Understanding the History of Cyprus
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th May, 2011
All conflict situations leave pain long after they have finished, as people remember family, friends and homes they have lost. In Cyprus, since 1974 the Green Line has been a border between two communities that used to live together, side-by-side, before conflict broke out in 1963; and much bitterness and anger remains. So it was refreshing and inspiring to see a 30-minute documentary film last night showing a group of four Cypriot teenagers — two Greek, two Turkish — accompanying three of The Elders (an informal grouping of former global leaders who have dedicated themselves to peace and reconciliation) on a visit to the island. In this case, the three Elders were the retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter, and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi from Algeria. With the young people they all visited places where Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots who had been killed in the conflict were buried in hidden graves, as well as an establishment where anthropologists have been piecing together the skeletons of the disinterred. After the film, Ersu Ekrem of Embargoed! (the Turkish Cypriot community organisation which hosted the event entitled Understanding the History of Cyprus in the Regency Banqueting Suites in Bruce Grove) gave a talk with slides describing the casualities on both sides. Then I spoke about how no one person, family, community or people has a monopoly of victimhood, but that we must acknowledge that pain is very real and can only be healed through facing up to the past, bringing out te facts, understanding the history, so that then one can move forward to reconciliation. There was some tough questioning from the predominantly Turkish Cypriot audience, underlining how deep some of the scars are. But as someone who regularly visits Cyprus for my work, I share the optimism of those who believe that there can and will be a workable settlement one day that gives full and equal rights to all Cypriots and that the current isolation of northern Cyprus (which has not yet been able to take advantage of the benefits of EU membership) can be negotiated to an end.
Photo of Ersu Ekrem, Jonathan Fryer and Cllr Gina Adamou (Mayor of Haringey) by Nefise Hussein