Cyprus 40 years on: a grandmother’s vision

In a few days, 40 years will have passed since the invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in response to a coup d’état by Nikos Sampson, a Cypriot fascist, that deposed the then-Cypriot president, Archbishop Makarios. Much blood was spilled.

It triggered a seemingly endless conflict that turned into a Gordian knot, feeding hatred, fear and mistrust between the two native communities on the island. The venomous atmosphere has not lost its state of contagion, as has been exposed in a series of shrewd maneuvers that have also contributed to the instability in the east Mediterranean.

As the latest round of settlement talks drag on, the weariness is so widespread on and off the island that there seems to be no ray of hope for a reasonable conclusion.

If there are any voices of hope, they come not from a new breed of politicians, but from the civilians affiliated with the island, be they Turks or Greeks.

I saw it in an article written and posted by Vasilis Fouskas, an author and publisher, from the University of East London.

“What a shame for a country in which the number of international actors involved is disproportionate not just to the size of the island and its resources, but also to the hypocrisy employed by all those boasting that the plight of the island is due to the historic enmity between Turks and Greeks,” Fouskas writes.

Here are some excerpts I read with interest and emotion:

“Every July I cannot stop thinking of that morning of 20th July 1974. A young boy of eleven years old, born and raised on the Greek island of Lesbos, north-east Aegean and in very close proximity to Turkey, listening to his mother telling him that Turkish planes are flying over the village and that we may be invaded.”

“With my father absent, I was left alone for several days with my mother and 2-year old sister. I felt like it was now my job to take up the role of the protector of the family. Secretly, I took my mother’s long knife from the kitchen and slept with it under my pillow, so I could defend my mother and my little sister from the possible barbaric invader. It was an extraordinary feeling. It made me feel so proud at that young age. Education in school boosted this feeling in the years that followed.”

“Paradoxically, it was only thanks to my father, who pushed me into alternative political educations, that I began questioning the image of ‘barbaric Turks’ and ‘angelic Greeks;’ and also thanks to my grandmother, herself a refugee from Moschonissia, today’s Cunda in Turkey, by the town of Ayvalik opposite Lesbos, that I realised how wrong was the nationalistic narrative about Greek-Turkish relations I was bred with.”

“The future of Cyprus, and of peace in Cyprus, should not rest in the hands of political elites, whether of endogenous or exogenous origins, or both. History has indeed proved the exact opposite of the official, realist narrative. It has indeed proved that Cyprus is the victim of the incompetence of all those past elites to provide a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue along the lines of realist interests, i.e. national and imperial interests. We need to go back to the wisdom of my grandmother, that ‘realist politics is a divisive force’ and try to move beyond realism.”

“Do you want a solution to the Cyprus issue, and indeed of every similar issue across Europe? The only way forward is to move beyond the realm of realpolitik and to engage with civil society in a manner that raises the issue of solidarity and fraternity on the basis of the ontology that unites society itself, and these are the values of labour, family and anti-nationalist and anti-imperial education; re-discover and re-define diversity (ethnic, state, religious, gender) as being fundamentally resourced, and thus historically determined, by labour and re-production of life.”

“Children of 11 years of age should not be raised in conditions I was raised and should not feel the way I felt at the time. Victims of realpolitik themselves, these children may not be as lucky as I was having the family I had and the grandmother I had. These children may then become leaders of the extreme nationalist, racist and even anti-Semitic politics that endanger the very democratic premises of European politics today and of Greece in particular.”

My article in full, click here:

Article by Vasilis Fouskas, in full, click here:

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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