Yeraltý Notlarý, 17 Nisan 2008

Sevgül Uludað

 

Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot victims of rape: The invisible pain and trauma that’s kept `hidden`…

It was Maria Hadjipavlou at first, who had told me about rapes during the wartime…

As a young journalist, back in 1974, she had gone to a refugee camp, where she saw a young girl, running round and round, outside the camp, crying hard because she was not allowed to go in… It was a sad story: The married Greek Cypriot women at the refugee camp had kicked her out of the camp because she had been raped by some Turkish soldiers and they were `afraid` that `she would sleep with their husbands!`

It showed how society could not swallow `rapes` and instead of extending an understanding hand to the victims of rape, they would push them away or at least trying to `hide it`…

The raped girl or woman would get no understanding from society – they would be pushed away to suffer alone, the trauma they had gone through… I had heard similar stories later, when I was doing research about T.. Some Greek Cypriots from T. had `selected` some young Turkish Cypriot girls to rape… They were about 5 or 6 or maybe more… One of the young girls had been engaged to a young boy from the village… But just because she had been raped, later the young boy would dissolve the engagement and would refuse to marry her…

Other stories came and found me, as I was learning about the `untold stories` of our island… One story stood out: Paraschos had told me that the most traumatizing story he had ever heard was of the rape of a Greek Cypriot woman together with her daughter.

She had told the soldiers: `Please don’t rape her! I will take all of you! Just please, let her go… Please…`

Rapes are `very sensitive cases` in Cyprus, in both communities so they are kept locked up, in the cupboards full of skeletons. They should not ever see daylight because our societies would single out the raped women, even though they had no role to play in this violence. Did they want to be raped? Of course not! But still, our sick societies would show no empathy and no sympathy to the raped women and some of them have gone crazy – they have to suffer alone because they cannot find any understanding at all from anyone…

When I wrote about the rape at A. village I had got a very strong reaction from some families. Some Greek Cypriots had gone to A. and taking with them some very young Maronite Cypriots, they had gone to rape a 13 year old Turkish Cypriot girl. This would be the cause of the split among the village – the Turkish Cypriots would leave the village and go to other villages – some families would be split. There were intermarriages among Maronite Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots but the rape of a Turkish Cypriot girl, would destroy the relationship amongst them back in 1964…

And when I wrote about this rape, some Turkish Cypriots had strongly reacted: `Why do you write this? It is not true…`

`But I know it is…`

`Even if it is true, you shouldn’t write about it…` they had said… The pain and `the shame` were still there – `the shame` should be with those who had raped the girl but society did not think so… After more than 40 years, we still could not discuss `rapes` openly…

I had written about the rapes at Assia and Afania villages, as well as at the Voni camp but now recently, as I was writing about the rapes in the Karpaz area, accidentally I had found out about the rapes in Limassol.

A Turkish Cypriot woman was whispering this to me over the phone:

`You know, when they took the Turkish Cypriot men as prisoners of war back in 1974 in Limassol, some Greek Cypriots were raping some very young girls… They would take them and rape them and then bring them home and throw them from the threshold…`

And others whispered to me, the rapes in Karpaz:

`In 1974, in some areas there was systematic rape of very young girls… One of these girls was from A. and was brought to a purely Turkish Cypriot village to be raped. She was barely 13 or 14 and 7 Turkish Cypriots were raping her… But somehow, the Turkish Cypriot police got hold of them and they were brought to court.

In K., an old man was raped. This old Greek Cypriot man was bringing figs and eggs. But a Turkish Cypriot chavushi (police sergeant) lined up all the men present there. And the old man had identified who had raped him… The rapist was from a village around Kyrenia and he was a plumber… Again, in Y., a 13-14 year old girl was raped by some Turkish soldiers. They were officers. They had raped the girl but two of them were caught. Even one of them was beaten up with an electrical truncheon by the commander at Aytotoro village in Karpaz because he had committed this crime…

There were also rapes at G., M. and M. villages. But the worst rapes, as far as we know were at K.. Here 13-14 year old girls had become pregnant because of these rapes. The rapists were the `Death Squad` of the area. These were around 20-30 young Turkish Cypriots. After the war was over, they had selected each a very young girl to rape in Karpaz.

After some time, things had got worse in Karpaz. In G., three young Greek Cypriot girls were raped severely and systematically by some soldiers. Every night they would go to this village to rape these girls… Somehow word got through to the Red Cross and the UN. After this, the village was declared a `military zone` and no one could enter the village – it was closed off, in order to prevent further rapes. Only around 20 Greek Cypriots were living at G.…`

And of course, the worst cases of rape in 1974 were in Maratha-Sandallaris-Aloa. EOKA-B teams had raped the women of these three villages, they had raped very young girls and in August 1974, they had started raping young boys as well… While the war was tearing our country apart, they were busy with these rapes – on the 14th of August 1974, they would massacre all the women and children of the three villages, in order not to leave any witnesses behind. They were such horrible people that they even massacred 16 day old babies and buried them in mass graves…

One of my Greek Cypriot friends told me:

`You are naive you know, in every war, they rape women… Women are considered the spoils of war… This is how the men show that they are `conquerors`… And Cyprus has not been any different…`

Yes, I know and it is a very sick society to `swallow` these rapes and try to keep them `hidden`, blaming without words but with its behaviour, the victims of the rapes: the innocent women and girls who have gone through such big traumas… The `ideology` that supports such behaviour can only be condemned if we openly speak about it… So long as we keep it locked as a skeleton in the cupboard, our future would be tarnished with the blood spilled in those rapes…

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