Yeraltý Notlarý, 12 Temmuz 2004

Sevgül Uludað


`Apetite for Destruction` (*)

Sevgul Uludag

She is dark with a smile that embraces life! We sit on the deck sharing a small bottle of Somo, the raki of Rhodos island, some cherries, nuts and chocolate… Everyone else is watching the football match where Greece will become the champion of Europe.

We’re on a cruise ship, Atalante, on our way back to Limassol… We went to Rhodos and Symi – this was the first time after 1974 that Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots are traveling together on the same ship from Limassol.

So we sit with Yeliz, a young Turkish Cypriot journalist, born in Melbourne but now, living in Cyprus and working for the only bi-communal TV programme called `BIZ` (US)… She traveled around the world with a backpack, stopping at Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, looking at how people live, their concerns and fears and their struggle for survival… She did a tour of Europe starting from Spain and ending in Turkey… She’s full of life and laughter – a gift of nature to us since she has no pretense and does not munch her words…

Soon other journalists start coming to see what we’re doing – from their cabins come another bottle of Rhodos raki with coffee – this is like a strong liqeur… This is our last night on the ship, therefore we can afford to talk and attempt to `solve the Cyprus problem` before we land in Limassol!

Soon the conversation turns to the issue of `property` and I like the way Yeliz puts her point of view:

`For me happiness is not buying a plot of land, building a house on it and OWNING it… I can always rent a place… For me happiness is not the way it is defined in Cyprus by the majority… For everyone, the definition of happiness is different…`

Property is `the hidden issue` now in the northern part of the island. There’s a huge amount of movement – selling, buying, building, expanding… This all happened after the famous Annan plan. Many companies have been formed and the island is virtually being raped with absolutely no intrusion from anyone… Turkish Cypriots who had no ownership of any property in the south but who got Greek Cypriot homes after 1974 are trying to sell these now and try to buy Turkish Cypriot owned land and property. Turkish Cypriots who have discovered that if the house they build will be more than the worth of the land whose original owners are Greek Cypriots, then they can actually buy or own this after a solution. Many foreigners are also in the market we hear – from British to Israelis, trying to acquire property, setting up companies with some Turkish Cypriot shareholders… My hairdresser who’s English told me `Sevgul, you cannot recognize Kyrenia now! Everywhere and everywhere there’s estate agents, buying and selling property! I never saw this before!`

I receive an e-mail from a friend, Serdar Atai, whose concern runs deep… I’ll share it with the readers of ALITHIA because he says it all:

` I'll write you today about the "post-Referendum era" in Northern Cyprus.

Our unspoilt environment that we were very proud of promoting all the time has turned into a kind of "iron/cement factory" nowadays. The construction companies are racing with each other who can cementize our beautiful nature more. I was chatting with a friend of mine a few days ago who has a big shipping agent and he says the import of iron into Northern Cyprus has exceeded the annual amount of the past years in the first five months of 2004.

There're many newcomer construction companies which were established by so called "entrepreneurs" from Turkey, Israel and Britain in partnership with some crook Turkish Cypriots.

More and more workers from Turkey are flowing in every day to catch up with the demand for workers by the construction companies. They have to work 12-14 hours a day including Saturdays and Sundays. Don't ask about their working and living conditions and other rights!

"Fire" news in the region of Lapithos-Karavas have become very common. These are the Greek Cypriot owned citrus fields deliberately set on fire to open up land for construction. And the northern coastal line between Kyrenia and Karpasia which is again full of Greek Cypriot owned lands rapidly went under construction. There’s construction work going on between Famagusta and Karpasia as well… The money paid to the current occupants is between 5-10 thousand pounds per donum and we're hearing many new rich created via the sales of these properties. Most of the Turkish settlers are going back to Turkey after selling those lands. I'm sure they can buy a a big apartment building or may be a small village in Anatolia with what they've on hand.

A short while ago, a file was charged before the Constitutional Court to prevent non-altitude forestry areas from being developed but however the case was dismissed by the members of the Court.

Now, we also observe construction in the forestry areas by cutting of the trees of so many years. In the middle of the looting and trafficking there're many people from the "law society" and from the "engineers and architects" famous for their campaigning for "Yes" for Annan Plan.

I'm asking to myself these days how sincere some Turkish Cypriots were while saying "Yes" to Annan Plan. Did they predict the outcome in the South as "No" and voted "Yes" for formality to loot the Greek Cypriot owned properties later on and to defend themselves by saying this was mainly the fault of Greek Cypriots due to the fact they didn't say "Yes"?

On the political ground, our leaders are calling onto the international community to recognize the "Turkish Cypriot State" under Annan Plan since we said "Yes" and to lift the sanctions or restrictions whatever but we're committing to sabotage with refer to the property provisions of the Plan and we're leaving no room for their positive approach.

If our aim is to punish the Greek Cypriots because of their "No" this is the wrong way of doing since we're also punishing ourselves by destruction of our natural environment. It only serves the frigidity between two communities by keeping on the ignorance and violation of fundamental rights of people "we claim to coexist". How will you convince the international actors that Turkish Cypriots are for a solution and reunification?

And the British once again! I always criticized British for their role in seperation and isolation of two communities on the island. But no one can deny that an average person who lived under the British rule and order has at least minimal knowledge about the "rule of law" and "respect for the rights of others". I believe this is something which our parents have primarily taught us. When Turkish Cypriot leadership reprinted the property title deeds for Greek Cypriot owned properties and declared these certificates as valid under the existing laws of TRNC everybody was actually aware that they were "null and void" according to international law. But people chose to deceive themselves to be able to exploit those undeserved properties and by trading them off they made big big fortunes. Buying and selling of those properties have been one of the main source of finance of the economy in North. It has also created a great socioeconomic imbalance between people who abided by the international law and who didn't. People like me have suffered losses from this tradeoff since people who took advantage of this unfair game financed their companies from the funds they accumulated through the sales of Greek Cypriot properties and competed with us in the market in an unfair way.

What I'm astonished with witnessing is the attitude of British people together with some other Europeans who are purchasing villas built on the Greek Cypriot properties recently. It's a shame of them, it's a shame of their countries supposed to be in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and they're highly contributing to enmity between two communities although their governments announce their strong preference for just and viable solution on the island. Are they doing it on purpose to partition the island forever? I don't really know, I am fed up with conspiracies of big powers and what I feel today is pain buried into the iron/cement blocks which is also blocking up the whole peace process...`

Yeliz is right but in this `jungle` no one will hear her words… Perhaps I should go back and listen to the album of Guns N’ Roses called `Apetite for Destruction` as suggested by my friend Serdar Atai…

(*) Article published in ALITHIA newspaper on the 11th of July 2004.

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