Yeraltý Notlarý, 13 Mart 2008

Sevgül Uludað

 

The story of the fig tree…

It was my dear friend Androula who had brought me to this fantastic beach some years ago… She had known this place well since her childhood because one of the friends of her mother, with a broken heart, had come to stay in the monastery, not far from this beach at Ayios Georgios Alamanos. As a child, she would visit this monastery with her mother, since Androula’s mother came to see her friend… This was a monastery where only the women lived – they would cultivate, grow things, make preserves and honey and would sell these at the entrance room of the monastery... So Androula was bringing us to this beach to eat fish, octopus and sibya (cuttlefish).

When I first saw the beach at Ayios Georgios Alamanos, I felt breathless: It had a wild, stunning beauty with white lime rocks… I had walked on the rocks and took photos but since I didn’t know its secrets, I hadn’t suspected anything.

This place had become a favourite for us: From time to time, with my husband, we would escape the chaos of Nicosia and come to this beach. The little bay had a lot of stones, the sand was a dark colour but the smell of the sea and the wild appearance of the rocks would be enough for us. We would eat fish and octopus and calamari, look at the sea and then head back to Nicosia.

After some time, I started hearing stories about a fig tree but still I did not associate the fig tree with this beach.

Months ago, a Greek Cypriot friend said, `Come, I will bring you to that beach. The exhumation has just finished – the cave is still open… You must see this with your own eyes…`

By the time we reached Ayios Georgios Alamanos, I was shocked! From the restaurant we used to go to, we had climbed to a side road and only 50 meters later, we had stopped. This was the place of the exhumation. All the good times I had spent on this beach started feeling like a heavy stone in my stomach. From now on, I would not be able to eat in that restaurant, even if I ate something, I would not be able to digest it. Because these rocks were an area of a crime… The smell of blood poisoned the smell of the sea.

Back in 1974, Ahmet Cemal was taken by three Greek Cypriots from the coffeeshop of the village Episkopi and was taken here to be killed together with Erdogan Enver and Unal Adil who were taken from the Chiftlik area of Limassol. There was no entrance to the cave inside these rocks from the land, so they must have been brought by boat. They had brought them to this cave and killed them there. But these murderers must have been a little bit dumb because they had tried to explode dynamites in order to block the entrance to the cave, in order to hide the bodies of the three Turkish Cypriots. If my mother was alive, she would say `The devil confused them!` Did they think that the dynamite would explode horizontally, not vertically when they did that?!... The dynamite of course, exploded vertically, making a hole at the top of the cave, which would start allowing daylight to enter the cave…

This `mistake` of the killers, would help an enormous fig tree to grow from where the three `missing` Turkish Cypriots were hidden.

The last thing Ahmet Cemal ate that day on the 10th of August 1974, was figs from his garden. But these were `Anadolidiga` type of figs, growing in his garden. This type of fig did not grow anywhere – it could grow in Episkopi and it only grew if it liked its soil… So the fig tree growing with hundreds of roots from the cave and coming out at the top of the cave and showing where the `missing` Turkish Cypriots were, this type of a fig tree called `Anadolidiga`.

Still, an ordinary person would not notice the significance of that fig tree on the beach, growing like shinya and covering a big area… But this was also a favourite beach for Xenophon Kallis, who used to come here for years… Gradually as the fig tree grew, Kallis noticed the change in the scenery on the beach. What was that fig tree doing there? Kallis checked old photos he had of this beach – he drove for kilometres on this coast but there was no sign of another fig tree. And there was no place for the birds to perch on to poo inside the cave – the whole area was rocks and shinya…

Kallis, we all know has been working for finding `missing persons` of both communities for years now. So he was an expert in research. He discovered that this fig tree was of the type `Anadolidiga` and as he deepened his research, he found out that the three Turkish Cypriot `missing`, among them Ahmet Cemal from Episkopi, was killed and buried in that cave. When the dynamite exploded, the UN had heard and had made a report about it. And Kallis discovered that the last thing Ahmet Cemal ate was `Anadolidiga` figs from his garden. Maybe this `Anadolidiga` fig tree grew because of the last meal of Ahmet Cemal – maybe the bats had eaten this type of fig and came to the cave or maybe there is an another explanation. But whatever the explanation, what was important was that this fig tree led Kallis to finding these `missing persons`. The fig tree had shown him the way…

It was Kallis who found these three Turkish Cypriot `missing persons` and exhumations took place in 2006. Next week, the three persons found in this cave will be returned to their families and there will be a funeral for them on the 15th of February 2008 in Nicosia.

I took the son of Ahmet Cemal, Huseyin Herguner to this beach… Panicos Chrysanthou was with us. We sat down in the restaurant to make an interview about his father, about the fig tree, about his life afterwards… The poverty and the misery that came afterwards, when his father went `missing`… Ahmet Cemal had 6 kids – 5 daughters and a son, Huseyin, with whom I was speaking. Ahmet Cemal was a motorcycle mechanic and he had a shop in Limassol. As his only son, Huseyin would go everywhere with his father. He was only 13 years old when his father went `missing`.

After the checkpoints partially opened in 2003, they found out the story of the fig tree from the Greek Cypriot Missing Persons Committee and went to visit Ayios Georgios Alamanos beach…

`When we saw the huge fig tree, growing out of the cave in the rocks, we felt very sad…` he told me…

By the time we were making this interview, there wasn’t any sign of a fig tree on the beach. During the exhumation – which was quite dangerous for the archaeologists and anthropologists working for the Cyprus Missing Persons Committee – the fig tree had been cut. When I had first visited this place, I could see tiny fig plants on the rocks because the cave was still open…

When we finished the interview, we walked towards where the fig tree was, together with Panicos Chrysanthou and Huseyin Herguner… There was no more sign here that a cave existed, a fig tree grew from there, to be witness to where the three `missing` Turkish Cypriots were buried. The fig tree had completed its mission: It had waited for an expert investigator to find them and now, even though it did not exist there any longer, this did not matter…

Panicos was adamant:

`This is like a story from Homer` he was saying, `The criminals tried to hide their crime but the fig tree gave them away, became a witness and a mark as to where they were buried…`

4.2.2008

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