Yeraltý Notlarý, 15 Aðustos 2004

Sevgül Uludað


A woman from the village Dochni…(*)

Sevgul Uludag

She was only seven years old when Cemaliye learnt how to embroider Lefkara lace. Born in the beautiful village of Lefkara, she would rush home from school to leave her things and go and sit with the village women to do Lefkara lace. It was rumored that the famous Italian painter, Leonardo da Vinci had paid a visit to Lefkara to buy the lace in times of the Cyprus queen Katherina Cornaro… So Cemaliye, as hundreds of women did for centuries, learnt to embroider Lefkara which would give her support throughout her life…

Later, getting married she moved to the village of Dochni. It was an average village where Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots lived together. She remembers it was peaceful – no visible conflict among the villagers… Her husband Cuma Hamit had a bus and was a busdriver. Greek Cypriots liked him and even though there was a Greek Cypriot owned bus in the village, they would prefer to go with Cuma…

Cuma was taking them to Limassol, to Larnaca, to panayiri in different villages… He would take the villagers to the cinema or to the festivities of the sea in Larnaca… Cemaliye and Cuma had five kids: four boys and a girl… She continued to embroider Lefkara lace in Dochni… She would cook, clean, tend the animals, look after her five kids and wait for Cuma to return from work… They had a quiet, happy life, not hurting anyone, just living each day as it comes…

Then of course the calendars showed 15th of July, 1974… Then 20th of July 1974. At the end of July, tension started building in the village.

`I am worried, let’s leave this village and go` she would say to her husband…

Cuma would say, `No! Nothing will happen – we will remain here – where shall we go anyway? There’s no place to go!`

So everyone remained in Dochni… She remembers some gunfire when her husband’s bus was shot at. She remembers the UN coming to the village to collect the guns… But life wouldn’t stop still, it would continue to flow like a river, as though nothing had happened and she would still cook and clean and sit down to do the Lefkara lace, look after children and wait for Cuma to come back from work.

One day they made an announcement with a megaphone that all Turkish Cypriot men should gather at the village school – some Greek Cypriots would make a speech and later let them go they said. Outside she saw Andriko Furo from the same village going around with a jeep and collecting the men, as well as young boys.

One woman, Muhlet, did not want to give her son who was barely 12-13…

`You took my husband, isn’t it enough?` she said… `And now you want to take my son – he’s just a child re Andriko! What you will do with him?`

Andriko Furo started shouting at her:

`A child ha? A child! Do you still nurse him that you call him a child?` taking Muhlet’s son with him, to bring to the school.

This was the 14th of August 1974, exactly 30 years ago. Andriko, with the help of Stasi, collected all the men and the young boys of the village: 74 of them, in the school. They also brought men and boys from the adjoining village Terazi there… So there was a total of 92 men and boys… Cemaliye went to visit and bring some food to Cuma and her 19 years old son Hamit… Cuma was crying… Muhlet brought some coffee for him to drink… Cuma said,

`Why you bring me coffee re neighbour? Bring me poison to drink…`

Stasi had a gun and was watching over these newly captured Turkish Cypriot prisoners. Andriko had collected them from the village and Stasi was playing the `guardian` with a gun at the school.

Cemaliye’s son Hamit called out to her from near the broken window…

`Mama! Come and kiss me for the last time please!… Come and kiss me one last time…`

Cemaliye went near the window and kissed her son, her beautiful son who had hidden in a well with the teacher Ahmet but it was too hot and Ahmet remembered that he had a big karpuzi at home and went with Hamit to bring it so they could eat it in the well. The teacher returned to the well but Hamit went to see his friend Osman and that’s when Andriko Furo caught them, to bring them to the school… This was the last time that Cemaliye saw her husband Cuma and her son Hamit…

Next morning on the 15th of August, at nine o’clock in the morning a bus came to take the men away. Another bus came at two o’clock to take more… So all the men and young boys of the village were taken with these buses to a destination – a mass grave near Muttayaga – to be killed and buried…

The women of the village waited for some news from their loved ones – no news, nothing… Two months passed by and Cemaliye left Dochni with her kids to cross to the northern part of the island. She stayed in the dormitory of a school for a month and later, was settled in the village Vuni, close to the Pentadaktilo mountains… All the women from Dochni, now without husbands and sons were settled in this village to be called `Tashkent`. A widows’ village… No husbands, no sons…

Later, they heard news about what had happened to one of the buses. One of the young boys, Suat, had escaped the massacre. The villagers fell on top of him, one after the other while being shot and he pretended that he was dead. When the Greek Cypriot murderers went to bring the shiro to bury them, he escaped, going to Muttayaga and later to the British bases and from there to the north. He told the story of the mass grave… `Most probably they brought the second bus to the same spot to do the same` he told the women from Dochni. `But I left, so I did not see…`

Cemaliye searched desparately for her husband and her son, while trying to survive with four kids in the village of Voni. She got some animals and continued to embroider Lefkara… Her tears would drop to the lace and she would embroider the pain of her missing on the Lefkara lace… As almost with all the missing, there were various rumours about them. That they were seen here or there. That they were kept in the castle in Limassol etc. Cemaliye paid Greek Cypriot taxi drivers for information – she went to Pergamos to see if she could find out what happened to them. Nothing of course. No news. Bad news… Her husband and son did not return, they were missing…

After the partial opening of the `borders`, she went to give blood for DNA tests in the southern part of our island. Women from the village wanted to take back what remained from their loved ones and bring them to the north for burial. Cemaliye was sad:

`Denktash, together with the muhtar of the village prevented this. He sent us news that we should not hurry, that first we should ask for compensation from the Greek Cypriots… That he will bring back the bones, we should not try to get it ourselves…`

Of course nothing was done and the bones were not brought back to the north.

I visited her in her house in Voni (Tashkent) this week together with my journalist friend Hasan Kahvecioglu. Cemaliye is her aunt, her mother’s sister… Because Kahvecioglu was a known opposition against the regime, Cemaliye’s kids were never given a job. One of them works as an electrician in the south. One of them is unemployed. One of them tries to survive by making traditional Cypriot chairs. Her daughter is married and living in Turkey.

Cemaliye said, `We don’t want money, we just want to find out what happened to our loved ones. We just want to bring back their funerals and bury them properly. To visit their graves, to put a flower, to put some water…`

Her face is wrinkled from the pain she’s gone through and there were tears in her eyes when she was telling me her story:

`Throughout the month of July, I cried… In August I cried… When I remember them… They were not sick or anything, my son was tall and well-built. They were healthy and alive when they were taken… I cry for them… And still I have hope… Maybe my son is alive?`

That’s why her house is perfectly clean and tidy… As with all the parents and relatives of the missing, there is always this crazy and impossible hope that somehow they will return.

So this is the story of Cemaliye Shoforel from the village of Dochni… As Cypriots if we can’t learn anything from this story, we will never learn anything…

(*) Article published in the ALITHIA newspaper on the 15th of August, 2004.

copyleft (c) 2001-04