Yeraltý Notlarý, 16 Mayýs 2004

Sevgül Uludað

 

The challenge…(*)

Sevgul Uludag

Michalis Papapetrou is under police protection because the police believes the threats from the `OXI` campaigners against him are serious enough. He’s been a role model in politics for all of us, always setting an example as in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., `Combining the softness of the dove and the toughness of the serpent, a tough mind and a tender heart` when struggling for peace and a country with a human face on this island…

His father was the doctor of my mother and she remembers him with a smile on her face…

`Ah! Papapetrou!` she says… It was in 1947 in the month of July when she gave birth to my brother Alper in the clinic of Papapetrou… My father Niyazi, knew Papapetrou from the Nicosia Municipality because he was working there and Papapetrou was a member of the council…

It was a very difficult birth my mother remembers but finally when she had the baby in her arms, Dr. Papapetrou told her,

`Now Niyazi is a king because he has a son! I am also a king because I had my son three months ago!`

My mother tells me, `You know the former spokesman for Cyprus, Michalis Papapetrou? That was the son… He’s three months older than my son…`

`Yes mother, I know him… And did you know the extremists in the south tried to hire a hitman to kill him four years ago?`

`What a shame!` she complains… `He’s like his father, tall but gentle…`

`And mother, did you know he went on TV after the referendum and apologized to Turkish Cypriots for every OXI vote cast in the south?`

`Bravo!` says my mother, `What do they want from him? He must be like his father who was a very good man…`

In 2000 extremists tried to negotiate with `hitmen` from the mafia circles to try to have Michalis Papapetrou killed… Papapetrou did not know any of this until quite recently when police told him…

And only now, we find out what sort of a place the southern part of the island turned into…

Alecos Constantinides tried to show me the dark side of the south: `We have our own Gray Wolves` he was telling me… Alithia was getting anonymous calls threatening his life and expressing anger at the line the newspaper was following during the referendum – these were the same `OXI` people, who tried to negotiate the murder of Papapetrou… Alecos also had his share of threats and one day he told me how at one time in the past, he had to restrain his family from getting into his car since first, he had to check whether there were bombs planted…

The dark side of Cyprus is still here – it is in the system of a conflict habituated system… The `OXI` is there and if it is pushed away from the north, it goes into circulation in the south… If the south manages to push it away, it will come back to the north… Someone will pick up the `NO` within the system – so long as we have the Cyprus conflict, the surrounding culture of `enmity` and `hatred`, the militarism, the parasites who feed on the fears of the communities will flourish…

Last week the dark forces stationed in the north bombed KIBRIS newspaper – couple of days ago a car was discovered in Gonyeli – a district of Nicosia – full of bombs… The car belonged to a Turkish sergeant who’s an expert of bombs in the Turkish army stationed in the north. The Turkish Cypriot police could not question him because the Turkish Cypriot police has no jurisdiction over the Turkish Army in the north. And in fact the Turkish Cypriot police is under the command of the Chief of Staff of the Turkish Army so it is not accountable to the civilian authorities in the northern part of our island. No one will be arrested, no one will be punished – the bombs will remain and I will feel more and more pain as I follow these events… Whether it is the threats against Papapetrou or Alecos or the bombings to KIBRIS, the pain will be the same…

This is because I live on both sides of the island, I do not consider `north` to be `my part` and `south` to be `your part`. Both `parts` are mine… I am a member of both journalists unions: BASIN-SEN and Cyprus Journalists Union. I have two mobile phones: CYTA and TELSIM… I write in both YENIDUZEN and ALITHIA. Both my phones ring all the time – friends from around the world but most important for me, friends from both sides of the `border` call to make arrangements for meetings or for dinner or to complain about an ex-husband who has been arrogant or about a dog in the house who’s been dirtying the carpet… Life is here within me – I am a Cypriot with no borders, my country is the world but I have chosen or happen to live here, in a divided street in Nicosia, like an everyday reminder that peace is not here yet… I feel both parts like a Siamese twin who has two heads but only one body – one head looks in one direction, the other head in another and it is only pain that remains in my heart… If Papapetrou is threatened, it is also a threat against me… If I am threatened, it is also a threat against Alecos… The pain of the missing, those raped during the wars, those killed are the same for me – I carry all of these in my heart… And when I think of all of this and the amount of work we need to do to change the system I feel an incredible sadness at who we are and what we are as Cypriots living on a small island, what sort of pain we inflict on each other, how inhuman we can get to negotiate murders, how inhuman we can get to spread lies and rumours to hurt…

Perhaps the wisest of all of us is George Tornarites – he says to us, over dinner that `Our species as human beings will become extinct and only cockroaches will survive`… He’s moving between countries – between `worlds`… When he’s in Cyprus, he’s hosting dinners to just enjoy the food and talk… We eat `pilav` with basil or spaghetti with wild mushrooms and fish… He’s passing on the culture of the places he moves around – the food, the people, the anectodes… His encounters with Brigitte Bardot, Raquel Welch, Salvador Dali… Don’t think he’s not one of `us` because he is very much so – he knows `everyone` in Cyprus, it’s just he does not attach himself to the `nationalist` agendas – he has an agenda from the world…

He has lots of cats, lots of seashells – ancient ones dating from 120 million years ago… Perhaps he knows the answers because he is in so much contact with the nature – he can look back millions of years and can evaluate where we are from there… Perhaps he knows the secret of life that as a species we are so destructive…

Destroying is easy, building is difficult…

I take up the challenge to `build` peace as a Cypriot and as a European citizen – I have to help remove the pain and inhumanity from this island…

So that we can survive better on this island and on this earth…

(*) Article published in ALITHIA newspaper on the 16th of May, 2004.

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