scandals - and some church leaders appear to be looking for ways to remain relevant.

The Kykkos Monastery, whose abbot, Bishop Nikiforos, is considered a strong candidate to be a future archbishop, twice held major conferences aimed at promoting tolerance between Christians and Muslims.

"If you have faith and believe that all mankind descended from Adam and Eve, why do we fight?'' asked Beshitepeli, the Turkish Cypriot professor.
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Postby insan » Sat Sep 04, 2004 2:04 am

I would like to end with two personal stories, which illustrate attitudes to history once prevalent in the two countries of which I am a citizen, namely Britain and Greece. I started my education in the United States and I moved back to Britain, aged 8, in 1946, taking for granted the dominant American idea during WWII that democracy was for every country in the world. My history teacher, a Mr. Smith, stood up and produced the first version of the Huntington theory I have heard. He said “Only Protestant countries can be democracies.” All the other boys, 8 years old, as you understand, put their heads down and started writing “Only protestant countries…” I put my hand up “Please sir, what about France?” He replied with some force “France as you’ll come to know when you grow up, Carras, and learn some history, is a very unstable democracy. And this is because of the Roman Catholic Church. It is only because of the Protestants and free thinkers that France is a democracy at all.” Of course, aged 8, there was no reply I could give. Being obstinate however, I put up my hand again, “What about Belgium, sir?” At that point, for the first time in my life, I saw the look on the face of a teacher who knew he had been beaten. “Belgium,” he blurted out, “Belgium is the exception that proves the rule!”

The second story comes from Cyprus in the period of Greek Cypriot agitation against British colonial rule in about 1953. Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot schools already followed Greek and Turkish history curricula, respectively.

A Turkish Cypriot acquaintance told me he became a Turkish nationalist when a Greek Cypriot friend of his with whom he worked in the electricity authority drove him back from work and stopped to pick up his six year old girl from her primary school. To prove to him that it was not an anti-Turkish movement but an anti-British movement he turned to his little girl in the back, and said “Tell me Helen, what does your teacher say? Is it not right that our enemies are the British?” “Oh no, daddy, our teacher says that the British are only temporarily our enemies because they don’t want to give us our freedom. Our real enemies are the Turks, as they always have been throughout history”.

Now, the Greek Cypriot teacher had been communicating to children of six a version of history which had been partially, but not wholly, true, and which introduced stereotyping of a higher order, whose natural effect would be to poison the mind not just of one little girl, aged 6, but of a whole generation. In contrast the message the Center gives, and this is the point where the JHP feeds into our work for reconciliation, is that what is most important is not the specific acts or attitudes, whether good or bad, by specific peoples, but the human nature we all share. It is that core humanity which leads us in good and in bad directions, often in similar ways, even if the expression of such common attitudes is one of mutual opposition. There are no peoples I know in the world who do not display some examples of it. If we are able to accept this in the framework of the new vision of a common Europe, with common standards of governance but also looking outwards, towards the needs the rest of the world, I believe that we have the ability to grow beyond the sometimes inspiring but inevitably narrow vision of the nation state to establish democratic forms of society throughout the region and to achieve reconciliation between them. This would indeed represent a creative approach for the future.

Thank you.
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Postby insan » Sat Sep 04, 2004 2:08 am

Facing History presents at the Council of Europe Seminar for Teachers in Cyprus

Facing History was invited to attend a Council of Europe Seminar for teachers in Cyprus on June 10-11, 2004. Entitled "The Council of Europe and History Education," the seminar was held at the JW Fulbright Center on the UN's "Green Line" in Nicosia, the island's capital. Approximately 100 participants were in attendance, including elementary and secondary history teachers from both sides of the divided island. Terry Tollefson represented Facing History and gave a presentation to the entire seminar on "New Approaches for History Teaching and Civic Engagement." He also participated in working groups on curriculum development, history textbooks, and teacher training.

In addition to speakers from the Council of Europe's history education section, other international speakers included the Executive Director of Euroclio (the European Standing Conference of History Teachers), which supports the learning and teaching of history through the sharing of knowledge and experience across Europe, and the Director of the Georg Ekert Institute for International Textbook Research in Germany. Local speakers included Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot educators who are currently involved in history textbook revisions and representatives of the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research.

The seminar focused on ways to improve history textbooks and history teaching methods in order to overcome narrow nationalistic presentations that may have contributed to conflict in the past. This is part of an overall goal of fostering multiperspectivity and a more common identity within the European Union. The educators were eager to begin the difficult process of confronting the ways in which history has been taught in the past, and to find new methods and materials that can encourage historical thinking skills and multiperspectivity. Local efforts are continuing, and the Council of Europe is hoping to reconvene the group in this fall. ... endocument
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